Wow! What an amazing trip! South America did not disappoint. I visited two countries, Argentina and Brazil, and it was very educational and eye opening. With every trip I take I try to make a top list of takeaways. I learned so many different things that I worked hard to narrow it down so here are my top 10 take a ways from my trip!
1. Greve looks Spanish to most Brazilians and Argentinians. Who knew?
Every tour guide I had wanted to speak Spanish or Portuguese to me. I know just enough Spanish to gather that they were asking if they wanted me to have them speak either of those languages to me. The look on their face when I said, “English please?” with my Texas accent was priceless. One French family thought I was playing a joke on them and wanted to see my passport because they insisted that I was from somewhere in Latin America.
2. I need to learn another language.
I was having lunch one day in Rio de Janeiro (which means River of January) with a couple from Holland, another couple from Germany and a mother and son from France. They each spoke their native language (each was different) and English. Even the 10-year old son! I only speak one. And the US seems to be the only country were we only teach one language. From what my parental friends tell me, this is slowly changing in some schools and I like that! I know some Spanish but not enough to hold a conversation with someone. I am taking this as a challenge to myself to learn Spanish in this next year so I can at least have a decent conversation with someone at the restaurant or ask for directions. Knowing Spanish would help me with other languages, and it will also teach me more about other cultures. I also believe this will help some of my anxiety about traveling to a foreign country by myself.
3. There are WAY more Europeans/Asians/Africans/Australians that travel abroad than Americans.
This honestly shocked me once I REALLY noticed. I noticed this in Europe, but I assumed it was because it was so easy to travel in Europe. Then I noticed it when I was in Africa. Out of the 30 people that were tourists on the trip, there were only 3 Americans. For one of the largest countries in the world, that is a very small percentage. When I was in South America this last week, I only came across 2 other groups from America, and one of those groups was on my flight home from Brazil. I am not sure if Americans chose to travel in the country (we do have A LOT to see here J ) or what exactly. I just hope people experience things outside of their 30-mile radius of home. There is so much to learn from other places and cultures!
4. Maté is the national beverage of Argentina.
This tea is a caffeine-rich tea that Argentinians drink instead of coffee. It comes from the Guaraní people, who are from the northern part of Argentina. The thing that is interesting about this drink is how it is consumed. It is put in a calabash gourd with a metal straw. Honestly, it looked like a different kind of bong. Google it and you will understand what I mean J When I saw my tour guide “drinking” this the first morning I thought, “well this will be an interesting day if my guide is high all morning.”
5. Just say screw it and do it!!
Many of you know my cousin was supposed to go on this trip with me but she ended up getting a job. I was so excited for her, but I was so nervous for myself. I had already paid for this trip. I have wanted to go to Brazil for longer than I can remember. BUT I have HIGH anxiety of traveling to a foreign country by myself. What was on the other side of this fear? An experience of a lifetime! Seeing not one, but THREE of the wonders of the world! Christ the Redeemer is one of the 7 wonders of the modern world. The Amazon and Iguazu Falls are two of the new 7 natural wonders of the world. Those experiences are what got me to say screw it and do it! I do not know if I would have scheduled a solo trip like this on my own. Sometimes, life has a funny way of pushing you in to a situation that you WANT to do, but you are scared to do it, for what ever reason. And the funny thing is, most of the time, what we fear never actually happens. When these opportunities present themselves, you need to just say screw it and do it!
