My first trip was a long time ago to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. By my first trip I mean a trip that required travelling by plane to a foreign country. This trip was many firsts for me; first time on a plane, first passport application, first time off the continent of North America, first time in a country that didn’t speak English, well you get the idea it was a big trip.
It was also a trip I had won. Very cool. An all expense paid trip to Rock in Rio II from Much Music (Canada’s version of MTV), a draw I actually watched live on TV with a friend, an amazing life experience I recommend it highly! I was under age at the time, and with 9 days notice I had to find someone who could travel on short notice and get a passport. My Mom was the obvious choice so once that was decided off the passport applications went.
This trip was quite some time ago, to give a hint as to how long ago, the flight from NYC to Brazil was on PAN AM. Hopefully this will help explain/excuse the attire in the photos (bum bags were fashionable back then!).
Rio de Janeiro was a daunting first international travel experience. Rio was a city, which at the time, was one of the largest most dangerous cities in the world. I had been given an unnecessary dose of anti-malaria pills that weren’t agreeing with me and oh my god – the HEAT. I know hot and sticky from summers in Nova Scotia but never experienced temperatures as high as 42C. Add to that a humidity level of 80% or higher and this meant that 10 minutes walking was was completely draining.
It was all a shock to the system, but everything was fascinatingly different, there was so much stimulation; sites, smells, tastes and sounds all different and new. Not to mention while I was sitting by a pool, walking along a beach, or bartering for a hammock, my friends back in Canada were shovelling snow! I was sold.
I witnessed poverty in Rio de Janeiro I couldn’t have imagined, shanty towns as far as the eyes could see. I walked on a beach that had sand too hot to walk on barefoot, where there were woman with incredibly tiny bikinis (and amazing bodies). I saw policeman paid off, survived being in taxis which the drivers drive like they are in a race to be won (like maniacs!). Then there was the steak steak I will never forget. It was the size of the plate covered with fries (there was no room on the side) eaten outside by a beautiful beach, where I had just swam in water that was actually warm (I’ve never properly swam in the North Atlantic since). I hung out by the hotel pool with members of Guns n Roses, sat in the hotel bar where Billy Idol was also hanging out, went to amazing concerts in a stadium (Maracanã) that at the time could contain the population of the city I came from. It was non-stop new experiences every day.
After that trip to Rio de Janeiro I went from being very curios about the world and other cultures, to being bitten by the travel bug. The trip had a huge impact on me and memories from travelling to Brazil are still so clear to me, it’s like it was yesterday. It may have been my first real travel experience but it would be far from my last.