Your No-Nonsense Guide To Visiting Brazil

Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
On 24th May 24 2014, my fiancé, Andy, and I got married in New York City. A week later, we hopped on a plane with two carry-on suitcases and two one-way tickets to Paris. We had just pressed pause on our careers, sublet our apartment, and moved all of our things into storage. The only plan was to have no plans at all — and we ended up traveling for 394 days through 25 countries, stopping in nearly 100 destinations. Over the next few weeks, come along on this crazy journey to learn more about how we did it — packing, plotting, budgeting — and see some of the tens of thousands of photos we took along the way.
After nearly two months in Southeast Asia, we boarded a painful three-leg, 38-hour flight from Vietnam to Brazil. We were determined to explore South America before making our way back home, and Hanoi to São Paulo was the cheapest way to get there. In those 38 hours, it felt like days had passed, time zones had blended together, and the sun rose and set outside our plane window more times than even possible. It would be an understatement to say we were a bit spun around when we reached Brazil.
We arrived in São Paulo, made our way to our hostel, and slept for a solid day. The next morning we were ready to take on this sprawling metropolis. São Paulo gets a bad rap. Yes, it’s rather unattractive, landlocked, and overwhelming. And there’s no way you can compare it to the beauty of Rio de Janeiro, but you shouldn’t. São Paulo is home to an estimated 20 million people. It’s a cultural melting pot, and in that way, very similar to New York City. The energy, diversity, and grit is the charm. We stayed in hilly, Vila Madalena, a bohemian neighbourhood popular with young people and packed with artist galleries, bars and restaurants. We admired the omnipresent street art of São Paulo in areas like Beco do Batman, an alleyway that has been adorned in graffiti since the 1980s and lovingly cared for by the community. The city felt alive every night — buzzing with music, energy, and bar goers pouring out into the streets.
From São Paulo, we took a six-hour bus to Rio de Janeiro and set up camp in the Ipanema neighbourhood, just a couple of blocks off Ipanema beach. The views from this beach are truly iconic, with the The Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers) mountains presiding over the landscape from a distance. We joined the crowds gravitating to the oceanfront every day. This is the kind of neighbourhood where you would see a man standing in a Speedo at a street corner next to a man in a business suit. The beach culture is a way of life, and we saw every demographic represented on the shores.
Besides having one of the most breathtaking landscapes I’ve ever seen in a major city, Rio has a rhythm and a soul that’s hard to describe. It moves to the ebbs and flows of the ocean waves and the samba music in the streets. There’s a sense of community and oneness that’s hard to come by — it was as if, despite social and economical differences, the unique elements of the land and culture bound the people together. The great joy of Brazil is that they invite and welcome you to their party...

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