If Brazil hadn’t been on your radar before I’m sure this has changed with the Fifa World Cup this year. Soccer fan or not, we’ve all learned at least a few things about the world’s fifth largest country. Have you ever wondered how smooth the sand at Copacabana really feels or have you ever imagined yourself hiking through the Brazilian jungle?
While the media buzz dies away the farther the World Cup dates back, it’s time you take out your wanderlust notebooks and take some notes. Because in case you’re still unsure about your next trip’s destination let me make your decision yet a little harder by adding Brazil to the list of choices.
Believe it or not: there are actually some pretty affordable flights from Europe to Brazil. I wouldn’t believe it myself if I hadn’t experienced this myself. When I was planning a last-minute backpacking trip with a friend back in 2012 (and by last-minute I mean three weeks prior to our departure) Rio de Janeiro turned out to be the cheapest destination in the whole of South America. I guess I had always dreamed of going to Brazil one day but I had never imagined this dream would come true so quickly. While we managed to save quite a bit on flights, the experiences we made while travelling were truly priceless.
A vibrant culture
Arriving to the all-round electric city of Rio de Janeiro is a unique experience that most likely comes along with a pretty impressive culture shock. And I mean the word culture shock in the most positive way: there is just so much to see, so many things you want to take in at once. The first day will simply be overwhelming. But once the first wave of overall excitement has washed over you and you are finally given the time to really focus, you will see a beautiful and vibrant culture that will win you over immediately. You will realise that you cannot get enough of it: the cheerful crowds, the rhythmic music, the sound of laughter in the streets…
A beautiful and diverse scenery
You will get to know Brazil as a country of many faces: a place in which the line between rich and poor is as thin as a power line, a place of visible extremes that compel you to reflect on your own life, yet also a place of great natural diversity. As you move from sandy beaches to thick forests, deserted islands, colourful jungles and mountain ranges you will realise that Brazil won’t stop to amaze and surprise you no matter how long you stay. Do yourself the favour and take your shoes off to let your feet explore the ground you’re walking on: soft soil, stony soil, moist soil, dry soil, wooden ground – I remember I hadn’t appreciated my environment this intensively in a long time.
Eventually, you will want to go on a few long distance trips around the country. You will be happy to hear that surprisingly, Brazil is far ahead of most of the countries I’ve been to before in that department (Europe included). While air travel is a little complicated since you can only book your flights through a travel agency unless you have a Brazilian passport, their overland bus system is quite impressive. Not only do they offer overnight busses to most destinations, the busses are also comfortable enough so that you won’t have any difficulty falling asleep and actually waking up well-rested and ready for the next day. Those bus trips can easily replace several nights at the hostel, so, at the end of the day, you end up saving money and wake up in yet another unknown place that promises adventure – a fun and exciting experience! Just remember to bring a scarf that you can cover yourself with as the air conditioning gets rather chilly pretty soon and you don’t want to freeze along the way.
An easy-going lifestyle
Generally speaking, Brazil is the perfect place to let your spirits flow: get your morning energy by drinking fresh coconut water you can buy from one of the street vendors around the corner, sit down in a busy street and watch the people go about their days, watch a Capoeira show and get carried away with the beating of the drums, dance the night away drinking caipirinhas with the locals (try the passion fruit one as well – so delicious!), go for a surf at one of the many beautiful beaches along the coast, watch the sunset with fellow travellers, and enjoy life to the fullest. If you’re a meat person: don’t miss the opportunity to eat at a churrascaria. They offer delicious rodízio courses that the waiters serve you at your table – all-you-can-eat and a wide range of food to choose from.
Let go of the western idea of time management; just go with the flow and enjoy the timelessness of the moment. Relax and don’t panic: throughout the month of my travels I did not find a single bus schedule but I still managed to get to all the places I wanted to see. And if you miss a bus, there will always be a next one.
Talk to the locals even if you don’t speak any Portuguese. From what I have experienced they make a great effort to communicate with you and let you in on their culture if you show interest in them – those conversations are simply priceless because there is just so much to learn, so much to see, so much to experience…
So what are you waiting for? Do yourself the favour and book that flight – make that dream come true! And while you’re at it, say hello to one of my favourite places for me – I certainly know that it won’t be long till I’ll be back.