Beach bums, or how to become the richest person on earth

A moment lived in El Salvador by Caroline, a traveller from Québec

I travel all the time. By all the time, I mean not as much as I would like to, but just enough to hear tons of “you are so lucky”. Here’s my secret: compulsive travelers are not lucky. They prioritize differently, figure out how to combine as many days off in a row as possible, make sacrifices, learn how to travel cheap, and most of all, they understand that the level of richness is inversely proportional with the size of the bank account, if every penny is spent on plane tickets.

My latest trip was to El Salvador. And the same people who thought I was lucky also thought I was crazy, since I travel solo and, oh my god, I AM A GIRL.

“Did you know that San Salvador’s crime rate is one of the highest on the planet? You will probably be kidnapped, robbed, raped, killed and your organs will be sold on the black market, because this is what they do in those strange countries. ”

Then, I look back, smile, let the words fly high, and so do I. Down to the heart of Central America, with my camera and a bikini.

I arrived late at night and my entire self was immediately overwhelmed by the chaotic poetry. The picturesque first sight from the aircraft window of the bustling city lights next to a majestic volcano, the hot and sticky tacky tropical breeze, the excessively loud reggaetón that escaped every window, a bunch of unidentified smells, and the exciting feeling of being part of a messy but blooming crowd.

The next morning, I woke up to catch the early waves of the Pacific Ocean with my surfboard. I was expecting an empty beach. But surprise, surprise, it was fully crowded. It was the Semana Santa, the Easter week, when the whole country is shut down. Families and friends get together, hang out and massively take over every square centimeter of the pitch black floury beach. That was not the desert seaside I expected at first, but it turned out to be one of those precious human experiences I will carry with me forever.

When I started street photography, I was always wondering what will be the reaction of the people I was immortalizing. I was afraid, for some reason, to get close and to invade their private space. Now, with more or less 60 countries visited, I think my sample is big enough to get to a conclusion: people don’t care, when done respectfully. Depending on the culture, some will be shy, like in most western countries, and some will run into your frame to give you a peace sing and a huge grin, like in Egypt or Indonesia for example. With time, I learned to use street photography not only as a way to stop time and bring it back home, but most importantly, as a tool to get in touch with the locals, to create the rewarding but not so always easy first contact.

So, that sunny day, I grabbed my camera and explored la playa de El Zonte. I met kids trying to tame the waves, a young couple on their first date, a family playing in the sea holding grandma so she stays up while being splashed in the back, friends laughing loudly while participating to a backflip contest, french-fries sellers, groups sharing beers and BBQ. I had the chance to dive into a chunk of this easy going and welcoming culture, to witness social connections, to get genuine smiles, to hear candid laughs.

El Salvador through my lens could have easily look like landscapes to die for / colorful tropical flowers / stunning pinkish sunsets / edgy surf moves / silly selfies between too many mojitos and a refreshing Golden cerveza.

But at the end, it turned out to be a human immersion that made me way richer than the day before. Plus, my bonus reward was to come back home with an amazing photo series that I called Beach Bums.

But let’s be honest. El Salvador through my lens was also a few landscapes to die for / colorful tropical flowers / stunning pinkish sunsets / edgy surf moves / silly selfies between too many mojitos and a refreshing Golden cerveza.

PS – moral of the story:
– Don’t listen to alarmist people: most of them don’t know what they are talking about;
– Dare to travel solo, even if you are a woman;
– Don’t stick to your expectations. Be flexible;
– The vast majority of people are well intentioned, no matter where on the planet. Go talk to them; nobody bites.
– If you go to El Salvador, try the pupusas and the chicken bus.

This traveler has a photographies website: Caroline Thibault

credit photo: Caroline Thibault