What Surprised Me About Brazil

Before we went to Brazil I was a bit apprehensive. Sao Paulo and Rio are not exactly known for safety. Ever seen City of God? Having been to Mexico, all of Central America (besides Belize) and six other South American countries I am no stranger to Latin American travel. Even though we travel a lot I still maintain a healthy amount of caution. I’m not a paranoid freak, but definitely uphold a level of awareness especially in cities and at night. Several travel blogs said to carry a money belt and don’t bring valuables with you such as fancy cameras or laptops. Honestly I assumed we may be robbed at some point. The reality is anywhere can be considered dangerous or safe. It’s impossible to stereotype a place and categorize it into one neat little box. There are a lot of grey areas and media plays a big role in hyping up the statistics and dangers. If you were to never visit Chicago for yourself, you’d think the whole city was run by gangsters, OK maybe a hundred years ago during the reign of Al Capone (can you believe that was 100 years ago?!) At the same time, not to be naive, Brazil can be dangerous in places just like any big city or even small town America. There’s a certain edge to it that can’t be denied, which is also probably one of it’s greatest attributes. All that to say I was a little intimidated heading into our holidays, but here’s What Surprised Me About Brazil.

Cleanliness – Sure there are some areas in the big cities of Brazil that you may consider “dirty”, however unlike other Latin American countries Brazilians don’t seem to just throw their trash haphazardly on the street. In Central and South America I’ve routinely witnessed people literally throw trash out the window of a bus. An example of one of the most polluted towns I’ve ever seen is Santa Ana, El Salvador. There are chip bags, plastic bottles and cans covering the streets to the point where it looked like a street party or market was held and never cleaned up. I didn’t see this anywhere in Brazil. In fact, even on New Year’s Day after 2.5 million people had been on Copacabana Beach until the wee hours of the morning, it was spic and span by 11am as we headed to the airport. It was as if nothing ever happened! I will say when you looked closely at Copacabana Beach there is a lot of small trash. It’s not obvious until you’re walking along the 2.5 miles beach that you see the results of an over crowded world famous beach.

Lack of Hustle – In most Latin American countries the second you step off a bus or get out of a cab the locals are on you like flies on shit. “Amigo, need a Hotel? Come to my restaurant. Where you stay? I have a friend. I take you!” Sometimes literally trying to grab your backpack off your back to help you. They are not trying to scam you or steal from you, but usually gain a commission from hotels if they bring business. I get it, but it’s still exhausting, especially after being in a place for a while I tend to become not so friendly in my methods of keeping people at bay. My armchair analysis of this lack of hustle is that it’s a huge country with their own industries. They aren’t desperate for tourists. In fact, it’s only in the past six months that American tourism saw an increase in Brazil since the Visa requirements were lifted in June 2019. While Brazilians obviously thrive in touristic areas they are also accustomed to their own population as tourist. It’s not just Gringos bringing in foreign money. In addition to this relaxed atmosphere is also a level of honesty. We had a cab driver accept less on a metered fare when neither one of us had change, usually they are trying to extract more. Chris left his phone on a table at a tiki style beach bar and when he went back an hour later they actually had it saved behind the desk. I’m telling you, anywhere else they would have been like “What phone? No, haven’t seen one. Not here Amigo.” A brand new Samsung 10 could easily be re-sold and in most places would have been a goner, but luckily not this time.

Food – Of course beans and rice are a staple in most Latin American countries, but Brazil is blessed with so much ethnic diversity and with this vibrant culture comes a rainbow of influences and flavors – Caribbean, African, Cajun, Creole, Japanese, indigenous fruits and vegetables from the Amazon, imported Portuguese goods such as dried cod, olive oil, cheese, decadent meats, and of course fresh seafood from their own 7500 km of coastline! We not only ate really well, but also ate really interesting concoctions of grilled fish with banana puree and Moqueca – a shrimp and fish stew loaded with tomatoes, peppers, onions, chilis and coconut milk. It’s almost like a Thai style Jambalaya or étouffée. My favorite place for all this yumminess was a small colonial village on the beach between Sao Paulo and Rio called Paraty. It was recently named a UNESCO world heritage site. Once a gold mining town, it’s preserved cobblestone streets are now a haven for artists and writers. They actually have an annual literary festival in July. I tried to take a painting class with a local artist, but she was busy cooking for Christmas (I almost asked if I could cook with her instead). We at least met up and she showed me around her quaint artistic hotel where she even had an Ashtanga Primary Series poster on the wall! Paraty makes for a charming way to spend a couple days relaxing, strolling and of course eating! I will soon be including it in an Unexpected Food Destinations You’ve Never Heard Of guide.

Natural Beauty of the Land – Brazil really is beautiful and has everything… Rainforests, secluded beaches, mountains, islands, epic natural wonders such as Iguazu Falls. For these waterfalls alone I say Brazil is a MUST go! You may have seen the photos, but the awesome power of these falls should be experienced live. They are simply stunning! You don’t even have to go on a MEGA Brazilian vacation. You could go to Buenos Aires, Argentina for a few nights then pop on over to Iguazu for another few days. Boom there’s a 1 week trip of a lifetime. Book a flight, pack the kids, do whatever it takes to get there. It’s lush, it’s green. It’s wonderful!

In Summary, Brazil surprised me with it’s independence, diversity and national pride. I think it’s smart to anticipate what could go wrong, but I also think it’s a good practice to ask yourself “What’s the BEST that can happen?” We’re already excited to plan another trip to Brazil one day. It’s such a huge country and we only explored a tiny part. With visa requirements lifted and direct flights from all over the States, Brazil is HOT (and not just literally)! This time we were in Sao Paulo, Iguzu Falls, Paraty, Ilha Grande and Rio. Next time I’m thinking Salvador, Trancoso and Florianopolis. Ever been to Brazil? Hit me up with your favorite spots!

Enter your name and email below to learn how to go From Average Yoga Teacher to Stellar Badass in 5 Steps

By entering your email address you'll also be subscribed to the Vicarrious Living email list. You can unsubscribe at any time.