I’m lying here again in Ipanema Beach, where I’m testing out my first sunguinha, and using my oversized camo jacket as a towel (side note: how am I just now realizing I didn’t bring ONE towel to Brazil). I’m minding my own business, trying to have a melodramatic moment, but I know my American is showing when every vendor known to mankind continuously comes up to me asking if I want a coconut, a conga, or a caipirinha. Trust me, Brazil, I’m all caipirinha’d out.
I’m now alone in Rio. In just the past month, I’ve been alone in Tokyo, in Stockholm, in Copenhagen, and in Paris, but this time is different.
After a whirlwind of two weeks filming in Rio with a production crew from Tastemade, I was on my own for a few days off. Typically with this sort of thing, I would be ecstatic about my freedom and independence, but after a rough turn of events in my personal life, the last thing I needed was to be all by my lonesome.
But it had to happen. We parted ways with the crew, Jo went off to visit her family two hours away, and I was off to a Copacabana hotel I had booked after finding a cheap deal.
It was time to leave our AirBNB. We said our goodbyes (which now that I think about it, symbolically represents a goodbye I said in my personal life on the same day) and made our way onto the next. I waited 35 minutes for an UBER – two drivers cancelled – and when I finally succeeding in getting an UBER, I arrive at the hotel…only to realize that I took it to the wrong hotel. I realize it’s going to be one of those days, especially when the staff then wouldn’t let me access Wi-Fi to call another UBER. I drag my suitcase outside, where I’m greeted by three aggressive men asking if I need a taxi. I say “It’s five minutes away by car. How much?”. He offers me a price and shows me to his car: an unidentified black car with no clear-cut sign he’s a licensed taxi driver. Not happening.
I take the first yellow taxi I see, and I pay triple the price for a taxi and went 1/4 the distance than my previous UBER.
Upon my arrival, I was pleasantly surprised that this four-star hotel looked like a five-star hotel. I wait in line for fifteen minutes just for the front desk to tell me to take a seat. I walk to the bar and decide to chill with a cup of filter coffee, cuz we all know how hard that is to come by outside of America. The bartender was friendly and accommodating to my clearly-foreign Portuguese accent, smiling at each and every mistake or incorrect vocabulary. I appreciated that.
After another twenty minutes, I walk back to the front desk and ask what the wait is for. They thought I was waiting on someone because they didn’t think I, someone who looks “so young,” would be checking into a hotel. Really…
They hand me my room key – Room 1414 – and I get excited thinking that the 14th floor must have an amazing view of Copacabana Beach, Lagoa, Urca, or Ipanema. Like any view from the 14th floor would be a good view. They could have given me the 5th floor, or the 8th floor, but no, they gave me the 14th. Maybe they’re trying to make up for the fact that I just waited 40 minutes for nothing?
Except that they weren’t. I walk into my room and wow. This place is nice. Wait, where is the window? Wait, are there no windows? Ok, there is literally not one window. I know for some people this isn’t a big deal, but I love a big a$$ window, especially when I’m paying to stay in a hotel. Ok, no big deal, there are worse things in life than not having a window in a hotel room. On to the next.
Luckily my hotel was situated down the street from two vegetarian restaurants – wow something that’s going right! I couldn’t find the one I really wanted to try out, so I went to another one down the street, and just when I sit down at a table for one…
Damon? Do you want to have lunch with us?
It was a girl I had met a few days before at our meet up from our YouTube channel, sitting and eating lunch with a friend. I take a seat at their table and hear more about their stories – one, an Ecuadorian who had lived in the US and now moved to Rio, and the other, a surfer from Canada who moved to Rio for a different lifestyle. Inspiring. I love hearing about other people out there living more or less the same lifestyle that we do as travel bloggers and vloggers, just that they’re working in a different industry.
I move to the beach, where I take a seat next to a French couple – always nice to try to practice some language skills, even if it does mean eavesdropping on innocent bystanders. I spend the next few hours admiring the ocean view and happy people kicking around a volleyball.
I head to the mall in Leblon to check out the bougier side of Rio de Janeiro. I happen to pass by another vegetarian restaurant – either Rio is really amping up their vegetarian game, or I’m just having a very interesting day. Either way, I order an açai, coconut yogurt, a detox juice, and a ricotta empanada. All of this in the States would be $20 – which is ridiculous and something I would never do, but here it comes out to 30 reais, or $8.78.
In the mall, I pop in and out of shops doing that thing where you walk into the store, check the price, act like you’re still interested, and then gradually make your way out. That kind of thing is fatiguing, so I take a lap on the next floor, and get sidetracked by an older man playing the piano. The median age around him had to have been about 65, but good music is good music, so I take a seat.
He plays La Vie en Rose, followed by New York, New York – it’s like my recent past in Paris and New York is flashing before my eyes. I have yet another melodramatic moment, tears in my eyes, because of 1) the beautiful music, and 2) the turn of events in my personal life, remember? I spend the next 45 minutes listening to him, applauding him after every song, and awkwardly saying “Muito bom” after every song, because I lack the Portuguese vocabulary to adequately thank him. An older woman next to me gave him a standing ovation after every song and said “Obrigada” – which I liked because she was thanking him for the music, that he did not have to be there performing.
I go to a boteco in Copacabana, which is pretty much a Brazilian word for a small, informal bar. The place was called Tia Joana (seriously didn’t plan this), and I order a caipirinha of course. They’re literally $2.50, so I order a second, then a third, and then…
Damon? I don’t know if you remember me, but…
I look up, and it’s Hugo, a Brazilian guy Jo and I met four years ago at a travel event in New York City. In fact, it was the first travel event Jo and I ever went to as “Damon & Jo” for Shut Up and Go. Talk about coming full-circle. He just happened to be on vacation, at the Tia Joana boteco.
He and his girlfriend from New York were doing their own tour of Brazil. Again, I love meeting people who are out living their lives around the world. It goes to show you that you don’t have to be a travel blogger or vlogger to realistically travel the world.
And now here I am again, the next morning at Ipanema beach, back to the present moment. I just looked up and realized I’m sitting by the same French couple I sat by yesterday. Of all the spots on the beach, and of all of the beaches in Rio de Janeiro, I am here next to the same couple. The world works in funny ways.
It’s comforting to know that maybe when a rough turn of events happens in your life, that maybe it’s a sign that the next phase of your life is starting. Whether or not we choose to believe it, our days are jam-packed with activities, coincidences, and oddities and maybe being alone in Rio is what I needed to remind myself of that.
Look at your life as a series of events that funnel into the next.
Things will happen when you let them.