How a Trip for 2 Cowboy Hats Turned into a $2k Monkey Business

monkeys

The initial idea was straightforward: let’s do a road-trip to the south to celebrate New Year’s Eve on a dime. There was no specific plan: we go as far as we can, meet our friends, celebrate with cowgirls and cowboys, get cool hats, and come back in one piece. That did not quite happen… we celebrated in New York, I scored the most ridiculous ticket, was summoned to the court, and ended up with a serious bill on my credit card. Adventure, but, at least, I learned something. Curious? Here’s how it’s done.

route

It was 4pm, December 31, 2014. Peter and #Law came down from Toronto to Boston. Everything was up in the air and we still had several options for celebrating NYE. Due to time constraints and the fun factor, we decided to head to New York. Luckily, I was in touch with Lara and Dorota, two cool girls who were CouchSurfing at my place several months ago. We were invited to celebrate with their friends and to watch the fireworks from the Brooklyn bridge.

brooklyn

The NYE night was pretty good but very cold. We needed an adequate amount of rocket fuel to warm up. Hundreds (thousands?) of people congregated at the Brooklyn bridge to see the show. Perhaps, the Times Square was a much better place to see the fireworks, but none of us was willing to wait there 8 hours. Nonetheless, we made quite a few new friends. Mostly girls of Brazilian background. Although I like Brazil, this time it was totally accidental. (Yeah, I know, it’s always accidental. :-))

timessq

January 1, 2015. Early morning, we got our shit together, got shitty McDonald’s breakfast, and were ready to take off at 8am. 9 states, 3600km, 4 days. The main goal was to drive to Nashville, Tennessee for genuine cowboy hats. Nashville is the capital of country music, cowboys, cowgirls, and generally a cool city with friendly people and southern culture.

jamaicaplain

God bless American highways. They are wide, scenic, and span all over the country. The weather was perfect and the ride was very nice all day long. Almost. Nice until 9:25pm. We were somewhere around the border of Virginia and Tennessee. I was happily driving downhill while all of the sudden blue and red lights of a cop car appeared on my rear-view mirror.

i90

me: fuck!!!
Piotruś: papa should close his eyes.
#Law: zzzzzzzzz. [sleeping]

I pulled the car over and was waiting for the cop.

cop: sir, do you know why I pulled you over?
me: I guess, I was going a little bit too fast?
cop: you were flying 97mph [=156km/h] on a highway with the speed limit of 70mph [=112km/h]. Your license and registration, please.

policeThe cop disappeared for several minutes and came back with a big yellow ticket.

cop: sir, you are charged with reckless driving.
me: I understand I was speeding. What’s the ticket? Can I pay here?
cop: no, it was not speeding, but reckless driving. You cannot pay. You need to appear at the court. Your court date is Feb 9.
me: I cannot go to the court. I’ll be in Brazil.
cop: call the court or get the lawyer then.
me: dammit.
cop: I’ll let you go now, but drive slowly.
me: thank you. Good night.

It took me a while to figure out what really happened. Initially, I thought it was just a regular speeding ticket. Unfortunately, in Virginia if you go over 80mph [=129km/h], it qualifies as reckless driving which is a serious moving traffic violation. In Virginia, It is a misdemeanor, which is a criminal act. I couldn’t believe that simple speeding on an empty highway can be a criminal act! I was going a bit fast, true, but by no means recklessly. The law in Virginia is absolutely ridiculous in that matter. (In Massachusetts, I would just pay a fine for speeding and would be good to go.)

i81

We were continuing the road-trip. By the end of the day we arrived in Knoxville, Tennessee. All the ugly thoughts were floating in my head. I was searching the Internet to learn about reckless driving in Virginia, looking for lawyers, and thinking about all that bullshit. Anyway, in the morning I was too hungry to think. We went to the famous Waffle House. If you can find WH, you know you’re in the south. The personnel greeted us with a lot of enthusiasm and respect. The breakfast was delectable as for $5.

waffle

Soon we were on our way to Nashville. Some 2h drive across the state. In the meantime, I called some lawyers to discuss my ticket. They were very willing to help and their fees were starting at $850 and finishing around $2500. Encouraging, eh? It gets even more interesting. I learned that, in theory, reckless driving in Virginia may result in a $2500 fine, license suspension, and 12 months of jail. Unbelievable. One of the lawyers sent me his book about reckless driving. The second chapter was titled: “How to survive in jail?”. Fucking ridiculous. Sadly, that’s their tactic to scare people and to make money. I knew I was in trouble, but even then I wouldn’t fall for that bullshit.

tinderpapa

We made it to Nashville. I was looking for a romantic way of finding accommodation. For fun, I set a funky profile picture on Tinder and set the description to: “Not looking for a hookup, rather for a place to cuddle overnight”. I got several offers. They weren’t as interesting as I would hope, if you know what I mean. Maybe they had beautiful hearts, though. #Law saved us by finding a nice place on Airbnb.

nashville

In Nashville we met up with Tom and Natalka, our friends who were driving from Canada. We got proper southern lunch and went to hunt for the cowboy attire. Downtown Nashville was full of stores with cowboy boots, hats, vests, belts, etc. Tom was looking for cool cowboy boots. Piotruś and myself were looking for cowboy hats. The prices were really good so we couldn’t miss the opportunity. Piotruś ended up getting a brown leather hat, whereas mine was fashionably black.

piotruscowboy

I was thinking about how to get out of the ticket. Turns out that there is a trick. In Virginia, if you show that your speedometer is inaccurate, the judge can rule in your favor. What? How do you do that? The process is called speedometer calibration. Normally it would be a very expensive and laborious process. In Virginia, however, it can be done by hand.

papacalibration

We found a calibration service in some obscure village in Virginia. It works as follows. You drive and someone from the calibration service sits on the passenger seat and measures your speed by a hand radar gun. When you hit 20, 30, 40mph, etc., you notify them, and they write down their reading from the radar. Simple, eh? Somehow, most speedometers can be shown to be faulty in Virginia. (I couldn’t find similar services in other states.) The whole process took about half an hour. I got a calibration certificate that counts in the court.

calibration

Fast forward to Feb 9. I hired a lawyer to handle my case. I had neither the will nor the possibility of showing up in the court in person. The judge acknowledged my clean driving record, the calibration certificate, and, in the end, reduced the charges from reckless driving to regular speeding 90mph [=145km/h] in a 70mph zone. Could have been worse. The cost, however, totaled $50 for the calibration certificate, $20 for the certified driving record, $850 for the lawyer, and $550 fine.

virginia

What I learned is the following. The whole thing is fishy, to say the least. Many people drive through Virginia and don’t spend much money there. So, the state decided to make money by penalizing out-of-state drivers. The laws are tough and the penalties are severe. The lawyers try to scare drivers by presenting them the worst-case scenario. Consequently, drivers waste their money on hiring lawyers. Although the lawyers position themselves as drivers’ defenders, they are they ones who benefit the most from this scheme. Uncool. I also learned that before you drive to another state, check the local laws and penalties. Finally, avoid driving through Virginia :-)

camarofram

Adding up all the costs (+ food + gas + accommodation + hats), you can see how I made a $2k monkey business in America. That was a costly lesson, but, at least, I learned something.

How I Design my Travels

botafogo

You boarded the plane, got to your dream destination, and you’re free to do anything. Maybe you landed in a different country. What do you do? How do you begin your journey? What do you want to see? How do you get the most of your trip? What do you want to learn? What is your goal? All these questions pop up in my head before or during trips. In fact, they determine the travel style. Here is how I roll to enjoy my travels.

Mission-Driven Traveling

In the past I would travel to see the world. I simply enjoyed the process of exploring new places. These days that doesn’t cut it. Having visited dozens of countries, similarities are apparent. I came up with the idea of mission-driven traveling.

heli

Before going on a trip, I set the goals. I want to get something of the trip to grow as a person. I try to learn and experience new things instead of merely walking and taking pictures. For example, I recently visited Cayman Islands. Sure, I could have lied on the beach sipping margaritas. Would that make me a better man? Probably not. Instead, I signed up for a scuba diving course to become a certified diver. Did that enrich my life? Certainly. I got a chance  to challenge myself, to learn a new skill, and to appreciate the richness of marine life. The nice beach was an added bonus.

cert

Fallback Plan

I don’t make detailed plans for each day of the trip. I make a general list of cool things to check out. Most of the information comes from WikiTravel. I augment the list with clubs/parties that seem like good time. If possible, I group all the items by proximity to minimize the transit time between places. I split the list into chunks; each chunk corresponds to one day. I put the split list into the calendar to fill my travel days. That’s my fallback plan. If nothing else happens, at least I have a list of places to check out and things to do. If something better comes up, I ignore the list.

eiffel

Embracing the Culture

Besides learning something new, my main focus is to experience another culture. The best way of doing that is to stay and hang out with the locals. When I’m hosted by a local, I try to see the world through their eyes. I live according to their schedule and customs. There is no need to wake up early, or to be in a rush to see a dozen of places in one day. I take it slow as if I were at my home. Oftentimes, I would sacrifice sightseeing for local activities, such as learning to paint, picking oranges, fishing, or learning to cook a local dish.

fire1

When it comes to food and drinks, the more local, the better. Often, good food can be found in small places that tourists never get to see. For example, in the Bahamas, conch salad from small food stands is the way to go. In Porto, I learned to make delectable portonic drinks using Port wine. The cool thing is that you can later serve those drinks all over the world. People are always happy to taste something new. Especially if I tell them the story behind the drink.

