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El Salvador Almost Swallowed Me Whole. Backpacker Girl’s Tale

My Worst Day of Travel

Like all the things in life, with journey there are good and dangerous days. Traveling overseas is enlightening, adventurous, and academic, however it can be irritating as hell. I’ve discovered to be affected person, not solely with myself however with the unimaginable conditions that solely touring overseas can convey. On my current journey to El Salvador, I skilled my worst day of journey. An array of feelings befell, together with terror and desperation. I used to be making an attempt to go away, however El Salvador needed to swallow me entire.

The story begins in El Tunco, an El Salvadorian seashore city generally known as a surfer’s paradise.  El Tunco is among the hottest vacationer locations on this typically omitted Central American nation. But this text isn’t concerning the city, the scrumptious pupusas, or the nation of El Salvador. It’s about getting residence.

My journey companion, Nabil, and I have been staying in an honest beachside lodge (besides the bathroom didn’t actually work) with an attractive balcony view. The night time earlier than we have been scheduled to fly again to the United States, we spoke to a safety guard on the entrance desk about scheduling a taxi decide up. We by no means noticed a lodge receptionist, so we took the safety guard as the person of authority. In Spanglish, we secured a taxi decide up for five am the next morning. Our flight was at 9 am. The airport was solely 40 miles away, so we figured we had loads of time. That was at the beginning went fallacious.





Nabil and I approached the night-time safety guard (a special man than the one with whom we scheduled the taxi). He sat underneath a coated space close to the locked gate surrounding the property. After a couple of awkward greetings, we tried our damaged Spanish, realizing the guard didn’t converse any English. Nabil’s Spanish is fairly good, however not good. We each tried our greatest.

“Taxi to the airport?” We requested in poor Spanish.

Security Guard: “No taxi.”

“We, umm… spoke to your friend yesterday. He said there would be a taxi for us?”

Security Guard: “No taxi… (a bunch of curt words we didn’t fully understand).”

We attempt a number of extra occasions, asking if he’ll name a taxi or the place we should always go. The guard ignored us. The lodge is totally darkish, and I noticed we have been on the mercy of this man’s assist, which he refused to provide. We turned on our telephones and tried to seek out native taxi providers, utilizing valuable knowledge, however no cube. Maybe there are not any taxis in El Salvador? Shit, what can we do now?

Nabil and I stood in silence for a couple of minutes, subsequent to the statuesque safety guard, after which determined to start out strolling. Maybe we might discover another person to assist us.

TIME: 5:20 AM



The second we left, the safety guard locked the gates behind us. There was no going again. To my horror, the streets of El Tunco have been darkish and desolate. No one in sight. Not one retailer open.

Then it began raining. Hard. Within minutes I used to be wading ankle deep by means of brown, muddy water. In my drowsy-induced madness, I laughed out loud in a manic style. Really? The state of affairs had gone from dangerous to worse at an alarming fee! Perhaps much more horrific than being stranded in El Tunco was the truth that my shoulder bag, containing my laptop computer, was getting soaked. I cradled it beneath my coat as greatest I might, wishing I had packed it inside my backpack.

Nabil and I paced downtown El Tunco – which is concerning the size of two metropolis blocks – a half dozen occasions. Every lodge was darkish with locked gates. There was nobody in sight. For a second, I thought-about stuffing myself inside a telephone sales space for shelter and ready for rescue. But we wanted to make our flight.

As a lot as I really like a superb journey, I had no intention of getting caught in El Salvador.

We discovered a police station. The officer inside gave us a humorous look, which is comprehensible. We should have been fairly a sight.

“We need a taxi to the airport.” We pleaded. “Do you have a number we can call?”

“There is no taxi that will come here,” He stated. “You can stroll to the freeway and anticipate a bus to La Libertad. Maybe you get a experience there.”

So off we went. The freeway was a half mile away, and the rain adopted us each step of the best way.

TIME: 5:50 AM



In El Salvador (and Guatemala), the native buses are known as “Chicken Buses” (repurposed faculty buses used for public transit). I had been admiring them throughout our travels by means of Central America. Each Chicken Bus is an inventive expression, adorned with brilliant pulsing lights and colourful paint. I used to be wanting ahead to driving in a single, however I didn’t perceive what I used to be getting myself into.

Our bus arrived, and my coronary heart sank once I noticed it was full. Or at the least what I might name full. There have been Three-Four individuals in each seat, one million extra standing within the middle aisle, and a half dozen packed in between the final seat and the emergency exit. Still, the again door swung open they usually grabbed us by the arms and pulled us inside.

