Brazil Culture And Hospitality All of the best travel experiences I’ve had have been thanks to the kindness, hospitality, and generosity of the people I’ve been fortunate enough to meet on the road. One in particular stands out to me, New Years in Brazil, not because the people I stayed with were necessarily “cooler,” nicer, […]
All of the best travel experiences I’ve had have been thanks to the kindness, hospitality, and generosity of the people I’ve been fortunate enough to meet on the road. One in particular stands out to me, New Years in Brazil, not because the people I stayed with were necessarily “cooler,” nicer, or more friendly than others, but simply because of the sheer number of opportunities that came out of meeting them.
Hardly a week after arriving in Brazil, I was spontaneously invited to spend the week of New Years at a beach house—by a Hungarian who I’d met through couchsurfing and had barely known for a few hours. I was super psyched to have the chance to finally get to a Brazilian beach, and the low price included not only the house but also a New Year’s feast and a boat tour around some of the most beautiful beaches and islands in Brazil. I even got hooked up with a carpool going there, which made it a total no-brainer—not having to spend more than ten hours on buses is always a plus.
When we pulled in at around 5 a.m., there was barely enough space in the yard to park—there were at least ten other cars already there. And when I got inside the small house, I saw why. People were spread out all over the floor, sleeping on air mattresses, sleeping bags, and each other. Luckily, there were hammocks on the porch and I’d brought my own, so at least I wouldn’t be stuck sleeping on the ground. I was a little put off at first, not sure how it was going to work (or, rather, not work) to have literally more than fifty people staying in the same tiny house for five days. But it turned out I didn’t need to worry at all, because the people there made it worth the cramped conditions and chaos.
The sleeping arrangements in the main crashing room
I was pretty exhausted by then, wondering where to best set up my hammock and get to sleep, when I fell into a conversation explaining how and why I’d come to Brazil and how I ended up at that house. There were several other gringos there in addition to me and the Hungarian, which quickly turned into a lively conversation about traveling, where everyone came from and where they’d been, among other assorted topics. Soon, I had gotten to know a good amount of the people still awake, and totally forgot that I was tired, as always happens with stimulating interactions with interesting new people. Everyone there immediately treated me like an old friend, and quickly made it their mission to teach and show me the most important slang phrases, what things to do in the country, and new facts about Brazil culture. I heard so many new names, not just of people but also of places I just “had to” see while in the country. I quickly stopped trying to pretend I remembered or recognized any of them, and just used the classic trick of smiling and nodding as I was overloaded with information and stories and suggestions. But they weren’t just telling me where I should go on my own—I got so many personal, generous invitations that I couldn’t possibly accept half of them. These included various beaches, waterfalls, islands, and even people’s family homes and vacations.
It was overwhelming in the best sense of the word. Never before had I experienced such an incredible welcome and outpouring of friendliness, let alone so soon after meeting a totally new group of people. This incredible wave of warmth, openness, and eagerness to talk with me, really get to know me, and even invite me to all of these personal plans was truly moving. I was reminded and inspired again why traveling and meeting new people is one of the best things you can do with your time and money.
Me with just some of the others at the beach
Every day was a party, with nothing at all to worry about except the logistics of where to get drinks and food, given the absurd number of people running stores dry. It seems like the entire country, along with a healthy helping of gringos like me, goes to the beach for the New Year. But we always managed to get to the beach and arrive home, albeit ten times slower than normal on some days.
Aside from all that, I of course also thoroughly enjoyed the beaches, which are an amazing combination of mountains coming all the way up to water more shockingly blue than I’ve ever seen before, with white sand, beautiful cliffs and caves, and sculptures of rock above the water carved away by the power of the ocean. We went snorkeling on one of them, and the things I saw were so incredibly different and foreign, I can’t even begin to describe them. It’s truly something you just have to see for yourself. And the turtles! Gorgeous, majestic big sea turtles that we swam with around the numerous eye-catching colors of coral formations and fish on the ocean floor.
The beach where we went snorkeling. Look at the color of that water…
But more than everything, it was the people that really made my trip.
And all this only happened because I reached out to someone new in a city where I hardly knew anyone, and put myself in some unpredictable and uncomfortable situations with new people. I never could have imagined all the experiences of Brazil culture, friendships, and invitations that snowballed as a result of that simple, yet very difficult act. But I’m so happy I put myself out there, took the risk, and trusted that I’d meet cool people and have a good time. And I highly recommend everyone else do the same while traveling. I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the amount of responses and offers you’ll receive.