Making the Locals Like You

When in Rome do as Romans do, but with some innovation. I think I am pretty good at making the locals like me. I tend to smile, look into eyes, and be very easygoing. Learning few phrases in the local language is a big plus. I like to play on cultural stereotypes. It shows the locals that I understand their culture, but also that I can joke about it. Who would ever hate such a person?

peeps

Here are some examples of how I played with local cultures. When we went to Scotland, we were wearing towels that resembled kilts, cheap Scottish bonnets, and shitty bagpipes. In Brazil, I learned some entertaining phrases from popular songs and dropped them here and there in the conversation. In Jamaica, we learned some slang and were endorsing their rum, Jamaica’s finest, and dancehall. When the locals see you trying hard to be one of them, all they can do is to smile and accept you. Worst case, some may ignore you, but hostility is not an option.

mtl

Prepare and Travel Like a Pro

helicoptetr

Multiple years of frequent travels taught me how to effectively deal with all the logistics around traveling. I learned: 1) when to book flights and the accommodation, 2) what (not) to pack, 3) how to pack, 4) how to quickly get through the airport, and 5) how to deal with the immigration. I’m sharing here my personal checklist that ensures that each trip goes smoothly and is worry-free. Ready, set, fire!

3 Months – 6 Weeks before the Trip

Flights. Ideally, I book my flights 6-12 weeks before the planned trip. That’s the period of the greatest uncertainty for the airlines. They are unsure about the number of passengers, oil prices, etc. Consequently, the flights are typically the cheapest. Earlier than 3 months, the airlines show pre-calculated average prices. Later than 6 weeks, many seats are already sold; the price per seat is high. Exceptions occur. Sometimes you can score very cheap flights when you book much in advance.

airplaneclAccommodation. If I expect the accommodation to be a problem (e.g., during the carnival), I try to find a place as early as possible. Otherwise, I wait till the last moment.

hammockc

1 Day Before the Trip

Laundry. I like my clothes clean. Regardless of how long I’m going for, I’ve got fresh clothes for 7-10 days.

Banking. I notify banks about the upcoming travels so they don’t block my cards.

Flights and the Airport. I verify my flight information and check in online. I also figure out how to get to the airport and when to leave. I plan to be at the airport 1h 30min before the planned departure. That’s enough time to go through the security, deal with possible surprises, and to grab a sandwich.

iad

Documents. I update my encrypted archive of important documents, such as the passport, national ID, driver’s license. In case of losing these documents, I have their scanned copies. A scanned passport helped a Canadian man to get into the US. Also, I had some luck with using scanned copies within the US.

Packing. I pack all the stuff into a single mid-size backpack.

  • Backpack vs Suitcase. The former is lighter, more versatile, and easy to squeeze if space is an issue. Suitcases are useless if you go to the jungle or walk on neglected sidewalks.
  • Hand Luggage. A mid-size backpack qualifies as hand luggage. Traveling without checked luggage is awesome: 1) no need to wait for the suitcase at the airport, 2) no risk of losing the luggage, 3), ease of getting onto earlier connecting flights, 4) you pack only the necessities.
  • Mid-size. I use a lightweight GoLite Jam 50L backpack. It weights 800g and can accommodate a lot of stuff. The total weight of my luggage is 5-6kg. The more you travel, the more you appreciate having light luggage. Also, some cheap airlines do measure and weigh your hand luggage.
  • Closing. I close my backpack the day before the trip. Worst case, if I need to travel straight from the party, I just grab the backpack and I’m good to go.

golite

The Day of the Trip

Before Going to the Airport. As the absolute minimum, I put on some clothes, take my passport, wallet, and the phone. Everything else, including the backpack, is optional, but nice to have.

At the Airport. I get my boarding passes and I go through the security. Almost mechanically, I remove the shoes (in the US), my cowboy belt, watch, and empty my pockets (wallet + phone).

Before Boarding. If I have a jacket, I move immediately useful things into the jacket to make them easily accessible. That includes headphones, phone charger, external battery, chewing gum, and a pen. I use the pen to fill out the customs forms.

depart

Immigration. When talking to these guys, I am always polite, to the point, and give concise answers that are relevant to my status in the country. For example, in the US, I have an O-1 visa (extraordinary abilities :-P). Once the officer asked: what do you do here? My answer: I’m a software engineer. And then he started questioning me… Software engineers typically come to the US on an H-1B visa, so the O-1 was suspicious to him. Now I know better. My current answer is: I’m an expert at X. I work at Y as a senior software engineer. That sounds much more convincing and I haven’t been questioned since I started using this intro. Additionally, if I travel for tourism, I write down the name and address of the person that I’m first staying with.

After Arrival. I try to find a local pre-paid SIM card with data. That’s the cheapest way of getting connected.

What to Pack?

Clothes. Usually, I fly wearing long pants, a classy t-shirt, and sneakers. I pack 2 shirts, 7-10 t-shirts/tanks, socks, and pants, 2 pairs of jean shorts, swimwear, flip flops, and sunglasses. I roll the clothes so they take up less space.

roll

Towel and Travel Pillow. I use a small (30cm x 30cm) microfiber cloth as a towel. Most people use them for cleaning. Microfiber clothes make great towels, as they are small, absorb a lot of water, and dry quickly. Travel pillow helps me to sleep comfortably during the flight.

towel

Personal care. The usual stuff that you’d expect: floss, small toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, shower gel, nail clip, razor, cotton sticks, condoms, hair product, comb, contact lenses. I also pack baking soda and use it as deodorant. It kills all the bacteria, lasts long, is widely available, non-toxic, odorless, and very cheap. To smell good, I bring samples of perfumes. I put all the liquids/gels into a plastic bag so that I can take them on-board in the hand luggage.

plastic

Technology. Cell phone(s), headphones, SIM cards, phone charger, plug converter, and an external battery. Mostly, I travel with one phone. I take an additional phone if I go to a place where phones get stolen frequently. External battery is a useful source of power if I have no access to electricity.

Medications. Some places require you to take specific drugs. For example, I had to take anti-malarial drugs in the jungle. It is also a good idea to take anti-diarrheal drugs to avoid traveler’s diarrhea. Well, unless you go to Japan where you can actually enjoy your time in the restroom :-)

How Can You Travel So Much?

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When I meet a new person I learn about their lifestyle and what gets them excited in life. In return, I offer cool stories from my life, and, indirectly, explain my freespirited lifestyle. One of the questions I hear frequently is: how can you travel so much? Don’t you have a job? I reply: I do, but I actually love traveling. Let me explain how my love to traveling stimulates frequent adventures.

Values: Why I Care about Traveling.

  • I am curious about the world.
    To me, traveling is the extension of discovery. I travel to learn and discover; not to relax. I already made my daily life stress and worry free. I find adventures intrinsically exciting. How excited are you about experiencing new places?
    rome
  • Traveling is my priority.
    I placed wisdom and adventures very high in the hierarchy of personal values. Everything else became secondary. I eliminated all the excuses for not traveling, such as: being busy with shit, having work to do, or extra mouth to feed. If you are passionate about something, nothing and no one can stop you. Some day I may consider shifting the priorities. What are your priorities?

selva

Principles: What Enables Frequent Travels.

  • Cheap logistics, rich experience.
    Travel industry wants you to believe that the best vacations are expensive. Most people fall for that bullshit. They travel rarely, spend all their vacations at one place, and waste their yearly savings on irrelevant stuff. I do the opposite. I am cheap when it comes to transportation and accommodation.
    niagara

    • Cheap accommodation. Cool people instead of luxuries.
      Resorts offer swimming pools, second-class drinks, and abundance of families and retirees. This is not what enhances my travel experience. I prefer to actively use my time meeting the locals, learning about the culture, and doing cool shit. Instead of paying $300 per night, I prefer to pay $30 per night (or $0 with CouchSurfing and/or friends) and to increase the number of travel days tenfold. Would you travel cheap but frequently, or glamorously but rarely?
      hotel
    • Cheap transportation.
      I always try to find very cheap flights. When I was a student, only the price mattered. Nowadays, I know the value of my time so I optimize both the price and the time required for traveling. How much effort would you put into finding cheap and convenient flights?
      hitchhike
    • No splurge restaurants.
      I’ve been to very expensive and highly regarded restaurants. The food was good, but the price never justified the taste that I experienced. What would be your choice of restaurants?
      party
  • No time wasted.
    I travel whenever I can. Some travels are long; typically, though, they last few days. I do not take many days off. I hustle when others travel; I travel when others work. It is much cheaper that way. Where would you go if you had only 2 days?

luvre

Other Considerations: What Else Helps.

  • Solid/flexible source of income.
    Very committed people can travel on a dime. Most likely, you are a student or have a job. We are in the same boat. When looking for a source of income, four things matter to me: 1) meaningfulness, 2) top people, 3) flexible time, and 4) solid remuneration. The (3) allows me to schedule travels any time. The (4) makes traveling worry-free. How much effort have you put into optimizing your work/life balance?

cocorico

I hope this post expanded your thinking about the essence of traveling. I do hope you will travel more often. Much love and see you in the new year!

Brazilian Shenanigans: In Micareta and the Jungle

amazon

The plan was to select Miss Bum Bum in São Paulo, visit the Valley of Single Women in Minas Gerais, party at Micareta Folianópolis in Florianópolis, and to find a Pocahontas in the Amazonian jungle. Unsurprisingly, the reality deviated from the plans. During my third Brazilian adventure, I also wanted to see how it would be to live there. This trip provided a lot of emotions and insights about the country and its people. Curious? Read on.