El Salvador

Photo credit score: http://www.athousandturns.net/

Nabil is 6’5.” He spent the subsequent 15 minutes within the fetal place, crouched within the nook of my legs together with his face smushed between my backpack and the again window of the bus. I used to be hunched over the again row of seats, with the bars digging deep into my abdomen. There was nothing to hold on to, so everybody on the bus swayed and ran into one another with every cease. The driver should have been rushing, however I couldn’t see out the home windows so I’ve no approach of understanding. An previous lady in entrance of me was knitting. Business as typical. I used to be wakeful now.

Even with the misery and discomfort, I loved the journey. Although, I don’t have to do it once more anytime quickly!

TIME: 6:10 AM



La Libertad just isn’t just like the vacationer city of El Tunco. It’s actual. It’s gritty. And, to be trustworthy, just a little terrifying. Perhaps the seashore is good. I by no means noticed it. Downtown is smelly, even within the rain. Maybe extra so within the rain. There is trash all over the place. At 6 am, individuals are strolling to work or squatting in store entrances. There are individuals all over the place. Nabil and I have been soaked and strolling round aimlessly, with backpacks and shoulder luggage, wanting like two misplaced Americans…. which is what we have been. I clutched my shoulder bag containing my laptop computer, passport, and cash, cursing myself for not putting these things deep in my backpack.

“Taxi?” We requested anybody who appeared to care, and some of those that clearly didn’t.

Several individuals tried to assist. A bit of previous lady shook her head in dismay. No taxis. No buses. I couldn’t consider it. How do individuals get to the airport? A number of individuals claimed there was a taxi stand within the park. But once we acquired to the park, it was coated in trash and gated. We couldn’t discover a taxi stand. So we walked extra, and extra. Every store which will have helped us was closed with bars on the doorways and home windows.

Finally, a pleasant native lead us again to the park and confirmed us the taxi stand. It was a parking spot with no figuring out options except for a taxi image painted on the pavement. So we discovered our taxi stand. But the place are the taxis?

TIME: 6:55 AM



I felt like I used to be enjoying some type of a recreation and each time I reached the subsequent degree, there was one other puzzle to unlock. So we discovered a taxi stand, now what? There was no telephone quantity to name. Maybe a taxi will come right here by probability? We waited within the rain. Not positive of what else to do. I took off my jacket and wrapped it round my shoulder bag for extra rain safety. I didn’t dare attempt to reshuffle my belongings out within the open.

Across the road, a number of males have been leaning towards a gated storefront, gazing us. They whispered to one another. I attempted to disregard them. One man was holding a rolled up newspaper. After a couple of minutes, he walked briskly over and stood proper subsequent to me. Just a number of inches away. I might see one thing darkish hiding within the rolled up newspaper. I used to be nervous. He was getting drenched and standing too shut. Why was he subsequent to me? 

He slowly eliminated the darkish factor from the rolled up newspaper. My coronary heart raced, and I bodily jumped again when he stated –

“Do you want me to call you a taxi?” In good English.

He held up his sensible telephone, which he had been defending from the rain with the newspaper. I virtually cried. I used to be so relieved, after which I felt ashamed of myself. He was only a good man, and I felt threatened by him. I used to be out of my factor (to say the least).

“Yes, please..” I whimpered.

“Okay, it will be expensive to get the to airport now.” He warned.

“We don’t care,” Nabil stated.

The value of getting one other flight can be monumental, and in addition to, we have been determined. Our flight was leaving in lower than two hours and we have been solely 30 minutes away. There was nonetheless time.

TIME: 7:30 AM



The “taxi” the great man referred to as was actually a good friend of his who owned a car. A pleasant Ford truck. We didn’t care. The negotiated worth was $30 for the 30-minute drive, which was positive by us. We jumped within the truck and threw our backpacks within the cab. I used to be too relieved to fret if he was about to take me someplace even worse…

Our driver was a cheerful man, and he chatted our ears off through the drive. I used to be so nervous, I barely keep in mind the dialog. The roads have been flooded, and we have been grateful he had a truck. Most automobiles wouldn’t have made it. Meanwhile, we have been silently praying and monitoring ourselves by way of GPS on our telephones. He was taking us to the airport. But would we get there in time?

TIME: eight AM



We frantically busted via the entrance doorways. Two soaking, wild-eyed, ridiculous white individuals on a mission. We discovered our gate and commenced checking in with the pc system. An attendant approached to assist.

