Bunk beds, roommates, earplugs, shared bathrooms, cold showers, shower flip-flops, meals at restaurants, no schedule, lockers, new people, new sights, new languages – these realities are some of the joys of travel. Every moment is an adventure! These same joys are also tiring.
From Belo Horizonte, I originally planned to visit cities further north in Brazil. Weather forecasts predicting heavy rain for these parts of the country, time limitations, flight costs and, most critical of all, my level of energy, led me to change my plans. I decided to return to Rio de Janeiro (Rio) and Sao Paulo (SP) instead of visiting new places. After more than 9 months of continuous travel, tiredness had set-in. I was ready to choose the easy option.
Checking in with myself, listening to my feelings, and practicing self-care are skills I have continued to develop to remain happy in a changing environment far from family, friends, and routine. Instead of feeling frustrated by choosing to reduce my travel schedule, I accepted my feelings of tiredness. I was happy to give myself a break by returning to Rio and SP, two cities where, serendipitously, friends from my pre-travel life live.
A family friend, Greg, lives in Rio. Marco, my friend living in SP, and I met when I studied abroad in Chile 10 years ago. Eating meals in the company of people I had known for more than a few days, returning to cities I was generally familiar with, spending more time reading at cafes rather than exploring sights, and laughing a lot became my routine during my last 8 days in Brazil. It was glorious!
The rainy weather forecasted for further north in Brazil was also in Rio. On this rainy day I visited the Museum of Tomorrow, an interactive science museum focused on climate change and humans’ relationship with earth. This state-of-the-art facility and its world class exhibits opened prior to the Olympics.
Exhibits in the Museum of Tomorrow relied on light, digital display boards and shapes to teach viewers. Although I visited on a week day, the museum was crowded. The wait was close to one hour to enter the main gallery.
Rain or shine it is possible to enjoy the boardwalks at Ipanema and Leblon beaches. Most days in Rio I walked at least once along the ocean front, making sure to stop, smile and appreciate life.
There is an art fair on Sundays in the General Osorio plaza, the last plaza in Ipanema before reaching the Copacabana neighborhood. TripAdvisor calls the art fair a Feria Hippie. One of my few souvenirs from this year of travel is a painting I bought at the fair and am carrying until I reach Minnesota.
From Plaza General Osorio I walked a few blocks to the Cantagalo comunidade, a pacified favela on the hillside. The local government built an elevator to transport residents at no charge up the hillside to their homes. It is also free for tourists to ride the elevator and see views of the city.
The Santa Theresa neighborhood is near the city center of Rio. It is a bohemian neighborhood I explored when I visited Rio 3 years ago. The Santa Theresa tram is used by neighborhood residents to travel from the city center to their homes. Originally built in the 1800s, this tram is now a popular tourist attraction that was closed for repairs when I visited Rio in 2014.
Sights along the tram ride include street art and views of the city. The Rio de Janeiro Cathedral was built in the 1960s and 1970s and the style is reminiscent of Mayan pyramids.
One last day at the beach and a boardwalk stroll before leaving Rio. The sidewalks throughout the city have modern designs created from small black and white stone. They are a work of art and, after seeing crews of workers in action, also labor intensive to install and maintain.
Busses depart every 10 minutes to make the 6 hour journey from Rio to SP. I arrived in early evening and relied on the metro system to reach the city’s central business district. There are a number of visually interesting buildings in this part of the city, including the Teatro Santander.
To be in Marco’s neighborhood and to take a break from hostel life, I stayed in an AirB&B with host Laura. I sat in her hammock enjoying city views, exercised in a nearby park, and laughed at her needlepointed artwork that says, “Women is the fragile sex, you ass.”
I walked around the upper-class Jardins neighborhood in SP and was delighted to see a street named after me – Sarita. According to an April 2017 NYT article, homes in this neighborhood sell for more than $1 million USD.