Friday

I took a flight from Boston to São Paulo with a stopover in New York. At the gate at JFK, I could almost feel like I’m in Brazil. Everyone spoke Portuguese. Most of the people were Brazilians. They were looking at me constantly as if I were Jesus. They figured out I was a gringo (=foreigner). How? Stereotypical gringos from North America and Europe look differently from stereotypical Brazilians, wear different clothes, and behave differently. Simple example: Brazilians often wear white socks and sport shoes. Myself? I would not wear white socks. They get dirty too easily. Sport shoes? Only for jogging.

cowboyprof

Saturday

The plane landed around 9am. As previously, I flew with TAM; a very solid Brazilian airline. At the airport, I was searching for my buddy, Ansis Romansis. He had been traveling around Brazil for several weeks. We would meet up, rent a car, and then go to Itatiba to visit Juliana. She is our Brazilian friend from Canada. Meeting Ansis was easy. Renting a car? Instead of 5 minutes it took more like an hour. In Brazil time slows down :-)

brazilmap

I picked a pretty decent car online. I was willing to pay more to make sure we don’t die in case of an accident. (Sadly, cars in Brazil are a generation or two behind those in Europe and North America.) At the airport, we got a piece of shit that was barely able to accelerate and brake. Hello adventure! Nonetheless, there is something intrinsically cool about disembarking the plane and renting a car to drive to another city… It always makes me feel like James Bond :-)

routeitatiba

It took us two hours to get to Itatiba. It’s a mid-size town north of São Paulo. If you follow my blog, you know I’ve already been there. The highway was pretty congested. Driving in Brazil is definitely an adventure in itself. Turn signals? Unnecessary. Honking? Advised. Bikers? Everywhere. Pedestrians? Walk along the highway. Lanes? Very narrow or nonexistent. Most drivers seemed careful, though.

At Juliana’s we were warmly welcomed by her and her parents. It was a fantastic opportunity to practice Portuguese. We were offered Italian spaghetti and carne louca for lunch. The latter is a beef dish. I’m not sure how to describe it. It resembled marinated herring, but the texture was different. The taste was delectable.

carne

In the afternoon, we made new friends: Barbara, Hugo, Nara, Rodrigo, and Mayara. Altogether, we were on our way to a samba party. Oh man, what a cool event! It started at 4pm in some small town. The general rule is: the bigger the shithole, the better the party :-) No idea how many caipirinhas we had and how many people we met. All I remember is that everyone was really cool, enthusiastic, and loved to party. (Interestingly, I believe I saw one lady that starred in pr0n videos.)

samba

At the party I got a chance to learn several useful phrases. Brazilian Portuguese has a lot of idioms. For example, Não tô valendo nada (I’m worth nothing). What is the meaning? Basically, it means that you’re worth nothing (to people who would otherwise care about you), because you fuck around. Sweet, eh? It’s an honest statement. If you say that to a girl, and she replies Não tô valendo nada também (=as well), then you’re both on the same page :-P

I don’t remember when the party ended. My guess would be 3 or 4am. Some time before the end we were dropping it to the floor. I dropped it so much that my pants ripped right on my ass. From the samba party we went to the store to find the ingredients for our signature drink: lovenade. Vodka, cucumber, lemon, ginger ale, aloe vera, and a lot of love. That’s how gringos do afterparties.

pants

Sunday

Very chill day. We went to Pedra Bela to enjoy beautiful landscapes and to relax surrounded by the nature.

pedra

Monday

We were supposed to go to Miss Bum Bum in São Paulo. What is it? It’s a contest for the best Brazilian ass. Not sure if any other country has that kind of a contest, but the idea is neat, indeed. Unfortunately, we were unable to find any information about the time and place of the event. Most likely, it was a closed event.

bumbum

Time is money. Instead, we decided to drive around the area, explore Campinas, a nearby trail, and off-roads. On the calm road to Campinas, suddenly, Ansis yelled: coconuts! Within 0.001s I realized there was a coconut stand by the road. I hit the brake pedal as if I were about to avoid hitting a pedestrian. My head almost ended up on the windshield. I’m glad the cars behind us didn’t crash into our back. Literally, the whole traffic stopped. I quickly shifted to the reverse and maneuvered the car to the left. Perhaps, the Brazilian drivers were wondering what the fuck is going on. Well, gringos wanted to drink fresh coconut water.

brazcoco

Once our taste buds were satisfied, we continued to Campinas. Architecture-wise the city seemed rather plain. I liked the cobblestone street in downtown. Some girls were picking us up but my heart didn’t fall in love. We headed to the University of Campinas to check out the opportunities on Tinder. We were both pleased with the visual quality of women in the area.

tinder2

In the evening we encountered more Juliana’s friends: Giovana and Joseane. We met up in a nice restaurant where I got caipivinho (caipirinha with wine). The drink was a bit sweet to my taste.  Maybe it’s a girly drink? Anyway, it was another excellent opportunity to practice Portuguese.

gj

Interestingly, in the restaurant, there was a girl that I ditched the previous night at the samba party. She was ignoring me. Girl, how can you ignore a gringo? :-P

Tuesday

We woke up early to drive to São Paulo. We assumed the ride would take around 2h. We grossly underestimated the Brazilian traffic. It took over 4h to get to downtown. Despite the crazy traffic, the ride was very enjoyable. I honestly loved these unique landscapes: green hills on the left, green hills on the right, and you drive in a valley in between.

rod

I was supposed to visit the Valley of Single Women around Belo Horizonte. The trip did not happen. God decided to change my plans. He said: Gringo, you are meant to visit Curitiba. OK, fine. There are several interesting facts about Curitiba. First, it’s one of the colder cities in Brazil. Second, it has a large population of European descent, in particular Polish, Ukrainian, German, and Italian. Third, as for Brazil, it is a civilized and well developed city.

curitiba1

We went to the bus station to get the tickets and to catch the next bus to Curitiba. Getting tickets was easy. For some reason we were asked to write our names and passport numbers on the tickets. God knows why. More bureaucracy manifested itself when I was getting a SIM card for my phone. When registering the card I was asked to provide a CPF (Brazilian ID number). Obviously, I had none. Eventually, I paid R$5 and they registered without the CPF. A little bit of encouragement solves many bureaucratic problems.

strada

Finally, we took the bus. The bus itself was very comfortable and clean. Let me bitch about the traffic again. Instead of the planned 5h, it took 10h to get to Curitiba from Såo Paulo. The traffic was enormous. What caught my attention, was how quickly Brazilians could recognize business opportunities. After standing for 30 minutes in the traffic, local people started walking around the vehicles and selling water and snacks.

Wednesday

We went to explore the city. We started with the famous botanical garden. Curitiba is full of gardens, so we skipped most of them.

curitiba

I noticed that people in Curitiba speak with a different accent: they don’t roll their r (as in American English). Also, the people there have whiter skin, and, in general, girls are very good looking. One of the first things that we did in each city, was to check out the talent on Tinder. I was pleasantly surprised and sent several messages. My favorite line was: Oi tchutchuca linda! It is difficult to translate, but it’s like Hi pretty sweety girl!  The reaction was always laughter; nobody would expect a gringo to know this phrase. From then on, I was using this phrase to meet tchutchucas lindas in Brazil.

tchutchuca

As we were walking around the street, I spotted a local newspaper. The headline was clear: a girl from Paraná (Curitiba’s state) won miss bumbum. Congratulations!

tribuna

A minute later a girl approached us. Outta nowhere. She asked if I’m a model: Você é modelo? I said: not yet, but I’d consider that career. She said that I’d need to move to Curitiba and that the modeling agency is waiting for me.

lais

We came back to the hostel in the evening and inquired about cool stuff to do. The owner recommended going to Woods. It is a bar that hosts parties with sertanejo music. That night Thaeme e Thiago was giving a show. We were advised to go very early, around 9pm, since the lineup would be huge. And so it was. In the lineup we met cool local guys. When they realized we were gringos, they offered vodka. We quickly made more friends. Some girls just grabbed me and we took a picture at the entrance.

The show itself was fantastic. A lot of energy, a lot of drinks, and a lot of tchutchucas lindas. You see, most Brazilian guys hate that kind of music. They go to the shows only because of the girls. As a result, the ratio is very favorable. Our new friends introduced us to more people. One of the cool dudes was Luiz, a.k.a.rei do camarote (king of the VIP area). He took us to the VIP area where he introduced me to more tchutchucas lindas. As usually in Brazilian clubs, makeouts are easily obtainable and abundant. Also, if you say you are a gringo, the girls will be happy to teach you dancing. In fact, I always thought that Brazilians are amazing dancers. Whereas they are good at dancing, they are by no means professionals. They are just happy to dance and to help you dance along.

tt

Thursday

Ressaca (hangover) was the word of the day. I somehow got out of bed, got my shit together, and we took a bus to Florianópolis. I heard many good things about the city: that it has amazing beaches, the most beautiful girls, great weather, and is safe. My expectations were high. Again, instead of 5h, it took 10h to get to Florianópolis by bus. I’m never ever taking the bus in Brazil again.

That was the first night of Folianópolis: micareta mais bonita (the most beautiful micareta). What is a micareta? It’s a Bahian-style off-season carnival. If you read my blog post about Salvador, you know what to expect. I was staying at a hotel included in the party package. Ansis found a hostel.

