Spending Christmas away from home can, at times, be a lonely time for a traveller. You wake up in a dingy hostel with no real plans and phone home to chat to your loved ones who for some reason are managing to have an incredible day despite the fact you are not there. This loneliness wears off a few days later though when you have to pinch yourself and realise that you are about to spend a New Years Eve in a foreign country.
This year, we were lucky enough to spend Christmas in Rio de Janeiro. The day was spent eating seafood, drinking Caiporenas and swimming at Ipanema beach in between stints lying in the sun. Oh and there was the surprise hang gliding session off Pedra da Gávea which took us over Rio’s biggest favela; Rocinha. This Christmas away from home wasn’t lonely like the others have been. The key is putting in the effort and spoiling yourself to make the day a special one. It is worth going out for a nice meal in lieu of the usual $1 sandwich and bottle of water.
Between Christmas and New Years we made our way south to the coastal town of Garopobar in the state of Santa Catarina. I met up with my friend Marcelo who I met while travelling through Indonesia in 2003, and we all spent a few days at his sister’s beachside house in Praia do Silveira. Being almost 13 years since we last saw one another, I was a little nervous but from the second we got off the bus it was as if it was 2003 all over again.
I have a few basic rules while travelling. One of these is to always, always, always tap into local knowledge if it is accessible. Staying with locals over the holiday period and taking their lead on food choices and places to visit gave us the best possible insight into the Brazilian way of life. Without them, I’d just be another gringo hitting the tourist hotspots (whereas now, I am a gringo who appears lost among locals in the Brazilian backwaters).
Christmas and New Year of 2015 is one that I will never forget. Over the course of the week, we visited some of the most idyllic locations on earth, I caught up with an old friend and we made some new friends along the way. If this coming year is anything like the previous, then I will be a happy little traveller indeed!
We are now in the southern city of Porto Alegre preparing to fly north to Salvador, Bahia. While it is sad to say goodbye to friends, we are excited for what the coming couple of weeks has install for us.