Airport attendant: “Where are you going?”

“Los Angeles,” I stated frantically, hitting the buttons on the display to print my boarding cross.

Flight attendant: “Oh, you’ll never make that. It leaves in one hour.”

I ended chilly. Lady… don’t do that. Can’t you see I’ve had a day?

“We won’t check bags,” I pleaded, glancing at Nabil who was horrified with this revelation. He had bought a pleasant bottle of rum to take residence as a present. It would by no means make it by means of safety.

She checked out me apologetically and shook her head.

“Please. I begged, “We’ll run! Please…. allow us to attempt.”

“Okay….” she stated, nonetheless not satisfied we might make it. “But you have to run.”

TIME: eight:15 AM



Our moist sneakers screeched on the flooring. Locals gawked on the two loopy, blotchy-faced Americans operating for his or her lives by way of the airport terminal. Arms swinging, hair in tangles. It was a multitude.

“What about the rum?” Nabil yelled over his shoulder.

“Throw it away. It’s not worth the price of another ticket,” I stated.

“It’s deep in my bag and wrapped in clothes. I’ll have to take everything out… and we don’t have time”

“Okay…. see if it goes through.”

TIME: eight:35 AM



We threw our luggage on the belt, saying a silent prayer to the rum gods – please let the bottle undergo. I made it via safety and instantly watched as Nabil’s bag went by means of the x-ray machine. Come on. Just as soon as immediately, allow us to catch a break.

Nope. Nabil’s bag was flagged. He checked out me in defeat. But we have been so shut…

The safety brokers slowly searched Nabil’s bag. Excruciatingly sluggish. I needed to point out them the place the bottle is hidden, however I didn’t dare intervene.

“Maybe we should check our bags and book another flight,” Nabil stated. A defeated man.

“No,” I hissed. “We HAVE to attempt.” If we didn’t make our flight, we might be caught in El Salvador for an additional day… or longer.

Finally, the agent pulled out a tiny pair of scissors from Nabil’s bag, after which returned the bag (and the massive bottle of rum hidden inside) to Nabil. We appeared on the agent with bewilderment. Scissors? That’s what you needed??

TIME: eight:45 AM



More operating. My luggage have been turning into cumbersome, and I used to be holding Nabil again. We lastly reached our gate and my coronary heart virtually burst out of my chest. They are nonetheless boarding, I noticed with glee. But wait…. what’s this?


Apparently, once you fly to the USA from El Salvador, they often have a second safety checkpoint at your gate. So right here we go once more. I might see the top zone, and I used to be fairly positive we have been getting there. But not with rum.

Nabil fished the rum out of his bag, rummaging by way of clothes gadgets like a madman. Any different time this might have upset his OCD packing strategies, which I had teased him for a number of occasions through the journey. Not right now. It was costly rum, from Guatemala, and I do know it pained him to throw it away. As he gently positioned the unopened bottle within the rubbish bin, I noticed a custodian eyeing it. Good, I assumed. Enjoy that buddy.




Nabil and I have been the final to board the aircraft. As I handed my ticket to the airport employees member, I let loose an exasperated sigh. We made it… Somehow, we made it! I stated goodbye to El Salvador whereas laugh-crying in my drenched airplane seat. I’ve by no means felt extra aid in my life. I used to be going residence.

Even my worst day of journey brings a smile to my face.

Travel isn’t all the time glamorous. Sometimes it’s terrible, scary, or irritating. When I get sick, I’ve to take unusual medicines with packaging in one other language. If I get misplaced, and I’ve to seek out my method by studying overseas maps and asking locals. Reservations have been canceled unexpectedly. I’ve been fooled by a gimmick, and referred to as nasty names once I found the reality and refused to be a pawn. I’ve been adopted, stolen from, and lied to. Once I used to be spit on and advised to return to my very own nation only for being American. During these moments, I’ve to take a breath and remind myself to be okay with the present dilemma and discomfort. It’s an excellent factor. Because of what comes subsequent…

Adventure isn’t meant to be straightforward or painless. I didn’t hike the Inca Trail or take a 14-hour 100-degree practice experience in Thailand as a result of it was snug and opulent. I did this stuff for the expertise. For the story. And to study. I journey to crush my insecurities and face my prejudices. So that I keep in mind to be grateful and understand that others don’t have the identical priveledges I’ve been given, merely due to luck of the draw. Most of all, I journey so I can develop.

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