When I approached the hotel, I saw several Brazilian guys drinking on the street. They figured out I was a foreigner. They yelled: Gringooooooo!!! They offered some vodka with redbull. I quickly revealed that I’m Polish, so besides gringo, I also got the following nicknames: Lewandowski, and Podolski (football players). The guys were very cool and we spoke mostly Portuguese. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Mauricio and Jaimie!

mj

At the party, we met up with Ansis and his new friends from Bahia. In the lineup a very cute girl was standing behind me. She was caressing my back and gently kicked my heel. In Brazil girls can go very far to get your attention. She was very cute, indeed. I said Oi tchutchuca linda! and grabbed her face as if to kiss her (this is how it worked in Salvador, haha). I knew she liked me, but her non-verbal answer was not yet. I turned back. Then she kept touching my back. I playfully said Don’t play with me like that and ignored her in the lineup. I knew I’d meet her at the party, skipping all the games. And so I did :-)

The first day of the party was pretty slow. It wasn’t as crowded as I would have thought and the makeouts were not as common as during the carnival. On the other hand, the quality of women was superb. I was very pleased to see so much beauty around. I am also happy to report that Ansis Romansis found his love at first sight. The party ended around 6am. From what I remember, I made a lot of friends during the breakfast in the hotel haha

Friday

By day we were checking out Tinder and explored the city. The city was visibly clean. I felt like I could even live there. It’s definitely a more civilized part of Brazil. However, the real surprise came from Tinder. The quality of women was stunning! Let’s say in Boston (USA), I would accept maybe 3-4% of the girls on Tinder. In Floripa? Over 80%! The amount of talent was extraordinary. I’m saying that as someone who grew up in Poland and spent some time in Sweden where beauty is very common.

gessica

The evening has come. We did pre-drinks at the hotel. Afterwards, I took a shower, left the room, and walked out of the hotel. The area was crowded, but I felt like a rockstar. Someone yelled: gringo Lewandowskiiii!!! Everyone was looking at me. I just smiled and asked if anybody speaks English. Some three ladies introduced themselves. Can’t remember their names, but the makeouts, that I remember fo sho. Next, I made new friends with Pedro, Caroline, Olivier, and Ian. Very cool people! They introduced me to their other friends and offered a ride to the party. I felt like it’s very cool to be a gringo in Brazil. Everyone was super-nice, welcoming, curious, and open to talk and party. That’s the spirit!

folia

On the way, we grabbed some rocket fuel and met up with Aline and Lauren. Funny thing, I just said Oi gatinha assanhada! and people started singing along. It’s very cool that in Brazil you can say a word or a phrase, and everyone will be singing, jumping, and partying. The second day of the micareta was simply awesome. A lot of happiness, new friends, beauty, gasolina, and love.

Saturday

Around noon we took a bus and went to a macarronada (all you can east pasta). It was a posh party at Jurerê Internacional. It’s a place where affluent people go to see others and to be seen. I rarely go to that kind of parties. It was included in my party package so I was curious to check it out.

cafe

  1. First thought (after 10 seconds): I have never ever seen so many beautiful girls at one place in my life.
    The quality was extraordinarily high. In principle, model-quality, but with nice bodies.
  2. Second thought (after 5 minutes): people are kinda stiff , let’s see what happens if they drink a bit.
    Get loose? Get wild?
  3. Third thought (after 4 hours): this place is fucking wicked!
    So many beautiful people enjoying their lives. I remember I made quite a few new friends :-)
  4. Fourth thought (after 6 hours): what the fuck are we doing on this bus? Let’s partyyy!!!!

Although the place was full of good looking people, I was getting a lot of attention. Brazilians are crazy about blond hair and blue eyes. I’m afraid, as a gringo, you can do whatever you like, but it’s just impossible to hide the inner gringo haha. At that point of my Brazilian adventure, I felt like living vida mais ou menos. Literally, it means an OK life. The true meaning of this phrase is living a very good life.

Sunday

Partying all night long, polishing off all the beers with Lauren, just to wake up after two hours to check out of the hotel… I was dying. It took me several hours to move from the hotel to the hostel where Ansis was staying. We all got in touch on Whatsapp with the people that were partying together last night. I was speaking Portuguese a lot, in good faith. I quickly realized that the people were making fun of my gringoness and my Portuguese accent, haha. Oh, well. My accent sucks, but it’s unique, at least :-)

whatsapp

I got several messages from tchutchucas lindas. They were like: Hey! Do you remember me? We met at X. I felt really embarrassed :-/ Initially, I remembered very little. God must have helped me. It took a short while and I recalled all my memories. The last evening and night were crazy indeed, haha. I am happy that I continued that good tradition of micaretas. After the party I was honored to be named: o maior mito da história das micaretas… gringo levandowisky (the greatest myth in the history of micaretas… foreigner Lewandowsky), haha

mito

I made it to the hostel in the evening. I met Ansis and four Brazilian girls. I was somehow tired and didn’t feel like speaking Portuguese anymore. Some time later I forced myself to speak. We met two very friendly girls from Goiânia: Kamylla and Natcha. From what they told us, it sounds like sertanejo parties in Goiânia are second to none! Also, they liked my book Guia de Amor (Guide of love) with over 700 phrases to express love. It was another good evening to practice Portuguese.

guia

Monday

Not much to report. Just chillax, exploring the city, napping, and Tinder.

Tuesday

I took a flight from Floripa to Manaus. It is a city in the middle of the Amazonian jungle. I was couchsurfing at Mayara’s place. I barely made it to her apartment, and we already had capirinhas with limes, kiwis, and passion fruit. Nice, eh? In the evening, we went to a forró bate bate party. The club was full of Pocahontas and almost no men. I was striving to learn to dance the forró from Manaus, but it was kkinda challenging. This is how it looks like.

Wednesday

I went to explore the city and to meet tchutchucas from Tinder. The city has some nice spots, but it definitely felt different from the Brazil I knew. When it comes to Tinder, it was crazy. I was getting 8 matches per hour. One of the Pocahontas explained that there are no men in the jungle and that mostly women live in Manaus.

manaus

Thursday

I was longing for this day: the trip to the Amazonian jungle. It takes a car, a boat, another car, and another boat to leave the civilization. Obviously, the trip was full of adventures. Enough to say that the engine of the second boat fucked up half way. Gasoline was leaking. Several sparks later, the boss fixed the engine and we were all set. One of the passengers, though, had to manually pump the gasoline into the engine. Cool, eh?

engine

On our first stop in the jungle, we went on hiking. That Thursday, most Americans were eating turkeys and celebrating Thanksgiving with their families. Myself? I went to the jungle to eat larvae. The guide picked something that resembled a small coconut and chopped off the upper part of it. The holes inside accommodated two white larvae.

larva

The guide asked: who is going to eat this? You need to survive in the jungle. Several grown up men, adult women…  everyone was afraid of the small larva. I said: alright, I’ll eat this shit. How do you eat this? The proper way is to hold the head of the larva and to bite off the white part of the tail. The texture is mushy. Surprisingly, the taste is luscious. The larva tastes like coconut.

hammock

In the evening, we set up a camp, hung out the hammocks, and prepared the dinner. We roasted a chicken over the bonfire. I must confess. It was the best chicken I ever had in the jungle.

chicken

Friday

Early morning we took the boat and went to visit a local family in the jungle. If you think in terms of money, you’d think they are extremely poor. A woman with 13 kids lives off of  R$100 (USD$40) per week. All day long they work hard making tapioca flower. Even a boy that was 3 years old was walking around with machetes and chopped trees and plants. Nonetheless, all these kids and the woman seemed to be internally very happy. In contrast with you, they are self-sufficient.

localfamily

Before going to the jungle I took all the required vaccinations, anti-malarial drugs, and a mosquito repellent. Many people warned me that mosquitos are horrible there. Maybe I went during special time, or something, but I had no problems with the insects. I was hanging out in shorts and a t-shirt and didn’t get bitten too much. It definitely wasn’t much worse than what I experienced in Mazury in Poland (a geographical area with hundreds of lakes).

tarzan

I returned to the civilization in the evening. Even though I liked the jungle, I wanted to check out a sertanejo party in Manaus. Same evening, I met two guys: Eliomar and Wilton. We started off the night by grabbing caipirinhas in downtown, and then went to the balada. The sertanejo place was very nice. Half of the club was covered, whereas the other half was open-air. There were a lot of Pocahontas. Some of them were even cute, but not my type. I definitely prefer the tchutchucas lindas from the south of Brazil. In the end, though, it’s all for experience. It was still good to see how the jungle girls kiss.

Saturday

I spent most of the day traveling from the jungle to São Paulo. I made it to the hostel around 11pm. Time is money. Having checked in, I got my shit together and went to the same pubcrawl as in March. As previously, it was really good crowd. Some girls proposed tequila shots. Tequila makes ladies go crazy, so bring it on! At the same bar, I met two very cool guys Matheus and Arthur. They know how to roll. I wish I could be as good at dancing sertanejo/forró, haha Later at the party, Maíra taught me some moves.

pubcrawl

Sunday

I had several hours to spare before leaving Brazil. I went to explore the city, the art gallery, and culinary offerings. I kinda liked São Paulo. Certainly, it has no natural beauty as Rio de Janeiro, but it seems better developed, more organized, and has some cool parties. It also seemed like a business place that is relatively fast paced.

spchristmas

Conclusion

Despite all the craziness, I really did my best to look at Brazil as a potential place to live. The south seems especially promising! Overall, I met an incredible number of really cool people! Guys, I will visit all of you, so get ready to party haha Also, it was flattering to hear: you’re not a real gringo, you’re Brazilian! I guess, we have similar values. Being a gringo, though, gives me a slight edge. Unlike you, Brazilian guys, a gringo in Brazil can get away with almost anything :-P

Tchau!

