Lilian Galo recently managed to beat hundreds of inspirational entries and take out Pacsafe’s Be More Competition. Her honest approach and heartfelt reasons for the trip are what saw her connect with both judges and voters alike. In doing so, she won the chance to go on the dream trip of a lifetime of her design. Here’s an interview with Liliana about how she won, why she wants to go on the trip and things to watch out for, as we cover it online over the next few months.
You won! When you first created your video for the Be More competition, did you think you had a good chance?
I definitely didn’t, haha.
Before I created my video, I didn’t let myself watch any other video submissions because I didn’t want to get psyched out. I’m glad I didn’t because after I submitted my video, I started watching the other entries and noticed how well edited they were (and how my video may not have been as “exciting” despite my best efforts) haha. So at that moment, I wasn’t very confident but I still kept my hopes up that my story would resonate with others.
What kind of thought went into making the video? Did you write a script or get someone to help shoot it?
I always knew what my dream trip was. Since I was 18 years old, I’ve been dreaming about reconnecting with my roots by visiting Ecuador and Uruguay, so figuring out that part was easy.
Then I wrote a small list of bullet points that I memorized because I wanted to make sure I said all the important things in the one minute we were allotted. I wrote it two days before I recorded it on my iPhone 7, then used a small travel phone stand and put some books under it to add height since I don’t have any fancy camera stands.
I recorded it by myself and edited it by myself on iMovie with the help of some YouTube tutorial videos. Although I am not at all a professional videographer or editor, I did my best to learn how to do the basics and enjoyed the process!
You’re heading to Ecuador and Uruguay to reconnect with your roots – what’s the single biggest thing you’re most excited about?
I’m the most excited about visiting Guayaquil (the city I was born in). My parents took our family to the U.S. when I was 6 years old and I’ve never been back, so I’m excited to visit the city where my parents lived half of their lives. I am curious to see if there is anything I remember. I think it’s going to have a big impact on me because I often think about how different my life would have been if I had I stayed in Ecuador. Would I even speak English? Or only Spanish? Who knows.
I am also VERY excited to visit Uruguay because my dad was born and raised in that country but I have never had the chance to visit.
Anything you’re nervous/scared about?
I’m very nervous to meet my cousins in Uruguay. There has been a bit of a family divide all of our lives but I hope my visit can help to mend relationships.
On a lighter note, I am always a bit nervous about driving or riding in a car while in South America. My past experiences have been comically nervewracking but definitely memorable. It doesn’t help that I sometimes get carsick (although I’ve gotten much better at managing that). I’m such a fun and exciting travel partner, aren’t I? haha
Something else that makes me a little scared & nervous is the elevation in Quito, Ecuador (over 9000 feet) because the last two times I have visited Denver Colorado, it has kicked my butt! (Denver is over 5000 ft in elevation). I could barely breathe both times and ended up getting sick.
For this trip, I plan to build up my immune system, work on my cardio, and be diligent about staying hydrated before and during the trip.
You’re going to be getting to know your grandparents for the first time in Uruguay. Do you have other relatives on your trip you’re hoping to connect with?
Meeting somebody can be done in many different ways.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to meet my paternal grandparents but I was never given the chance to interact with them. My father had a bit of a strained relationship with them so that made it tough. I never even saw any pictures of them until recently.
So during this trip, I am taking the chance to “meet” them in person and with intention. Even though they have both passed, I believe that it shouldn’t stop me from finally “meeting” them and connecting with them by visiting the country that they lived in their entire lives.
Because the audition video only allowed 1 minute to introduce yourself and talk about the trip, I was not able to explain that part during my video. However, that is how I’ve always talked about them since I decided I wanted to visit Uruguay when I was 18 years old. I would always tell my friends and colleagues that I wanted to visit Uruguay to “finally meet my grandparents”.
So I believe that my grandparents knew this and spiritually guided me in the right direction to help me win this contest.
I also have other relatives in Uruguay that I will be connecting with leading up to the trip and that will be my two cousins, Josefa and Christina.
Have you spoken to any other family on the phone/Skype since winning? How do they feel about meeting you in person?
I was able to get in contact with my 2 cousins (my uncle’s daughters) and we are planning to meet and visit my grandparents’ burial site together. I look forward to getting to know them and hear their family stories.
Can you give us a more detailed itinerary, now that you’ve won and you’ve had more time to plan things in your head?
The itinerary is still pending but so far, it looks like it’ll be:
3 days in Montevideo, Uruguay
5 days in Guayaquil & Quito, Ecuador
3 days in the Galápagos Islands
The rest of the days will be spent on flights getting to and from the different cities.
Activities will include: taking city walking-tours, hiking mountains, biking, snorkeling, skydiving (hopefully), and visiting some of the places my family lived in in Ecuador.
What are your top 3 travel essentials that you’re taking with you (apart from your passport)?
Travel pillow – I have one of those crazy super firm travel pillows that hold your neck up no matter what. I bring it on every trip and everybody always makes fun of me for wearing it because it looks so silly haha.
Compression socks – Everyone needs a good pair of these! They make traveling so much more pleasant and my legs never fall asleep!
Fanny pack – I get made fun of this one a lot, but a fanny pack is an essential item! It’s convenient, lightweight, you can hide it under your sweater or jacket, and it helps to travel light. The fanny pack has become my signature item for sure!
What Pacsafe bags did you choose to take with you on the trip? Why?
It was a really tough choice because Pacsafe has so many amazing bags with great reviews. I ended up chosing the Venturesafe X30 anti-theft adventure backpack. It seemed like the perfect bag for me because it is lightweight but is still spacious enough to fit all of my essentials. The comfortable straps and hip belt were ideal for me because it is helpful for my sensitive back. I also loved that it has a built-in rain cover and access for a hydration pack. The best part was all of the safety features since I’m always worried about my travel gear. It’ll be my very first official travel backpack. I’m really excited to explore the world with it!
Finally, what can we expect from this trip in terms of things you’re hoping to share? Anything we should watch out for?
On this trip I am hoping to gain a greater sense of family. This trip has already brought me closer to my family and it hasn’t even started yet!
I’ll be sharing clips of myself preparing for the trip, practicing my Spanish and meeting my other side of family for the first time via Skype. I’ll also blogging about the importance of getting to know your heritage.
Some fun stuff I hope to record is: snorkeling in Galapagos, visiting the beaches of Montevideo, salsa dancing on the streets of Ecuador, skydiving in Guayaquil, and trekking an active volcano!
I look forward to sharing my adventure with everybody!
By Tim Hawken
Tim Hawken is an Australian writer who enjoys surfing, Indian food and romantic midnight strolls to the beer fridge. He has clocked up visits to 23 countries on 5 continents (and counting). Find out more about his weird world by heading to his website, or following him on Instagram and Twitter.