Return to Central America - Winter 2011

Losing Track of Time – El Tunco, El Salvador

click photo to enlargeEl Tunco, El Salvador

“Hey, do any of you guys have the time, I’ve got to call a friend of mine on their lunch break”

I looked back at two twenty something year old girls staring towards my table waiting for our reply. We all looked at each other, “Does anyone have their phone or watch?” I asked. No one did. I turned to the next two tables over, “Hey, do any of you know what time it is?” After a short discussion they reply back “No sorry, none of us do, but it’s definitely in the afternoon…”

All four tables sort of laugh to themselves, how can no one out of twelve people have a watch or a phone? Because we are in El Tunco, a quiet little beach town that exists because of the waves and thrives on people getting lost and staying around for much longer than they thought they would. Here, the only time you really need to know is what time happy hour starts, or about how long until sunset so you can join everyone on the beach to say adios to the day. Here, half of the town gathers just to watch a bulldozer dig up some of the beach, because it is the most intriguing thing that has happened the whole day. Here, you don’t need time to dictate your day, all you need is you.

We started guessing what time it might be, and I quickly became very curious as to what time it actually was, so I announced that I’d go down stairs to the first floor and find someone who can help us solve our problem. One table after another, I asked the unanswerable question “Does ANYONE have any idea what time it is?” Literally all three tables replied that they didn’t have any watches or phones, why would they? We were now 0 for 20.

Luckily, the waiter came to the rescue. “It’s half past one.” I reported my findings to everyone upstairs. The winner of our guessing game loudly announced their victory with an “Aha!” The girl who had asked the time muttered “Her break is over, I guess I’ll have to call her tomorrow.” These were probably the only plans she had for the next 24 hours.

  1. Andrea

    Ah, brilliant…sounds like my kind of holiday place!

    1. Matt

      It was quite a great time, that was for sure!

  2. Mike

    Your blogs arouse my interests in travelling !

    1. Matt

      Good! That’s the whole point of this entire blog!

  3. Jeremy B

    Amazing that a place could be so relaxing and carefree that NO ONE had the time! 🙂

    1. Matt

      Yea, I literally went to all 7 of those tables, no exaggeration here whatsoever… I was really surprised as well, haha.

  4. Migrationology

    Yah! That’s the way it should be! Time dictates an organized schedule, so without a schedule there’s no need to dwell on the time. I love that no one had the time!

    1. Matt

      Ahhh, no schedule was nice for a few days, but I’m back to cities and busses now. Still, traveling never gives that hard of a schedule 🙂

  5. inka

    A watch? A phone? I think I vaguely remember having heard of these things in a past life, but certainly not when camping out in the desert under the stars in Wadi Rum/Jordan.A post to my heart.

    1. Matt

      Certainly not! Glad you know what I’m talking about here!

  6. The Dropout

    Love it!
    I can’t wait for one of those days to happen to me.

    1. Matt

      I can almost guarantee that it will.

  7. ayngelina

    I noticed that as well although when you run into people traveling for a bit longer you see they eventually cave and buy a phone because its so cheap here.

    I’ve been traveling 10 months but still don’t want to be tied to a phone, it can be a hassle at times but it’s one less thing for people to steal.

    1. Matt

      Well, it wasn’t that no one traveled or owned a watch or a phone, it was just that you didn’t really need it in a place like El Tunco. I actually travel with a phone and HIGHLY recommend it. Especially if you are staying in a country for awhile. For $8 I got 3g and some minutes for the last 2 weeks of my stay here in El Salvador. Pretty convenient, especially because I couchsurf a lot and have to get ahold of hosts all the time.

  8. Adam

    I love this kind of attitude. That was probably my favorite part of our RTW trip. Not knowing, and more importantly, not caring, what time or even day it was. Best. feeling. ever.

    1. Matt

      Yea, a few hours after this actually, I overheard a girl talking to another girl saying “I went to the post office today, I had no idea it was almost February!” It truly is a great feeling to not be dependent on those kinds of things.

    1. Matt

      It’s not too bad at all!

  9. Siddhartha Joshi

    What an interesting bit of story…I would love to be at a place like this, no watch, no phone, no plans. Its like a dream come true 🙂

    1. Matt

      It was great while I was there, but I couldn’t live like that ALL of the time.

  10. Laurel

    Love a place where time doesn’t matter and no one wears watches. Can’t say that’s the case living in very time sensitive Germany.

    1. Matt

      Yes, but think about all of that delicious beer you have! I think it’s a worthwhile trade.

  11. Jim

    I can appreciate the story. I guess we’d all like to be there.
    Kind of the reverse for me- I don’t ever wear a watch at home, but wear one when I travel.

    1. Matt

      Haha, that is pretty funny! Well kudos to you sir!

    1. Matt

      It was actually my first time surfing, so for me, nothing was surfable! Ok I got up a few times, just not very gracefully and not for long. But yea, there were a ton of people out surfing almost every day. I’m still on the beach just a bit further west and everyday near sunset the masses come out of the woodwork to surf. I wouldn’t call them AMAZING waves, but definitely better than anything in Florida.

  12. JB

    I enjoyed my visit to El Tunco, but agree it isn’t the place to learn to surf. I met a girl in Mexico and then met up with her again in El Tunco and she ended up staying there a year! We stayed at La Guitarra which I can highly recommend – and their price drops the longer you stay there so plan accordingly.

    1. Matt

      I walked by there quite a bit but didn’t ever walk in the gates. It looked cool though. Yea I met a few people who had been there a lonnnngggg time!

  13. Erica

    Sounds amazing! I am wondering how I will react when I become that unplugged when we leave…

  14. Lauren McCabe

    Hi Matt! Quick question– I’m planning a trip to El Salvador to surf, and I’m looking for waves that are suitable for a beginner, AKA aren’t too big. Did you stop by any beaches with waves that were smaller? And did you see any longboarders?



    1. Matt

      Hey Lauren, well I don’t know a ton about surfing, but it looked like quite a few beginners where in El Tunco. The waves got big on some days but I think if you went during the “off season” you would probably be fine! Have a great trip and let me know if you need any other info and I’ll do my best to help!

  15. max

    Hi Matt,
    NIce post !! I´m planning my trip to El salvador and will be at playa el tunco too.
    What about the hostel there?…i´m planning to be at papayalodge and doing some surf lessons (let´s say trying my best! )

    thanks from Barcelona

    1. Matt

      Hey Max,
      Well I don’t remember that place exactly but there were tons of places to stay if you don’t like that one. Everything is on two different streets so you will easily find your way around. Definitely an awesome place to hang out for a week or two. Have fun!

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