God Bless My First Year in America

america
I dedicate this post to young professionals who are looking for a new place to live. I was in your shoes a year ago. I looked into multiple statistics comparing various western countries: fun, the cost of living, safety, disposable income, weather, taxes. You name it. I wanted to pick a place to live and to enjoy my life. I made a conscious decision and picked USA. I must say it has treated me very well. If you’re considering the US, this post is for you. It summarizes the good and the bad things I experienced in my first year in America.

above

October 2013

HOMELESSNESS NO MORE
After defending my PhD in Canada, I flew to Boston. I would be starting a new job soon. Although I had visited America many times, I was excited to call it my new home. Home was something I really needed after two months of homelessness in Canada and Europe.

venice

BRAZIL IN AMERICA
I managed to find an apartment in Framingham. It’s a small town located in the suburbs of Boston. Although American suburbs are boring as hell (if you’re single, bilingual, and ready to mingle), I discovered that Framingham was a Brazilian town. What a gift from the God. People here speak Portuguese, dance forró, and enjoy sertanejo music. Brazil in America? Que legal!

framingham

BECOMING SOMEBODY
My first day at work gave me a good feel of the company. It was also the day when I had to deal with American bureaucracy. I went to an office to get a Social Security Number. It’s needed to be legally employed, to open banking accounts, and to deal with more bureaucracy. It took about 10 minutes to get the number. Not bad.

ssc

November

MATHWORKS
My work seemed like a transition between school and the actual job. I was getting a variety of trainings. Some of them were very technical, others explained the company’s culture and values. Either way, I found them useful. I got to know my colleagues at work. A lot of smart and talented people. No doubt about that.

mathworks

SUPER BOWL PARTY
I got along very well with some of the colleagues. One invited me to a Super Bowl neighbors’ party. It was a very cool event. All the neighbors in the area brought food and drinks, and shared with each other. The event was very lighthearted and all the people seemed super nice. I liked the ice sculpture of the team’s logo. The point of the sculpture, though, is to drink alcohol from the luge on top of the figure. Creative.

luge

THANKSGIVING IN PUERTO COCO RICO
End of November is an important time of the year for Americans. Together with their families, they celebrate Thanksgiving. For me, every day above the ground is a good day, so I celebrate. I went to Puerto Rico to hunt turkeys and coconuts. It was a great move. Massachusetts was getting colder and gloomy, whereas Puerto Rico was hot and sunny.

palms

December

HUSTLING
Job-wise, I was spending a lot of time in trainings. I was also finishing my first software project. It was both challenging and engaging. I was working hard for the whole month and didn’t take any days off during Christmas and NYE. I wanted to save the days off for the carnival in Brazil.

code

REFLECTING
I was spending a lot of time playing the guitar, learning Portuguese, thinking about life, love, my career goals, travels, and my plan for America. As I am reflecting on it now, it was a super important time. It helped me to design my would-be American/International dream hehe

port

January

REUNION IN CANADA
Although I was done with PhD, I was still working on a journal publication and had a university laptop. I realized I needed to return it back. It was an opportunity to fly to Toronto and meet up with old friends. I had lived four years in Canada. On the one hand, it did feel like home. On the other hand, the border officers reminded me that if I stay in America too long, I’ll lose permanent residency in Canada.

cntower

SUN DIEGO
End of January is very cold in Boston. I got a chance to go to California to San Diego. What a lovely place! Palm trees, warm weather, beautiful gardens, good looking girls, and the ocean. One of the more interesting places there was the Miramar Air Station. It is a famous military base where they shot the movie Top Gun with Tom Cruise.

miramar

February

TAI CHI
I signed up for Tai Chi. It’s a martial art used for defense and relaxation. It’s not like I was stressed out, but I never took any martial art classes. It was the time to act.

taichi

VISITING BARACK
One of the days that Americans celebrate in February is President’s day. I’m not an American, but I like to celebrate. I booked a flight to Washington, DC to meet Barack Obama. I was all dressed up and ready to take off. Unfortunately, due to severe weather conditions, the flight was canceled. Dammit, it was a long weekend and I would be staying in Framingham?

president

YOLO, MONTREAL AND PHILADELPHIA
No way! I quickly contacted my friends to come up with a plan B. What a coincidence! They told me there was a Miss Polonia pageant going on in Montreal that weekend. Without much thinking I went to the bus station and took the next bus to Montreal. The ride was pretty bad: 2 stopovers and almost 10 hours en route. The weekend was well worth it, though. Saturday, arrocha with Miss Polonia. Sunday, going to a Polish winter camp. Monday, flying to Philadelphia to see what’s cool there.

miss

CARNAVAL IN BRAZIL
A weekend in Canada, a week in America, and then two weeks of carnival in Brazil. That’s worldwide.

rio

March

RODEO IN TEXAS
I got back to the real world March 10th. It was kinda depressing to realize that there is a world outside the carnival. Nonetheless, I was looking for more adventures. A quick search revealed that there are cheap flights from Boston to Houston. Even better, they were scheduled precisely during the biggest rodeo in Texas. Lots of cowboys and cowgirls. I could not miss that event.

rodeo

April

PRE-MOVE TO BOSTON
Working hard, looking for apartments, working on a journal publication, and learning Portuguese. It was a pretty intense month. My apartment lease would expire at the end of May. I really wanted to move to Boston. As my workplace is located 20 miles (30km) from Boston, I needed a car. Not any car, though. I needed a proper American car. The choice was clear: Ford Crown Vic Police Interceptor with a huge V8 4.6l engine.

interceptor

QUEST FOR A POLICE INTERCEPTOR
The story goes like this. Peter came down from Canada. We were looking for Crown Vics on Craigslist, dealerships, and car shops. One dealership was on the hill. Although they didn’t have the car, Peter spotted a Crown Vic in the bushes in a nearby car shop. There was some dude walking around.

Peter: How much for this piece shit?
Dude: The white one? Two grand, but we can talk.

We went to the car shop. The car looked pretty awesome. It was a real Police Interceptor: lots of dings and bullet holes. In the end, the car was in a bad condition and we set the price to one grand. I would be a very happy owner of the ultimate American car. Several days later, though, the dude called me and said that the car ended up in the junkyard.jesus

May

AMERICAN WHEELS
I needed a car really badly, because I had less than 20 days before moving to Boston. I wanted to buy something inexpensive, yet very American. I went to a dealership and got a 2000 Lincoln Continental. It is a huge full-size car with a V8 4.6l engine. That’s American enough. It quickly turned out that the car was a piece of shit. The transmission was leaking all the time and I took it to the service several days after the purchase.

continentalGOING BANANAS IN THE BAHAMAS
The weather in May was nice and Massachusetts looked simply stunning in spring. It was my first time to play golf. I was playing it regularly for the whole May. The month ended with a long weekend due to Memorial day. Together with Peter and Kiki, we were looking for coconuts and bananas in the Bahamas.

coconuts

June

CONVOCATION
Finally, I moved to downtown Boston. My parents flew from Poland to visit me. We got to travel quite a bit. First, we went to Waterloo, Canada for my convocation. It was a truly gratifying moment. I officially became a PhD, and below is the proof.

diploma

I met there with Rafael, my former colleague from the lab who also got his Masters degree. If you go to convocation, that’s how you roll.

rafael

SURPRISE
After the convocation I traveled with my parents around Canada and the East Coast. Then, I thought to myself: it would be cool if they visit the Caribbean... I like surprising people: parents, here are your tickets to the Bahamas. Enjoy!

bahamas

AMERICAN HEADACHE
Despite my personal successes, my Lincoln was less successful. The car kept breaking all the time. I took it to the service four times. It was just a headache. The last time, it broke down in the middle of a highway. Then I thought: enough is enough. Fuck that shit. I’m getting a Camaro. That very same day, I went to a Chevrolet dealership, took a test drive, and bought a new shiny rocket.

chevy

July

AGORA EU FIQUEI DOCE
Getting a car here always takes several days. There is the registration, inspection, bureaucracy, etc. Finally, I got a call from the dealership that the Camaro is waiting for its master. Agora eu fiquei doce. I love the car. The design is very aggressive and eye catching. Behind the wheel, the car feels manly, respects the driver, and has an excellent acceleration. It is quiet and is a hell lot of fun to drive. The only drawback is bad visibility. But fuck it, it’s still a Camaro, haha.

camaro

COUCHSURFING
As much as I enjoy traveling, I also enjoy meeting other travelers/adventurers. I started hosting CouchSurfers at my new place in Boston. The city attracts many people for its rich history, unique architecture, and European feel. Personally, I think it’s one of the more interesting cities in North America. It is pretty international and not as crazy-busy as New York.

boston

MORE BRAZIL IN AMERICA
I signed up for kizomba and forró classes. The former is a slow and sensual dance from Angola. The latter is a popular Brazilian dance; it is a very close dance, yet it includes many spins and turns. As if it was not Brazilian enough, I regularly went to Brazilian bars to watch the worldcup. Oh man, watching Brazilians watching football (and partying) is a way more entertaining than watching the game.

football

August

COUCHSURFING OVERLOAD
I was hosting more and more CouchSurfers. It got crazy. Every day new people were coming and going. Within two months we hosted many dozens of people. At some point I realized it’s too much (I live with three other roommates) and had to reduce the number of guests.

overload

DIVING COURSE
In the meantime, I started taking online diving classes. As funny as it sounds, it does make sense. First, you need to learn the theory and safety guidelines. Once you pass an online exam, you’re allowed to continue the course in water. I scheduled the second part in December in Cayman Islands. The weather forecast for Christmas this year looks sunny and warm haha

stingray

ROAD-TRIP TO QUEBEC CITY
Finally, I took a break from CouchSurfing and did a road-trip to Canada. We were CouchSurfing in Quebec city. The city is OK, but definitely not as cool as Montreal. Driving there takes about 7-8h from Boston. The nice thing is that the road goes through New Hampshire and Vermont. These are sparsely populated states with no traffic on highways. It was a perfect ride to test the Camaro.

frontenac

September

JAMAICA: HEARTS ON FIRE
The first Monday of September is celebrated as a Labor day. It’s a long weekend, but I decided to work. Why? Because: 1) flights are more expensive on long weekends, and 2) the weather was so so. Instead, we went to Jamaica the weekend after. We were doing CouchSurfing in Montego Bay. What an amazing experience! I wish I could write more, but the stuff is not really publishable. Fun? Adventures? It was better than the movie Hangover. What happens in Jamaica… never happened.

fire
LIVE FREE OR DIE (NEW HAMPSHIRE’S MOTTO)
As a part of cultural exploration of America, we went to NASCAR; an American equivalent of Formula 1. They had a truck weekend in New Hampshire. A lot of campers, rednecks, bonfires, and tons of Bud light. As we didn’t know what we can bring in to the track, we asked. An older gentleman replied: son, this is a free country, bring whatever the fuck you want, as long as it’s not glass haha

nascar
THE UGE
I kept on practicing forró, kizomba, and Portuguese. I was happy to learn a Portuguese phrase that I had been misspelling for 2 years straight: simbora! (=vamos embora)

