Live Inspired mailbag: all things food

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

If you know anything about me, you know that food (and drink!) is a big part of my life. After growing up in my parent’s kitchen — entering cooking contests from the age of 9 — then coming of age in restaurants, then working as a food writer, I’ve always been very motivated by food.

For me, travel is no exception — in fact, food is one of the major inspirations in why I travel. I’m never happier than when wandering through a local market, discovering new produce and new prepared dishes. I believe that the raw origins of a place’s food culture is always evident in its markets; there’s no better venue to get a grasp of the climate and terrain, to understand what and how people eat, to see the various crude ingredients — animal parts, produce, fresh cheese, just-made tortillas — come together skillfully in entire meals at a vendor’s stand around the corner.

While traveling, I’ve also found food to be one of the greatest connectors, which is why cooking and eating will be such a big part of my docu-series project. When we make food for others, we are caring for them in the most primal and fundamental sense. To accept that gift is an intimate exchange; to respect someone’s food is to respect them. And oh the satisfaction of savoring a meal together; do so and you’ll be closer than you were when you sat down.

There is incredible wonder and joy in newness, of experiencing something you never have before. There is incredible comfort and fulfillment in familiarity, in being reminded of our commonality and shared experiences. In food, we have an opportunity to find both: newness and familiarity. We have the chance to feed ourselves physically and mentally, in two wildly different but equally nourishing ways.

With those sentiments in mind, I thought I would focus this latest mailbag on all things edible (and drinkable!). Judging from your responses, food is something you all are passionate about and interested in, too!

By the way, if you’ve missed them, you can find past mailbags about who I am and what I do, about the logistics of my travel and about all things health-and-wellness on the road through the above links.

Live Inspired: La vida es más rica in El Salvador

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

After returning to El Salvador last week following a little more than half a month in the U.S., I told a friend I was happy to be back and he asked me what felt nice about it.

It was one phrase, that had been clanging through my head all day, that first came to mind:

La vida es más rica aquí.

Life is richer here.

I have been thinking of that little idiom ever since I heard a man I was interviewing in Morazán use it recently. This was a Morazán native (he might not appreciate me naming him without asking so I’ll decline) who has split his time between the U.S. and El Salvador for many years now. In many ways, he seems content with his life in the States. He loves the city he lives in and its Latinx communities, has no interest in criticizing the U.S. government and by all impressions given, is grateful for the opportunity he has there and proud of being the kind of immigrant that he believes the country wouldn’t want to deport. The money he makes there dwarfs what he could in the small village where he is from, and it supplements his life when he returns twice a year.

Even so, as we chatted about the differences between the two worlds and I told him how much I had loved living in El Salvador, he nodded knowingly.

“Es la verdad,” he said. “La vida es más rica aquí.”

Maybe that’s a sentiment that would come as a surprise to some U.S. Americans who think of El Salvador as a developing country, tormented by poverty and violence and lacking many of the comforts or conveniences we take for granted in the States.

But that thought — la vida es más rica aquí — certainly was one, if not yet expressed, that had begun to blossom in my mind.

Live Inspired: leaving El Salvador, different from before

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

When I walked into the San Salvador airport, my phone connected to the WiFi, instantly.

My phone recognized the building immediately, but I barely did. It felt like a place I was when I was a different person.

Looking down at my phone, though, sent me down memory lane. I remembered connecting to that public network, anxious that I couldn’t get a SIM card before driving into town. I remembered feeling such anticipation, and walking through the airport taking mental notes.

The Murder Capital of the World sure does have a lovely airport, I thought, strolling past MAC makeup counters, glistening coffee shops and craft breweries. (Side note: what must people feel like when they arrive to the great U.S.A. and land in …LaGuardia?)

But the feeling wasn’t just anticipation. If I’m honest, there was something else I was feeling that day, nearly five months ago. I was a little scared.

Live Inspired: 20 lessons from El Salvador

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates •

When I arrived in El Salvador — a tiny Central American country many in the U.S. think of mostly in terms of pupusas and immigration — I had no idea what to expect.

