A Thousand Words

I’m a bit of a photograholic.

Traveling to various parts of the world, I have accumulated hundreds of thousands of photographs. I have often tried to avoid the stereotypical tourist look (most likely to little avail) of constantly having a camera strapped around my neck taking pictures of absolutely everything. On some trips I have nominated myself as trip photographer and take pictures of the activities and people involved, sometimes to the annoyance of my fellow travelers.

The other day I was thinking to myself, why? Why is it that I feel this compulsion to take pictures? To compile photographs of the places I go, the people I meet? Why does anybody do such things?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. True, but looking at a photograph can also remind us of emotions and thoughts, smells and sounds – a picture is a story. For centuries, stories were told by drawing pictures – think of the hieroglyphics and pictograms of ancient peoples. These were placed on cave walls, in temples, etched into stone so that the people would remember; rather, so they would never forget.

That’s why I, and others, take photographs. I don’t ever want to forget – not only what I saw, but how I felt, what I did, who I met. Over the course of time, memories tend to fade but with pictures, they can return to you as if they happened yesterday. Sure, maybe I can be a little “shutter happy,” but the value that those pictures carry are more than anything I could ever buy.

Three guesses as to where this was taken:

Seattle at Twilight

Do you feel like you’re a photograholic, too? Share your favorite photo with us and tell us a bit of your story, we’d love to hear about it!

Happy traveling!

-JB

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A Farewell to the World Cup

Well, the World Cup is over now, and the majority of the world seems to be recovering quite nicely from what was quite the enthralling tournament. It’s been a little over ten days since that tense final match between Germany and Argentina, and the reactions have been many. Most of course are sad, or frustrated, and disappointed due to their teams’ failures over the course of the month-long competition. Although in reality, it is only possible for one team to leave entirely happy, perhaps the most disappointed would have to be the host nation of Brazil. Even so, hopefully most will remember the good things and the fun times.
One of the best ways to enjoy the World Cup is to be in country that absolutely loves its football. Of course being able to take a quick trip over to Brazil would have been ideal, but being in England was a great way to soak in a great football fan atmosphere. Unfortunately England didn’t last long in the tournament but it was fun while it lasted, and I was able to meet and hang out with Mexican and American soccer fans as well. Either way, the combination of football and travel led to quite the enjoyable month of cheering, “suffering,” yelling at referees, and of course meeting new people from many different places, as we all enjoyed the beautiful game. Now when is the next one?
-CG

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Lost in (Lack of) Communication

Without communication, things can get frustrating.  For all the Brazil did to prepare for the World Cup – spend millions of dollars on building the stadiums, maximizing security in major cities, and more – they did not invest in the one thing that would have greatly benefited them both now and in the future: teaching people the English language. Visitors here in Brazil have expressed over and over again their dissatisfaction with the lack individuals with English-speaking abilities, regardless of whether or not they work in the business of tourism. Its understandable that the person in the corner bakery might not know any English, but for an employee of a major tourist attraction like Corcovado to not know English is absurd. Even more absurd that a popular extreme sports activity in Rio, hang gliding, would only have release papers in Portuguese when (I’m guessing here) at least 80% of their attendees are foreigners. How are the participants supposed to know what they’re signing if it’s in a language they can’t read and understand?

Why English? Its not because I think the rest of the world should cater to English-speaking people. In fact, I find it irritating when people travel and then act as if the locals must accommodate them. However, it cannot be denied that English is the international language of business affairs and thus extremely important for anyone who deals with international businesses, especially tourism, to have a certain level of proficiency in English. Here’s hoping that Brazil will have learned its lesson in two years time to be better equipped for another influx of foreigners with the Summer Olympics 2016.

Now, on the other hand… I also believe that it is extremely important for travelers to develop a basic set of vocabulary in the language of whatever country they might be traveling to. You might be surprised how far phrases like, “I’m hungry,” “How much does it cost?” and “Where is the bathroom?” will go and come in handy during your travels. Locals often are appreciative of efforts to speak the local language and are often even encourage you to improve.

Therefore, besides Brazil not being prepared for all the visitors of the world that came for the Cup, I feel that the travelers could have helped themselves by having taken the time before arriving to learn some Portuguese. It is amazing the difference in experiences you can have when you either viewed as an outsider or someone who is genuinely seeking a travel experience.

So before going on your next trip, be sure to grab a phrase book from your local bookstore. I promise a little effort will go a long way.