October 2014

OBEYING THE RULES
I took the road test and finally got my driver’s license here. I needed it, because it’s annoying to carry my passport around whenever I want to buy alcohol. I clearly don’t look like someone under 21, but they keep asking for the stupid ID. I feel like people here are (too) rule-driven; almost robotic. It’s good for CYA and productivity, but not so good for genuine interpersonal relations.

mclovin

SALEM WITCHES
One weekend we went with CouchSurfers to Salem. You may have heard about that place. Several hundred years ago many people were accused of witchcraft and, subsequently, killed. Nowadays, the town is mostly about shopping and kkinda scary attractions. I feel like it may be a great place for Halloween parties.

witch

TIME IS MONEY COCONUTS AND COOL ADVENTURES
I got a chance to visit Puerto Rico again. Racing through the jungle, hills, and narrow, curvy roads to see this. The biggest radio telescope in the world. As a teenager I was analyzing its data via the project SETI@home.

arecibo

POCAHONTAS IN THE JUNGLE
I’m still looking forward to taking another two weeks of vacations in Brazil in November. My buddy needs to find a Pocahontas in the jungle. All sorts of nasty things hide there: malaria, yellow fever, and dengue. I went to the travel clinic in Boston to get all the required vaccinations. It was my first encounter with medical services in the US. How was it? Everything went very smoothly and without extra bureaucracy. Insurance should cover the bill. Life will show.

jungle

Conclusion

So here we are. This is how a year in America may look like. There is the daily job, but there are also many opportunities for fun. Although I love Europe (and most likely will eventually move back), I think, it is unlikely that I could enjoy the same lifestyle as I’m enjoying now here. I’ve read many times that the American dream is a thing of the past. For many (dozens of thousands of young professionals coming to America), the dream is far from being over. For many others, it is yet to come.

map

Much international love!

Want to Explore Brazil? Here’s How to Get the Best Bang for Your Buck (Multi-City Flights)

brazilcoco

Let me be honest. Traveling to Brazil became my hobby and obsession. I’ll be going to my personal paradise for the third time in November, and then in February 2015. If you search for round-trip flights from America to Brazil, your best bet are fares around $1000. Not terrible, but what if you want to explore Brazil and visit multiple cities? Are you going bankrupt? Not necessarily. Here’s how to get the best bang for the buck.

IMG_20140226_201257

If you traveled around Europe, then you may know Ryanair or other cheap airlines. Unfortunately, nothing like that exists in Brazil. We can safely assume that flying to Brazil is at least $1k. Now, if you pay $200-$300 more, how much more do you get to see? My answer: a lot! Check out these trips:

  • Last February I traveled the following route:
    Boston  -> Rio de Janeiro -> Salvador -> Porto Seguro -> Sao Paulo -> Boston.
  • In November, I’m covering:
    Boston -> Sao Paulo -> Belo Horizonte -> Florianopolis -> Manaus -> Sao Paulo -> Boston.

The former includes four stops in Brazilian cities, the latter five stops. I define a stop as a place where I get to spend at least a day. Typically, I stay several days in each and every city. In both cases I paid around $1200 for all the flights. Pretty good, eh?

While in absolute terms, $1200 is quite a bit of money, it’s not much if you compare that to a regular round-trip flight. A round-trip flight takes you to one destination, whereas if you pay a couple hundred more, you get to visit four-five places. In other words, the cost of visiting a city is around:

  • $1000 in the case of a regular round-trip flight,
  • $240 in the case of a well-designed multi-city flight.

You can argue that this comparison is unfair, because in the second case you fly domestically. True. It is likely, however, that in the second case you’ll experience much more and will have more fun. In absolute terms you pay more, but in relative terms you pay much less.

IMG_20140306_081630

If you are convinced that multi-city flights are a good use of your money and time, here’s how you book them:

  • First, find out (e.g., on Google Flights) the cheapest flight to a Brazilian city. Depending on your hometown, it’s likely to be either Sao Paulo, or Rio de Janeiro, or Manaus. The first two are popular destinations in general. The last one is located in the very north of Brazil.
  • It is likely that the cheapest return will be from the first Brazilian city you fly to. So, one of: Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, or Manaus.
  • There will be many airlines offering international round-trip flights to Brazil. What you need, however, is an airline that also offers domestic flights within Brazil. That leaves us with TAM. They offer great multi-city options, reasonable food, and great personnel.
  • Use Kayak to assemble your multi-city flight. Unfortunately, Google Flights doesn’t cut it, because it cannot combine international and domestic flights within Brazil.
  • Play with different dates. The cheapest flights are typically from Tuesdays till Thursdays.
  • Play with destinations. Once I was looking for a flight Manaus -> Boston. The flight that I found was very long and quite expensive. A better idea was to fly to Sao Paulo first, party there, and then fly to Boston the next day.
  • If you fly within Brazil, check out other airlines. I found some cheap domestic flights with GOL. I had to book these flights separately, but it was well worth it.

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That’s all my wisdom that I’m sharing with you today. It took me about 2 hours of searching and experimenting to find all these November flights for a total of $1200. If I booked them blindly, I would have paid over $2000, easily. So, unless you make over $400/hour in your free time, you may find my tips useful. Good luck!

How to Start Surfing Couches?

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Couchsurfing is this cool travel community that provides free accommodation for travelers, and great opportunities to meet like-minded people. The main idea is the following. If you travel to my hometown, I can host you at my place for free, or can hang out with you. If I travel to your hometown, you will offer the same to me. Recently, many people have joined Couchsurfing, but they seem to know little about how it works. At least, that’s been my experience after reading hundreds of requests within the last several weeks after I moved to Boston. Here’s my advice.

  1. Complete your profile. That way I can learn a bit about you and your interests. It also tells me that you are serious about the community. Would you host a random person from the street that you know nothing about? Unlikely. Couchsurfing is all about trust.
  2. First host, then travel. A lot of profiles have no friends and no recommendations. These people send requests, because they heard that Couchsurfing is free. Cool. Trust in Couchsurfing is built around friends and recommendations, though. The easiest way to get both is to start hosting people at your place, and attending local meetings. Thus, you can easily build your reputation and become a trustworthy member. I’m much more likely to host people with friends and recommendations rather than people with neither.
  3. Send a personalized request. I’m not very sensitive to that, but I’m more likely to accept requests that are somehow related to my life and interests. Perhaps, nobody enjoys receiving generic requests that may as well be sent to some hostel.

Do your homework, give back to the community, and enjoy your travels!

Coconuts and Bananas in the Bahamas

bananasKiki, Peter, and papa. We went to the Bahamas to inspect coconuts, check out how sandy the beaches are, smoke crappy cigars, and to eat all the conch salad. The Bahamas is a group of 700 islands known for pirates and great weather. Although the opportunities to meet pirates are limited, many other interesting meetings took place…

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Saturday

The trip was very international from the beginning. Peter was coming from Canada, Kiki from Puerto Rico, and myself from the US. First, we flew with Peter to Philadelphia and then to Nassau. We heard on the radio that people celebrate bike to work day to save the environment. Cool. We celebrated fly to work day. As we boarded the second plane, we sat beside a guy who was flying from Washington, DC to the Bahamas. He was very interested in solar collectors. Cool, we like discussing potential business ventures.

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The guy, Aaron, is Bahamian. He was very eager to educate about the Bahamas. He explained how the color of water differs around various islands. As a former pilot, he knew what he was talking about. Aaron also gave a list of cool spots and offered a ride from the airport to the hotel:

Aaron: Guys, where are you staying?
me: Nassau.
Aaron: I can give you a ride. But it’s a pickup truck and you’d have to sit in the back.
me: Piotruś, thoughts?
Peter: Yeah, let’s do it!
Aaron: OK, but first we need to go to my place so I can drop off my stuff.

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We landed and made it to the Bahamas in one piece. Aaron’s son picked us up and took us to their residence.

me: This is a nice place. I like the coconut trees!
Aaron: Haha, would you like to try some?
me: For sure.
Peter: What else do you have here?
Aaron: Several types of mangos, bananas, pomegranates, coffee, cocoa, oranges, apples…

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Our new friend gave us a tour around the garden/plantation. Food-wise, he is, pretty much, self-sufficient. He offered to try fresh cocoa seeds, and young coconut water and flesh. Aaron used a machete to chop the shells of coconuts. We used some parts of the shells as spoons to eat the young coconut flesh.

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It was a very cool evening, indeed. We experienced the real Bahamas straight from the airport with backpacks on the pickup truck. Later, Aaron gave us a tour around the island and Nassau. He knows everyone and everyone knows him. As he wanted to show us many places, he was stopping very often. Several times he stopped in the middle of the street and left the car there. He introduced us to local delicacies, such as, conch salad, live crabs, and deep-fried everything.

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Apparently, tourists and locals hang out in different areas. The former, typically, stay on Paradise Island. The latter at Potters Cay. We went to Potters Cay. We were, perhaps, the only white non-locals there. The place has a bunch of shops with friendly-priced local food, beer Kalik, caribbean music, and fresh sea-food.

Aaron: Guys, do you want to see an area where you should not go?
me: Yeah, of course!
Aaron: Let’s go then.

Aaron took us to a poorer neighborhood. It wasn’t anything special, but it was in a sharp contrast to the big wealthy resorts found on Paradise Island.

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Later in the evening Kiki made it to the Bahamas. We all met in our hotel room. The night was coming down and we were looking for cigars. We found some lady on the street:

Peter: Are these original?
lady: Yes, sure. It’s written Cuba.

Of course, they were cheap crap. Anyways, we got three of them. They turned out to be really shitty. Nonetheless, we were enjoying the cigars as much as we could. Kiki became a chain smoker immediately.

