Pages

Journeying Through Brazil By Bus

When I began planning my solo adventure around Northeast Brazil, everyone I knew expressed their concerns of me, a non-Brazilian, petite female, traveling alone in one of the most dangerous areas of the country. Despite being known for its drug-related violence and corruption, the Brazilian Nordeste is one of the cultural centers of the country, and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see it for myself. Honestly, there were a handful of times during my trip when my gut told me that I need to get moving. I always listened, even when the message was faint.

I knew I’d traveled on buses way too often when the rumble of the road began to make my eyelids heavy, my breath deepening as I drift into a deep but careful slumber. Feet wrapped tightly around my backpack, I would awaken with a start each time someone walked by or grazed my arm accidentally. In Brazil, theft is not so much feared as expected, and taking care of my belongings while mostly asleep proved a difficult task. Towards my last few bus rides, I trained myself to wake up to any one stirring around me, and I always kept my valuable items as close as possible.

I chose to take buses around for two reasons: first, they were inexpensive, and second, I wanted to get a feel for the Brazilian landscape and society – the way that the general masses tend to travel from place to place. I saved money on hostels by taking overnight buses from place to place through four cities: Fortaleza, Jericoacoara, Recife, and Salvador. After my first few bus rides, I started to seek a kind of comfort in floating through the countryside for hours on end. I will never forget the refreshing feeling of stepping on that bus and taking in the breath of a new city, a new climate, a new chapter in my solo adventure.

Two planes, two buses and the back of a pickup truck led me through the city of Fortaleza and to arguably one of the most fascinating and utopic places in the world – Jericoacoara. At first, I wasn’t sure if the amount of grueling travel required to get there would be worth it. After two planes and two buses, my last driver dropped me off one town away from my destination, saying that this would be the last stop. How on Earth was I supposed to get from here to Jericoacoara?

A couple nearby must have sensed my worry as I got off the bus, because they instantly introduced themselves and took me with them and a few others into the back of an old pickup truck. If I die today, I thought to myself, at least I was somewhere beautiful. Luckily, though, after an hour of riding through endless sand dunes and desert scapes, the smells of the ocean came near and our truck stopped in front of a quaint little pousada, draped in small lights and hammocks. There were no roads in the town, only sand and sky. Instantly, I know that my decision to come here was the right one.

My short time in Jericoacoara was like a dream – I lost track of time each day, and my window opened up to a personal balcony and hammock. Each night, the whole town would mount a giant sand dune overlooking the ocean and watch the sunset, applauding as the last bit of sunlight dipped below the glimmering horizon. Capoeira dancers would perform on the beach each night, a cool breeze whipping through my long mane of hair that had grown since six months before. In the nights, I would sit with new friends and listen to smooth jazz, sipping on caipirinhas and grinning like a child. We’d walk around the town, sand in our toes, no roads, skyscrapers, or iPhones in sight. Jericoacoara captured my heart and danced with it until the sun rose over the golden waters.

Recife brought me different joys. I met up for the first time with a cousin of my boyfriend’s, Felipe, and he and his girlfriend welcomed me into their city with open arms. As we walked around the city and its sweltering beaches, we exchanged smiles and stories about our lives, so different and far away from the other’s. Spending so much time with two amazing people showed me that friendship transcends the bounds of nationality, culture, and even language.

On my last stop in Salvador, my heart belonged to music and history. On warm nights we left our phones and wallets at home and danced in the streets under starlit skies, Bahian folk drums pounding, echoing around the cobblestones as our hearts set fire. I took the hands of a girl from Zimbabwe I’d met at my hostel and we spun and danced and laughed until we couldn’t feel our feet. New Australian friends and I conversed over massive bowls of acai, and as we traversed the city I remember thinking to myself that heaven could only be so far from this feeling.