6. Things do not have to be perfect in order to be beautiful.
My days in Rio were full of clouds, fog and some light rain. Not exactly what I wanted in order to spend time on Copacabana or Ipanema beach. The sky may have been darker, but the beach was still beautiful and full of life. There were people playing volleyball, soccer and beach handball, which I had never seen before. As I walked the sidewalk on Copacabana, I stopped to watched what looked like a handball tournament. On Sundays, one side of the street is shut down for runners, bikers and walkers to use. I could only imagine how many people would be on the street if it were a sunny day. All the while I am walking, I still couldn’t believe I was in Rio de Janeiro and walking along Copacabana beach. And it was absolutely gorgeous. When I went up to Sugarloaf Mountain it was cloudy and some rain. But the VIEWS!!! Everything about that city just seemed alive and beautiful. I overheard a couple complaining about the weather when we reached the top of Christ the Redeemer. I thought it was better because that meant that there were less people trying to get that perfect picture shot! So often we are concerned about having the “perfect” outfit, makeup, look, or picture in order for something to be considered beautiful. And that just isn’t it. Because when in life IS EVERYTHING PERFECT? Life’s imperfections are what is beautiful. If you are waiting for things to be perfect in order for it to be beautiful, you will die waiting.
7. Brazil had a rubber boom.
You know how the US had the gold rush out west? Brazil had a rubber boom. The rubber was extracted from trees, but this meant there was some damage to the jungle. More and more people were getting deeper in to the jungle where these trees were and many of the indigenous tribes did not like this. The rubber boom brought many jobs in plants and factories as well as a big economic boost for the export of the rubber. It also meant the city of Manaus got the country’s first telephone system in the late 1800’s. Manaus, which means Mother of God, is situated along the Rio Negro not too far from where it meets the Amazon. Because of its location in the Amazon jungle, the only way you can get to Manaus is by boat or by plane. Boats were, and still are, the way of exports for this rubber. For many years, all the tire companies had plants down in Manaus and would ship the tires around the world from here. Today, the largest Honda plant outside of Japan and the largest Harley Davidson plant outside of the US are located in Manaus.
8. The waters eventually mix.
The Rio Negro (Black River) and the Amazon are so different in their mineral composition and temperature that when they first meet, they do not mix. The Rio Negro has a pH of 4.5 where the Amazon is 7.2. This is why along the Rio Negro there are no mosquitos. The eggs won’t survive in that water. The temperature of the Rio Negro is on average 28 degrees Celsius, which is 82 degrees Fahrenheit. The Amazon is much colder at 21 degrees Celsius, or 69 degrees Fahrenheit. Although the two river are vastly different, in general they are the same and they do mix together several miles downstream. I thought about how cultures are different, and when they first interact, they can clash, but when it comes down to it, they all want the best for their people. If only we could learn to mix as the river do.
9. I want to go back.
The people of the country of Brazil are amazing. I want to experience the relaxation of Copacabana and Ipanema beach on a hot sunny day or relax on Arraial do Cabo, the Beach of Angels. Taking a trip up the Amazon river and exploring the jungle more is something else that is intriguing to me. Traveling alone isn’t always easy and every guide I had made it all the better. I understand I paid a little extra for the comfort of a guide or person to pick me up from the airport, but it was totally worth it. Sometimes paying for the peace of mind of safety is worth it!
10. My support system is bigger than I ever imagined.
I have always believed my family is there for me no matter what, as are my close friends. What has been overwhelmingly comforting, is all of my extended friends who are constantly uplifting me with positive messages. When I took my trip to Kilimanjaro, I had people messaging me who I haven’t talked to in 20 years. I thought it was because hiking Kili was a big challenge and who wouldn’t send a message? When I posted about my travel anxiety and this adventure, I still got the same support. While I was in South America, I still had people asking about the trip, commenting on posts and following along. I cannot tell you how much it means to me that people love seeing my travel stories and how their kind supportive words help me through the anxiety. So to all of you, thank you for all of your kind words, words of encouragement and for reading this blog. And if there is someone out there that you appreciate, look up to, admire or just think they are pretty awesome, let them know! You never know how much they could use those words!
I was able to do this trip because of my home-based business and a special travel agent! Amber Sprague Costa is THE BEST travel agent out there. She not only helps book my trips, she is there for me every step of the way, listening to & easing my crazy worries and checks in on me while on the road. She has been to over 60 countries herself and can not only give you advice but can give you her own experience because she has probably been there. Please visit her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AnyplaceEverwhere You can contact her there or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep exploring the world! Even if it is in your own backyard!