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Cigars were not enough to enjoy the night. We got lemons from the hotel and mixed some pre-drinks. Local alcohol did the job and we went to the club in downtown. The place was located on a terrace on the first floor; perfect for a warm night. The music was pretty good and the club was packed. So packed that someone managed to steal Kiki’s phone and wallet…

Sunday

Sunday was meant to be a slow day. After a busy night; we woke up late to the sound of a loud air conditioner. All we needed then was food. As we were checking out various options, the place Fat Tuesdays caught our attention. Aaron mentioned it yesterday. We were unsure, however, whether he recommended it or discouraged us from going there. The place is on the beach, so we decided to give it a try. As yesterday, we ordered local delicacies: conch salad, peas’n’rice, fried conch, and local drinks. After getting the bill, we quickly realized that this is the place that Aaron told us not to visit. On the other hand, the waitress found for us a phone number of the prime minister of the Bahamas. Not bad, eh?

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We took Kiki to Potters Cay, where the locals hang out. On our way, we visited the Straw market. You got it. That’s the place where everything is made of straw. Following Kiki’s experience from the sunny Puerto Rico, we got cool hats. Peter’s hat is supposedly the best hat to protect him from spiders. Peter also got a cool purse: Dora the Explorer.

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In Potters Cay, we got more food. We started a conversation with friendly locals and learned about local drinks: Bahama Mama, Nassau Royale, Goombay Smash. We then came back to the hotel, got the cigars, and went on a mission to get some lemons and ice (for the drinks). It took two or three hours. God knows. The point is, after we came back with the ice, it already melted. Fortunately, McDonald’s was able to provide McIce, which was good enough for drinks. We came back to the hotel again to chill by the swimming pool. Peter was trying to have a conversation with a parrot, Maximilian. The latter wasn’t very responsive. Bastard.

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Monday

The big plan for Monday was to take a ferry to visit another island. Without much thinking, we woke up at 5 am, got a local breakfast for $2 (couscous with canned mackerel/tuna), and went to the port. The ship was supposed to depart at 8am. I went to buy the tickets, but the cashier said that a 3-hour cruise is $130 per person. What the hell? That’s a rip off. That’s definitely not the price that we were all expecting. Fuck it.

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Instead, we decided to go to Paradise Island. That’s the place if you’re interested in exclusive resorts, members-only clubs for millionaires, expensive residences, and shady businesses. We were exploring the area. Notably, there was a place that looked like a religious spot. Also, we went to the beach to enjoy the clear water and Bahamian sand. The sand was interesting, indeed. It was very sticky. Even after taking two showers, I still had a lot of it in my hair and all over my body.

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Paradise Island was a great place to find some postcards to send them to our international friends. We wrote 20 postcards, easily. To give enough attention to each and every recipient, we spent some two hours writing creative messages. On our way back from the island, we took a ferry that disembarks at downtown Nassau.

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Later in the evening we went to a dinner and invited the boss, Aaron, to join us. He was happy to hear about our experiences in the Bahamas (well, maybe besides the incident in the club…). The conversation was very fruitful. We learned how to travel around the Bahamas by boat and/or plane on a dime. How?

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  • Boat. Go to the port and meet the dockmaster. Ask for incoming and outgoing ships. Set up an appointment with the captain or a crew member and ask to take you on board. That should work well on (semi-)cargo ships.
  • Airplane. Go to the general aviation (non-passenger) area at the airport. If a pilot shows up, ask them to take you on board. You may get a place between toilet paper and oranges, but that’s fine. The trip should be no more than $30.

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Tuesday

We packed our stuff and took a cab to the airport. At the airport, they stopped Peter and were inspecting his luggage very carefully. Maybe because of the Dora the Explorer purse? That’s a topic for a different blog post…

Overall, the Bahamas is a cool place with very friendly people and beautiful beaches. What I regret the most is that we got to visit only two out to 700 islands. The boss said that each island is different and visiting just Nassau provides a limited experience. Nonetheless, I’m sure I’ll be coming back to eat more conch salad, coconuts, and bananas.

Carnaval in Brazil: DEFINITELY the Best Place to Be a Man

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Brazil is totally crazy during carnival! 4 cities, 10 days, and 63 girls. I learned to dance samba, lambazouk, sertanejo universitario, and arrocha. Does it get any cooler than that? The trip was unreal. I got a chance to visit Brazil a year ago and absolutely loved the country, the carnival, and the people. Back then, I attended the famous carnival in Rio de Janeiro and was hanging out in Sao Paulo area. This year I decided to do pre-carnival in Rio, carnival in Salvador, after-carnival in Porto Seguro, and dance classes in Sao Paulo. First, you will read about my adventures. Next, lessons learned (e.g., how to kiss many girls during carnival). Enjoy!

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Wednesday

My flight to Rio was rather long. First, Boston to New York, then to Sao Paulo, and then finally Rio. Very tiresome trip. As I was waiting in New York to board the plane, I already had a feeling that the trip will be great. Brazilian girls were giving me noticeable looks and were approaching me/brushing my arms to make sure that I notice them. It quickly brought back my memories from the previous trip. They like my looks, it’s no secret. I like that they are straightforward, it’s no secret.

Thursday

I got to Rio around noon. Time is money, however. Immediately after checking-in at the hostel, I went to visit the Sugarloaf mountain. It is a famous landmark of Rio. The view from there over the city is stunning.

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Here are some tips that can save you some money. What people call the Sugarloaf mountain consists of the actual Sugarloaf mountain and Urca hill. First, the best view is from the (lower) Urca hill just before the sunset. Typically, people take the cablecar to visit the mountain. Although the cablecar is necessary to visit the Sugarloaf, you can climb the Urca hill on foot. Further, if you leave the mountain after 7pm, the cablecar ride is free.

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After visiting the mountain, I came back to the hostel to make myself ready to party. As last year, I started the night off with a couchsurfing meeting. It’s a great event where you get the opportunity to mingle with international folks. Interestingly, not everyone is there for the carnival. I got my first Brazilian caipirinha this year and met some Russian girls who are now living in Rio de Janeiro. Unfortunately, I had to leave the meeting early, because I scheduled a samba dance class at 9pm.

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The class was a bit delayed (Brazilian time). As I was waiting for the class, I met a cute girl working there as a receptionist. I guess, she quickly realized that I’m a gringo. She didn’t speak English. My Portuguese terribly deteriorated. We chatted using Google translate and exchanged contacts very quickly.

The samba class eventually started. It was a lot of fun. The teacher, Max, was very effective. He showed us samba and some forro moves. After the class we went to the largest and the most famous samba club, named Scenarium. It wasn’t easy to practice the new moves, but, in the end, it was a good pre-carnival night that warmed me up before all the forthcoming craziness of carnival.

Friday

That was the day when I went on a free walking tour in Rio de Janeiro. On the one hand, the tour was very informative and we got to learn a lot about Brazilian history. On the other hand, it felt like going back in time. Last year I was staying at Lapa (Rio’s party district). This is where we were hanging with the tour. I was a bit tired after the previous day but somehow recovered later with more caipirinhas. Soon I discovered that the best caipirinhas are with passion fruit and kiwi.

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In the evening I went to a bloco (street party) at Gloria. We were supposed to meet up with Fred, a very cool dude whom I met at a bloco party last year. Unfortunately, due to problems with my phone we were unable to find each other. Fortunately, we were able to meet up later at a private party. Getting into the private party wasn’t as easy as I expected. You see… in Brazil many buildings are heavily guarded. I needed to talk to the guard so that he opens the gate and allows me to enter. The guy didn’t speak English and had no idea what I wanted. Initially, he didn’t open the door. I quickly spotted three girls with a dog. They were going to one of bloco parties. One of the girls looked like a middle higher class Brazilian. Very cute. I was sure she speaks English. I asked for help. She smiled (Brazilian girls have fantastic smiles!) and dealt with the guard. I was on my way to the party. Straight from the party we went to Fred’s club. He introduced me to many people. Brazilians are very friendly and they love gringos. Many people wanted to talk to me. At the club I got a chance to improve my arrocha skills thanks to Fred’s girlfriends. The night was another good event to get ready for Salvador, my next stop.

Friday

The legendary carnival in Salvador is also the biggest party in the world. It attracts over 2mln people! That’s where I was heading. Getting there from Rio takes two hours by air. I must say that the airline TAM, that I was flying with throughout my trip in Brazil, has the most beautiful personnel I have seen. Well done TAM. As I was waiting for the plane, I wrote a bunch of postcards. Nice collection, eh?

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I made it to Salvador. I took a cab from the airport to my couchsurfing host, Flavio. The ride took two hours. On the way, the driver was playing my favorite Brazilian music sertanejo. I said I like it and he gave me the CD he was playing. Thanks dude! During the ride, I could see incredible crowds everywhere on the streets. I felt like I belong to this place! We finally arrived at Flavio’s apartment. He was a fantastic host and had over ten international folks there! Everyone was already in the party mode.

After a short pre-party, we went to the actual carnival in Barra. That’s the circuit where all the cool, young, and beautiful people hang out. We were instructed to go out with empty pockets, because pickpocketing is common. For that reason you won’t see many pictures from the actual carnival. I left my phone at the apartment. Use your imagination and let it fill in all the missing details.

