Adventure in El Salvador with 10 kilos in your backpack
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to backpacking is packing your whole life into your backpack for 30 days. How do you do that? The answer is easy: by simplifying! I'll tell you about my experience discovering El Salvador with or without a backpack...
In recent years I have become aware of a detail: in the society in which we have grown up, we are inundated with thoughts and feelings that we need a lot of things, and yet... we don't! The reality is that we have been led to believe that we need a lot more things than we actually do.. And although it's not easy, I'm going to show you the secret to packing a simple suitcase and, above all, one that won't get lost along the way.
To begin with, I wanted to take you to one of my first great backpacking adventures: La Libertad, in the El Salvador. I was 21 years old and had decided at that time that I wanted to travel to Central America and discover El Salvador with my backpack. After searching like crazy for NGOs to collaborate with, I found one where I was accepted as a volunteer and which seemed to me to be well organised.
Excited and with a dose of euphoria that was difficult to manage, I began to organise my suitcase for what was to be one of my greatest adventures. An adventure that turned into one of the riskiest moments of my life, but that's another topic I'll tell you about later.
This first "big" trip, in which everything happened to me, was also the one in which I lost my backpack.. When you land at the airport in El Salvador, if you are not very attentive, instead of taking the road that takes you to pick up your bags, you easily end up at the back exit, on a dirt road with donkeys and cows, or in a circle of people drinking beers and listening to Spanish rap.
No doubt about it, the concept of order that I had was not the same as the one they had at this airport.. I, with my 21 years of inexperience, with my dazzling ignorance and devastating innocence, arrived straight from Dallas with a childish smile that lit up football stadiums and I was unaware of all that awaited me....
First lesson of that trip...
If you can, don't check your backpack
If your journey involves transit at an airport that is not the final country, and your final destination is a relaxed country with a high dose of sunshine and street music, travel statistics say that you have a good chance that your suitcase will end up on holiday somewhere else in the world.away from you and not fulfilling its functions. Probably stranded on a beach in Cancun.
That was my first big apprenticeship. The innocent little girl's smile came off my face with a flap of my wings. when I found myself with absolutely nothing at the airport in El Salvador and with a mosquito population far greater than all the inhabitants of the United States, multiplied by four.
Travelling with a 10 kg rucksack means in airport language that the rucksack travels with you.so you don't get lost. It's important to bring your Relec bottles, mosquito netting to avoid being cannon fodder and Olympic waders for the incessant amounts of mud and rain that await you on your much-desired adventure.
I'd better not detail the clothes that accompanied me for the rest of the trip. People didn't know whether to identify me as a man or a woman, nationality was a constant question mark and my socio-economic status a big unknown. There I learned that, for all my future travels, my backpack and I were going to have the closest and most faithful relationship of my whole life, with a maximum level of dependency.
And how do you make your backpack weigh 10 kilos?
First of all, and in my humble opinion, a suitcase should be packed in order of importance and above all taking into account the climate of the destination country:
- Passport + photocopy of passport (so as not to always carry the original with you).
- Small first aid kitmedicines (paracetamol, some antibiotics, gauze),
- mercurochrome, anti-mosquito, anti-diarrhoeal, plasters...)
- Protection against excessive sunlight: Cap or hat and a sun protection cream without oxybenzone and octinoxate (to protect the environment).
- A long trouserstwo changes of trousers short and some sweatshirt warm.
- Number of T-shirts equivalent to 1/3 of the days of your stay. In other words, if If you are going to stay for 30 days, take 10 T-shirts at the most. The same logarithmic calculation for changes of underwear and socks and, above all... Don't go crazy! Simplify.
- Flip-flops and trainers.
- Towel as small as you can, but manage to dry yourself.
- A good book.
- Notebook to write down your experiences and your reflections, plus all the advice you have received. and proposals that you will get from very interesting people that you will come across along the way. way.
- And, above all, it puts a tolerant attitudeopen-minded, eager to enjoy, but with caution and alertness, because you are not going to the beaches of the Mediterranean.
- Enjoybecause it will be one of the most fascinating stories you will ever write in your mind. in the story of your life.
And, continuing with my great adventure, that of El Salvador...
It was the sixth or seventh day after my arrival in that country, at the beginning of June 2006. In the morning, my colleagues from the NGO suggested I go to the capital, they told me that there was a World Environment Day march. I attended with all the determination in the world, perfectly aligned in all its points to my core values, to actively defend the environment!
Four hours of marching, thousands of people in the streets of the capital, we were bouncing to the sound of Spanish rap with political lyrics that were not lacking in rhythm.. They reminded me of the well-known Cuban group Orishas, with their catchy rhymes that impregnated themselves in your brain. I was bouncing and singing like the most activist of them all.
Finally, after midday, the march came to an end and all the crowds of people landed in a huge square with the only four tall buildings crowning the messy capital of San Salvador. As we stood there, at one point, a gentleman with all the kindness and warmth in the world began to ask me hundreds of questions.How long had I been there, what did I think of the city, did I feel at home... To me, at the time, all these questions seemed quite normal in a country and a culture where people are extremely warm, loving and attentive.
With absolute calm and comfort, and accompanied a few metres away by colleagues from the NGO, I responded to everything, in a participatory manner. The man, very kindly, explained to me that he worked in that building and that they wanted to ask me some questions, to which I was delighted to agree because I had nothing to hide and had done absolutely nothing wrong.. On entering I met a Swiss couple also inside the building, relaxed and with a dazzling smile, who greeted me with amusement.
As we left the building, both the Swiss and myself, we had a deportation stamp in our passport that said we had to leave the country within 48 hours, under threat of arrest. My innocent smile disappeared in the blink of an eye, and so did my sympathy. I remember that it was Wednesday and that we had to be out of the country by Friday.
A few hours later, as we left the immigration office, women from the human rights organisation and a lawyer were waiting for us. They explained to us that used to do this kind of thing with tourists when they participated in demonstrations.The government did not want foreign journalists and media to report on certain realities in the country, even if they were not directly related to politics.
After two sleepless nights, the Swiss couple's NGO lawyer filed a writ of amparo and we were able to stay in the country. You can imagine the feeling and fear you get after such a situation. With my dog-flautist outfit and a greater degree of alarm, I remained in El Salvador for two more weeks. I totally fell in love with the kindness of the people and the warmth of the people. and I learned that I would never in my life take part in a march again without knowing the political and social situation of a country.
In addition to the adventurous dose, the learning that I want to pass on to you from the fact that travelling to El Salvador with a backpack, more specifically a 10 kg backpack. is that by travelling light, you also learn to adapt better to the place and the environment, to leave our often unnecessary dependencies behind and, above all, to live more simply.