I took this photo during my morning stroll in the Copacobana Beach in Rio de Janeiro.
The beach is beautiful, as well as the city. And who can forget about their very delicious cuisine? This more than trumps my unfavorable memories of Rio de Janeiro.
I only spent two days in Rio de Janeiro during my solo backpacking trip in South America back in October 2014 (too short, I know, since it was a layover). Even though I was aware that there are ATM scams in the city (I was prepared! I read numerous articles about it before my trip) or I was conscious of my every move or I took a lot of precautions, I still was made a victim to this crime. Never have I been robbed until I had gone to this city. It amazes me how fast people are to adapt to technology, both in good and bad ways. Fraud protection is the next best thing to sliced bread, if not the best thing in the world (props to Chase for saving my bank account).
It was about day three in my 11-day trip, and I was already feeling fatigued, tired and restless. As soon as I got into my hostel, which was about a good three blocks from the beach, I broke down and cried to the guy by the hostel’s reception. I was clearly disheveled, confused, lacked sleep, and I was in my worst mood (What was I doing in this place, alone?). My itinerary for this city already went down the drain. After I cleaned up and cried all the tears that I can cry, I summoned up all the courage that I can muster and braved this city. The lovely gentleman, João, tried to have a conversation as I was about to head out, probably to have a good second impression of this girl in distress. He spoke good English, too. To my surprise, he gave me a nice, warm hug and reassured me that everything will be okay and that the city is not entirely what I thought it was.
Whenever I see this picture, I’m reminded of the good people by the beach who took time out of their busy schedule to tell me directions to where I was headed or where I can find cheap but yummy eats. In my travels, I always keep in mind that there are good people out there that I’ll meet – people are generally helpful, especially to tourists… and solo women travelers. I may never have known their names, or remember their faces, or shared my experiences with them, but they’ve surely left footprints in my memory. Without them, I may never have these beautiful stories to tell.
This blog entry is dedicated to all the João’s in this world. It was very refreshing that in a foreign land full of unknown wonders and unfamiliar faces, someone made me remember why I love traveling in the first place. I give back and pay forward by being gracious to tourists in my own city…especially in Times Square. Each and every one of us is going through something, so the least we can do is to be nice to people.
Perhaps someday I’ll find myself back in the welcoming arms of Rio de Janeiro, and give the city a second chance.