Happy traveling!

-JB

 

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Rio from Every Angle

I’ve been able to pack in a lot of sight seeing in the three weeks that I’ve been in the Rio de Janeiro/Niterói region. There is so much to see and do here; as the cultural capital of Brazil, it is unsurpassed as the “place-to-be” for foreigners and even citizens, especially during the time of the World Cup. Following is a compilation of the Rio landscape that I’ve taken on my escapades. Enjoy and all the best to those participating in the games tomorrow.

Happy traveling!

Praia Vermelha, a beach found at the base of Pão de Açúcar.

Praia Vermelha, a beach found at the base of Pão de Açúcar.

A spectacular view of Rio, being watched over by the Christ Statue.

A spectacular view of Rio, being watched over by the Christ Statue.

Fisherman's boats in the Rio marina.

Fisherman’s boats in the Rio marina.

Guanabara Bay at sunset, taken from Pão de Açúcar.

Guanabara Bay at sunset, taken from Pão de Açúcar.

Paragliding over Niterói, with a view of Rio on the horizon.

Paragliding over Niterói, with a view of Rio on the horizon.

Parque dos Patins, a skating park.

Parque dos Patins, a skating park.

Ipanema, the ever popular beach, surpassed only by Copacabana.

Ipanema, the ever popular beach, surpassed only by Copacabana.

 

 

As evening creeps upon the city, the lights of the favelas rise upon the morros.

As evening creeps upon the city, the lights of the favelas rise upon the morros.

-JB

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Friends

There are plenty of arguments which can be made in favour of travelling alone. From planning and keeping to your own schedule, changing those plans drastically whenever you want, and of course the openness it leaves to meeting new people along the way. For student travel, particularly when staying in hostels, it is even easier to meet new people and even get advice and travel tips, or even plan unexpected destinations with new people.

However sometimes there’s nothing better than travelling with a good friend, or a group of friends. Travelling, discovering, and wandering about together creates new memories, while even getting lost and blundering, often leaves the longest lasting memories and later the best laughter. Even memories like walking for three hours through an unknown city, unsure of where exactly you are, or getting your bags stolen, paying way too much for that taxi, or that really dodgy motel on a border town and the story of how you managed to survive.

The point is, to take that opportunity, that unbelievable chance to travel and discover other parts of the world. It really is a privilege that not so many people get to experience, so when we have the opportunity we should definitely take advantage of it.

-CG

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Show Your Colors

Things are really starting to heat up in the World Cup. Teams are slowly being eliminated as the days pass by. It was a great day for Americans, however. Despite losing to Germany today, the United States has qualified for the next round of games!

For a country that historically has not been enormous fans of soccer, the United States seems to be lighting up during this World Cup. Even President Obama was taking the time to watch the team play today.

Property of Yahoo Sports

Property of Yahoo Sports

Everyone has different ways to show their support for their country, and walking through the streets of Rio one can see just about all of it. Outlandish outfits to flag resembling colors, face painting to carrying legitimate flags – these fans are serious. Its amazing to see the audience in the stands of a games and notice how one color often seems to overpower the other – in Brazil matches, for example, the stands are covered in yellow, it doesn’t matter what other team they’re playing.

Country Capes

 

Supporting Mexico

Face Painting

 

If you’re following the World Cup, how are you showing your support for your country? Let us know!

Happy traveling!

-JB

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Goool!

Gol!

This is what Brazilians look like when their Seleção makes an awesome goal. Super, super excited!

-JB

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O Morro Foi Feito de Samba

Street Music

Nothing in Brazil exists without music. Its not the same kind of melodic music that one hears in the northern hemisphere, but powerful and rhythmic. The way people talk, the way people walk, the way people work… There is truly an inescapable rhythm to life in Brazil.

During a flute lesson I had earlier this week, the instructor was telling me about how Brazilian music mesmerizes people because of these different and interesting rhythms. These rhythms came from the populace’s every day living.

“Imagine walking up and down the hills that surround Rio,” he said. “Think of how you would feel with each step. This rhythm, its in their blood. We are a very rhythmic culture!”

The pulse of the city is evident, especially for those looking for it. The car horns beep in time with the swinging store doors. The laughter of children blends perfectly with the barking of dogs. The rain pats the window as the wind whistles through the leaves. Even in the house where I’m staying, the washing machine creates it own music!