Though I remained alert the whole time, I never felt as if I were in immediate danger. There’s something about laying low, letting your hair grow out to messy lengths and stretching the same 4 outfits to last for days that brings a sense of humility and togetherness to any situation. Though I was carrying a backpack, my main goal was to not stand out as a tourist, but rather to blend in and connect the dots in every place I visited. Instead of constantly dwelling on the danger and risk involved in this trip, I thought about staying vigilant, following my gut, and knowing when to say no.

So, you may be wondering the obvious – would I do it again? Of course I would, I would do it in a heartbeat.

12 Responses to Journeying Through Brazil By Bus

  1. Lisa - Wee Wanders August 13, 2014 at 5:59 AM #

    Great post – Brazil is at the top of my list of travel destinations to visit in the future and by the sounds of it you adopted the perfect approach! As a rule of thumb, I try to blend in with the crowd as much as possible and fully immerse myself in a place.

  2. Kate August 13, 2014 at 6:03 AM #

    Beautiful capoeira shot! I practiced for several years in Chicago and have this dream of someday going to Brazil to learn from capoeiristas there. Your journey sounds like such a fascinating, beautiful one. 🙂

  3. Rachel of Hippie in Heels August 13, 2014 at 7:21 AM #

    lovely read, I’d really like to go to Brazil & know what you mean about not being in danger but still needing to keep your guard up. Very similar here in India on the buses!

  4. Katie August 13, 2014 at 11:57 AM #

    Great post, your story is captivating Kay! And what a gorgeous shot, I can think of a few times where I made some questionable decisions traveling that turned out to be totally worth it. But as I get older, this side of me fades, and I worry more about danger, Am I getting old? Just kidding, but really thanks for this I want to travel to Brazil now.
    Katie

  5. Hannah Wasielewski August 13, 2014 at 1:34 PM #

    Sounds like a great trip! The only city I’ve visited out of those is Salvador, which I loved. One day I’d like to do a separate trip of the cities further north like Recife and Natal. Good call on leaving the phone and wallet at home at night. You’re right in that Brazil can be very dangerous and it’s better to be safe than sorry (like you said, it’s not a threat, it’s expected!) One more piece of advice I have (and maybe you did) is to always carry your luggage on the bus with you and never put it underneath the bus. If you do put it under the bus, each time it stops you need to wake up to make sure no one is stealing anything!

  6. Silvia August 13, 2014 at 11:15 PM #

    Love this! People expressed the same concerns when I announced that I’d be backpacking solo through Iran (also relying on buses), but in the end it was so worth it. So, so worth it in fact, that now I think I tend to seek out riskier travel choices in the hopes of experiencing something similar to what I did in Iran. Either it’s been great at squashing my fears, or someday I’m going to end up in serious trouble, ha.

  7. Laura August 14, 2014 at 12:05 AM #

    Sounds like an incredible trip. I couldn’t agree more with your final sentinments “There’s something about laying low, letting your hair grow out to messy lengths and stretching the same 4 outfits to last for days that brings a sense of humility and togetherness to any situation”. You’ve summed up my love for life on the road right there.

  8. Jessica August 15, 2014 at 1:14 AM #

    After living in Brazil for over 2 years I can completely relate to everything you experienced taking the buses around. So glad that you had a wonderful time visiting the Nordeste, it sounds like it was an amazing trip!

    inthelandofbeauty.blogspot.com

  9. rebecca August 27, 2014 at 1:59 AM #

    awesome story! it made my heart jump at anticipation to get out on the open road, take buses, dance with strangers until dawn and challenge myself and my bravery. What a fantastic time you must of had!

  10. Louise September 3, 2014 at 3:31 AM #

    Wow, sounds like you had an incredible trip! I desperately want to visit Brazil after spending years practicing capoeira and samba. The only thing holding me back has been that I will most likely have to travel solo. Not anymore! Now I just need to get saving!

  11. Yuliya September 14, 2014 at 10:16 PM #

    This sounds like such a worthwhile trip. I’m so happy for you that you did it and had only positive things to say! Happy travels!! -Yuliya

  12. juliang July 13, 2015 at 2:40 PM #

    Beautiful pics!

Leave a Reply

css.php