I went to Brazil in the summer of 2015. Spent a lot of time meeting people and working on my Portuguese. I quickly trusted everyone I met there. The weekend came when I would travel alone to Rio De Janeiro, an idea that very few people encouraged.
I had started reading a book in Portuguese while I was there, Onze Minutos by Paulo Coelho. This book only helped to reinforce the fear everybody was causing me to feel about traveling to Rio alone. I started to feel like I could relate to the protagonist of the book. She was a naive young girl who was so excited to travel to Rio. She let what she thought was love and romance change her life and eventually she went with a man to Switzerland to become an exotic dancer.
I could not decide if it was something telling me not to go, or if it was pushing me to go for an adventure. On my way to the airport in Belo Horizonte I started telling the taxi driver about where I was headed, and the first thing he said was “sozinha (alone)?!” He went on to explain that Rio is super dangerous; that people got stabbed and robbed there.
I started feeling nervous again. The possibilities of me getting robbed, stabbed, abducted, or becoming an exotic dancer kept growing in my head. But, I hid all these fears and landed in Rio with a brave smile.
The first day, I met some men on the beach and played soccer with them leaving my bags in the hands of a man running a coconut water stand. Nothing was stolen, and the only thing that got stabbed was the coconut he gave me for free. I continued playing soccer with another group, and this time, something unfavorable did happen.
On the last day, I went with some new friends to the beach one last time and to make a complicated story simple, I got caught in a riptide. I will be completely honest; there was a moment that I thought I wouldn’t make it. I saw my friend waving at me to come back, but he wasn’t coming toward me so I thought nobody could help me.
The last thing I saw before a big wave took me was my friend coming my way. At that moment I felt hope and then suddenly we were both so far out in the ocean that we could no longer see the shore. I was so happy I was not alone, and the two of us were just laughing trying to stay afloat.
We did not know what we would do because we knew we could not go back into the waves. Within ten minutes a lifeguard comes out to us, and lends us his board to catch our breath, but he tells us that he will not be able to take us back- says he has alerted the helicopter.
We were picked up in nets and then dropped off on the beach where everyone was surrounding us with their cameras out. The experience was crazy. I felt so in love with life, though I could not help but feel a sense of anxiety again; I felt confused. I had been warned about all the dangers of Rio – primarily of all the dangerous people and yet, the people in Rio are the ones who took the best care of me.
I realized from my trip to Brazil that if you are going to be fearful then get ready to fear just about everything – because anything can hurt you. Sand can hurt you; water can hurt you; pavement can hurt you; love can hurt you – anything can hurt you. That is why I gave up on fear and decided to live guided by my intuition and YOLO. Let’s see where that takes me.
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”