Brazilians seem to use music for everything: celebration, mourning, shopping, exercising, stress relief, and sometimes, just for pure enjoyment. Admittedly, there are many places like this, but it is so prevalent and obvious here that it permeates every aspect of living; its like the land is literally made of music.

This reminds me of a classic Brazilian song that goes like this (excuse my translation):

Não deixe o samba morrer               (Don’t let samba die)
Não deixe o samba acabar                (Don’t let samba end)
O morro foi feito de samba               (The hills were created with samba)
De Samba, prá gente sambar           (With samba, for us to samba)

The difficult part, however, is not just hearing and recognizing the rhythm, but figuring out how to take part. Brazilian rhythms are complex and multifaceted. The worst part? “Brazilian music is just like our government,” said my flute instructor. “It never follows what’s written.” That doesn’t mean, however, that its impossible to learn – it just takes time and patience. Ever tried to play a game with a group where everyone knows the rules but you? Yeah, its kind of like that.

But see, the best part about this land of music is that everyone wants to include you. If you sincerely try, people are willing to teach. The rhythm of life is inclusive, not exclusive, and is meant to be shared. Slowly, I’m understanding the rhythms and music of Niteroi and I know that if you came to Brazil that the people would be happy to share the music with you too.

Happy traveling!

-JB

 

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The World Cup and New Goals

Another World Cup summer has arrived and is currently in full swing down in the beautiful country of Brazil. Often the wait for the World Cup feels like a four year cycle where one can look back and evaluate life decisions and progress thus far. Maybe? Perhaps not, but for some avid football/soccer fans it can seem like life is lived in these four year cycles. At times it seems as if the entire world has taken a pause to enjoy the games, and yet looking at world events, and even the controversies within Brazil itself, I realize sadly that it’s not true.

As I see the teams lining up to proudly represent their respective nations day after day, I wonder at all those countries, all these places that I have yet to visit, and I think that maybe that should be my new goal for the next four year cycle; to visit as many of these countries as possible, a travellers daydream I know.

As a general rule I support the country of my birth through every loss and heartache, and yet the more I travel and meet people from places all around the world it gets more difficult to not wish other teams success as well. Maybe that’s the true beauty of travel, the acceptance of different views and people we wouldn’t normally be in contact with. So looking back at the past four years, the places I’ve been, the people I’ve met, the acceptance I’ve learned; I think I’ll consider it a successful cycle.

-CG

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Preamble: Copa do Mundo 2014

Not the property of Insouciance Abroad.

Not the property of Insouciance Abroad.

The World Cup opens today in Brazil to a wide mixture of emotions. In a country where the gulf between the poor and the rich is so wide, the knowledge of the government pumping $11 billion into preparations for the Cup has created resentment and bitterness among the country’s citizens. At the same time, Brazil is excited to see a spike in its economy for the next several weeks with the sudden influx of tourists from around the world.

As the spectators pour into the country by the thousands, many are wondering if Brazil is truly ready to handle what is about to take place. Despite the games opening today in São Paulo, the stadium was still being worked on yesterday. Safety has also been a concern, especially in cities like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Measures have been taken to ensure the security of the athletes and tourists, but this has only caused increased resentment from the lower classes since these “measures” usually involve pushing or removing them from high interest areas. If you’re interested in learning more about what took place in preparation for the games, click here: http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/12/world/americas/world-cup-five-things/.

Brazilians around the world have taken up a variety of ways to make their opinions heard about this year’s World Cup ranging anywhere from public protests to songwriting. A popular theme, of course, is the apparent disconnect with Brazil’s priorities. One talented individual created a short video using the World Cup as a back drop to a story that parallels the Greek tale of Icarus. No words are said, but the tale is easily understood. See the video on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSuA1t1wAj4&noredirect=1.

With all of the tension revolving around the World Cup, is it safe to travel to Brazil? Yes, Brazil is not to be marked off our your travel list just yet. However, is it advised that anyone traveling to Brazil take extra precaution, especially if you are visiting one of the cities that has a stadium. Remember to be flexible during this time, as there are probably going to be several surprises along the way. Many may choose to say home, but if you’re willing to brave the insanity that is the World Cup and the adoration of futebol, than this is sure to be a time of excitement and adventure.

Be sure to check back every Thursday for the next several weeks to read on site updates about Brazil and the Cup. If you plan on going yourself stay safe, have fun – and happy traveling!

-JB

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