But after five months of living in its capital city, traveling across its strikingly diverse landscapes and through its charming towns and villages, I have found it to be one of the richest, most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. It feels like paradise, and it feels like home.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

The reputation is unfair. If you Google “travel to El Salvador,” you just might come away with the impression that you simply can’t do it; much is made of the gang presence and violence statistics and it leads to an incredibly one-dimensional portrait of the country. In reality, there are more safe areas than unsafe areas, and as a visitor, it’s extremely unlikely that you’d run into any concerning activity. What’s more, petty crime — such as theft — is very low, making many cities, towns and neighborhoods in El Salvador actually much safer and tourist-friendly than other places in the region. For those reasons and others, I felt safer here than I have anywhere.

Live Inspired mailbag: health & wellness

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Welcome to my monthly mailbag!

Here, I take your questions about a particular topic of my nomadic life and give you all the secrets about how I make this crazy existence work.

The theme this month? Health and wellness. Let’s be real, even when we’re stationery it can be hard to juggle all of our physical and mental needs along with work and social activities. Let me tell you, when you’re on the move, it can be even harder.

It took me a full year just to figure out how I could scrap together a daily routine in the midst of travel, even when my apartments, my cities and my work flow are constantly changing. (You can read more about that here.)

Live Inspired mailbag: how I get around, meet people, decide where to go

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Buenos días!

If you’re reading this, you probably already know that my name is Amelia, that I am a solo nomad and that I have been exploring Central America for more than a year.

What you might *not* know are some of the specifics — the behind-the-scenes details that make this whole thing go. I started a mailbag series precisely to answer those questions.

In my last mailbag, I touched on the basics: my background, what I do now, why I’m doing it and how I make money.

For this mailbag, I asked you to send questions about logistics: getting from a to b and functioning in every place, almost as soon as I hit the ground.

If you have a question for a future mailbag, you can leave it in the comments or reach out to me through my website email or on my social channels.

Live Inspired: I was a model for a day; this is what it was like

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

I twisted from behind to face the camera.

Sadly, my vision for this pose was lacking. Already, I had been instructed to move a leg, stretch an elbow, lift my chin.

I shoved my hands in my back pockets for effect, pushing my hips toward the shot and twisting my face and body into a position not even a yoga instructor would suggest. There were a couple loud pops. I wondered how many massages it would take me to reset — surely more than the $50 I was earning from this 4.5-hour session could redeem.

The photographer eyed me.

“Si,” he said. “Muy natural.”

Against all odds and likelihood, I was … a model.

Live Inspired mailbag: who I am, what I do, how I make money

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Hello!

If you’re reading this, you probably already know that my name is Amelia, that I am a solo female traveler and that I have been exploring Central America for more than a year.

What you might not know is some of the specifics — how I began my journey, what exactly I do for work and how I make a living in this crazy life.

Recently, I asked you all to send me questions, and send you did!

In fact, I received so many queries that I plan to make this mailbag a series — upcoming mailbags will be focused more specifically around the logistics of my travel, how I address health and safety, and what I love about where I am now.

But for now, let’s begin with some of the basics: who I am and what I do.

Here are some of those questions I receive most often:

Live Inspired: in the lack of normalcy, this is my routine

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

I remember my first several months as a nomad, viscerally. I use the word “viscerally” because I can almost, now, feel the caustic taste of the anxiety that took over on most days. Honestly, most days.

At the time, I was so confused. That feeling took me by complete surprise. I had traveled solo a lot, and I was finally doing what I had long dreamt of doing.

But what I was feeling, I now realize, was the result of the systematic demolishment of every normalcy in my life — from how I showered and got dressed in the morning, to how my days progressed to where my food came from at night. My job had changed, my house had changed, my network had changed, my belongings had changed, my whole life had changed.

I had almost zero routine.

I had gone from a person who set the alarm before 5 a.m., hit the gym almost every day and scheduled life around a series of meetings, deadlines, happy hours and events to someone who had nowhere to be, no one to be with and was suddenly working in a job without any outside framework or direction.