The carnival can be enjoyed in three ways:

  1. Camarote. A closed area with tribunes from where you merely observe the carnival. It is the most secure, most expensive, and most boring way of experiencing the carnival. Typically, you’d see older crowd there. All you do is just watching.
  2. Bloco. It is a semi-closed street party that slowly moves along a 5km-long street. Each bloco consists of two monstrous trucks with live bands. There are ropes between the trucks that mark the bloco area.  It is guarded by tens or hundreds of (typically poor) people. Inside the bloco everyone is dancing and having fun. To get into a bloco, you need to buy an abada (t-shirt). The good thing is that it’s pretty safe inside blocos and you meet up people who are wealthy enough to afford an abada.
  3. Pipoca (popcorn). The cheapest option. You follow blocos but you’re outside the marked area. In principle, you party next to the party. That way you can enjoy the carnival without paying for it. The downside of pipoca is that you should be very careful, because fights occur often. If that happens, try to get away from the area. It does become dangerous. Military police quickly gets into action and they beat everyone. These guys have bad faces, never smile, and are very aggressive. Almost as if they wanted to provoke fights. It is important that in pipoca you don’t do sudden body movements and you’re not stiff. Just keep dancing and be loose.

Flavio knows how to roll during the carnival. We didn’t buy abadas, so we were doing pipoca. At first we were just observing, chatting, and walking around. Soon I learned that an important tradition in Salvador is to kiss girls. The more beautiful girls, the better. And Salvador was chalk-full of them!

At the beginning I wasn’t sure how to operate. I looked a bit confused, because it was my first night in Salvador. Juliede, Flavio’s housemate asked if I’m shy or something. Then, without much thinking, I spotted a beautiful blond Brazilian girl, got my shit together, and approached her. How? First, established eye contact (Brazilian girls do that all the time), then smiled, and said that she is beautiful. Before I said anything else, she already grabbed me and we were making out. How cool is that? Later I learned that she’s from the south of Brazil – this is where you can meet blondes. 

After the first approach, something clicked in my brain. Since then I was approaching all the girls that I liked. Blondes, brunettes, girls with mothers (of course you want to go for the daughter), girls alone, and in groups. Few of them said no. Brazilian girls seem to be very comfortable with men approaching them (unlike girls, e.g., in Canada). Oftentimes, girls were grabbing my hand or my face to kiss me. Things quickly got more crazy. There was a group of three girls. I kissed the three of them at the same time. In our couchsurfing group we had one French guy, Guillaume. He is extremely fun and cool. He was an expert when it comes to approaching mothers with daughters. He was pretty effective at that. Once, it was entertaining to see how a mother was preventing him from making out with her teen daughter. Another time there were two girls. He started talking to the better looking one. Then he said I’m from France (with a French accent). When the other girl heard that, she smiled and was giving huge thumbs up to the better looking one. One second later, Guillaume was making out with the lady. He’s legendary!

The night was very long. We ended up the night dancing in the rain. It was extraordinary! During the first night, I kissed 17 beautiful girls in total. I was pretty happy about the result. Now, the important thing is that I genuinely appreciated each and every girl that I kissed. Each had something unique in her. It’s a beautiful thing when two strangers meet up and make out before chatting. That’s the Brazilian way. Very sexy and intriguing. Chatting before kissing, on the other hand, kills the vibe.

Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday

After the first day I already knew that Salvador was my ultimate couchsurfing experience. We woke up around 3pm. We were getting ready to participate in a very traditional bloco of Filhos do Ghandi. That’s how you roll:

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What is this whole thing about? The bloco is a huge men-only parade. Girls love to follow the bloco (thanks for the tip, Teresa!). You walk around the circuits, sing, drink alcohol, dance, and spray the perfume. If you look at the picture, you can see that each man has beads on them. I had at least 30. The idea is that girls want to kiss you to get a bead. And that’s what you do: you kiss girls and give them the beads.

A very important remark here. I don’t know why, but some guys try to catch the girl by offering the bead first and only after would they go for the kiss. That’s super lame in my opinion. Why? I’ve seen it so many times that guys were trying to catch girls, but instead, the girls just took the bead and the guys got no kiss. What a waste. What you want to do is the opposite: first a very good kiss. Only if the kiss was good enough, offer her the bead and gently put it on her neck.

We were hanging out like that for three nights. Every day the schedule was the same: wake up, dress up, participate in the parade, kiss all the girls that you like, and party till early morning (6am at least).

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The perfume is of the smell of lavender. Most girls hate it, but it’s OK to spray it on them. Less attractive girls will ask you to spray the perfume on them if they cannot get a kiss. Also, poor guys who guard the ropes would be happy to smell like lavender.

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Each and every night I had some amazing kisses. Once it was a darker skinned girl who already had, maybe, ten beads (most girls would have one, maximum two). She was very beautiful. Flavio got us into a camarote and this is where I made out with her. Another day it was an unforgettable kiss with a Bahiana (a girl from Bahia). It was very soft, passionate, and gentle. Yet another one was with a girl whom I spotted in an abada. I pointed my finger at her so that she comes to me. She did the same to me. I wasn’t sure what to do, because I was doing pipoca and the rope was guarded. It wasn’t even a second while one of Flavio’s buddies yelled: GO!!! and forcefully pushed me under the rope. I quickly got underneath, caught the lucky girl, and she delivered a sweet kiss. In the meantime, the guards were trying to separate us and kick me out. Everyone was watching. Love is everywhere! I must say that Flavio’s buddies, who we were hanging with, are fantastic wingmen. They would help you to catch any girl. That’s the spirit!

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By the third day of Filhos do Ghandi my costume smelled horribly (I didn’t have time to wash it). What’s worse, last day there was no water in the apartment. The whole day I was pretty dirty and smelly. What would you do? Portuguese shower! (For some reason Brazilians call it French shower.) Use a lot of perfume and you’re good to go. And so we went. Again, we were kissing girls left and right. If the girl likes you, no matter how bad you smell, she’ll be happy to experience you during the carnival. But be careful, some girls feel bad when you don’t want to kiss them. Once I was approached by two very cute girls. After so many kisses I somehow didn’t care whether we make out or not. The two girls were right in my face staring at my eyes. I was looking at the live band. Then I looked at the girls and smiled, but turned to the band again. What happened then? She grabbed me by the balls and forcefully kissed in the cheek. I found it unexpected, yet entertaining.

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I know that the girls liked me a lot. Pretty much every girl that I kissed, and every that wanted to kiss me, said: que lindo! bonito! (how beautiful! nice!) It’s great to be a good looking guy in Brazil. When kissing so many girls, an important thing is to disinfect your mouth often. What do you do? Use vodka! It works like mouthwash and kills all the bacteria. As you dance and move a lot, you shouldn’t get drunk.

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Wednesday

That was my last day in Salvador. Huge thanks to Flavio, Ronaldo, and Guillaume for the fantastic couchsurfing and carnival experience. It was a pleasure to hang out with you guys!

There is no doubt that carnival in Rio is very different from the one in Salvador. Rio has a traditional carnaval with costumes, samba, small blocos. It’s pretty fun. Perhaps, the only more crazy place is Lapa where you can kiss some girls. It is nothing, however, compared to Salvador. That’s the ultimate experience. The party is humongous and it can be as crazy as you make it. Arguably, it attracts younger and better looking crowd. That’s where you meet cool Brazilians who love to party. The amount of parties is incredible. You see lots of famous Brazilian singers giving live shows from bigger-than-life trucks.

Going back to reality. I was sleeping almost the whole day. I couldn’t party anymore. In the evening we were chilling at the beach. I was also getting ready for my next stop: Porto Seguro. I had to wake up at 4:30am to get to the airport.

Thursday

I took the first flight in the morning to Porto Seguro. I had never heard about this place before, but Moises, one of my best Brazilian friends, recommended it. Porto Seguro is a small beach resort where Brazilians spend their vacations. What’s special about Porto Seguro? They host an after-carnival called Carnaporto Axe Moi. Moises said I would love it. I trust him with my life, so I went there.

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As soon as I got to Porto Seguro, I checked in at my hotel, did the laundry, and was off to lambazouk classes. Lambazouk is a very sexy type of dance that evolved from lambada. I booked four classes with Cleidson and Iara to make the most of my time in Porto Seguro.

I really enjoyed the lessons. Cleidson was also very helpful with getting my abada for Carnaporto. After the class I got back to the hotel to get some rest before Carnaporto.

I made it to the party around midnight. It was still early, because the show starts at 1am. As I went through the entrance, I got nine condoms from the service right away. I thought: alright, if they treat me like that, then the party must be good and crazy. Soon, more and more people were coming. The place is ready to host up to 20 000 people. Not sure how many came, but definitely thousands.

Getting into Carnaporto is not cheap. That means that you meet there gente bonita. Young, cool, beautiful, and upper middle class crowd. In fact, I have never seen so many beautiful girls at one place. Most of them are 18-25 years old. People were from major Brazilian cities, such as Rio, Belo Horizonte, Sao Paulo, and Porto Alegre. The ratio was fantastic. Perhaps, like two or three girls per guy. That’s Brazil and that’s what I like! The shows were really great and the girls were going crazy. On average, ten girls per hour approached me to kiss them. All I was doing was just standing there, dancing to the music, and smiling. If you’re a good looking man, do yourself a favor, and go there next year. As I’m thinking about it right now, it’s the best party to be a man. These girls need you haha. I have no idea what time the party ended, but at 7am I came back to my hotel room and I was not empty handed.

Friday

I was extremely tired after the whole night and the morning. Anyways, I needed to force myself to attend the lambazouk class. I guess, my teachers were not entirely happy with my condition, but what can I do? Life. When I came back from the class I just got to bed and was sleeping like a baby. Needed to wake up early to go to Sao Paulo. My last stop.

Saturday

I arrived to Sao Paulo around noon. Somehow, I wasn’t initially excited about this place. I don’t know… maybe it’s because of what I heard from Brazilians? Everyone says that it’s a business city, not a party place. My expectations were low. My only goal was to learn to dance the basics of sertanejo universitario. I went to the class pretty much straight from the airport. My teachers were from 7 Sentidos: Carla and Robeilton. They are amazing teachers. They were very quick to assess my skills and calibrate accordingly. I was extremely happy with the class. The two hour class seemed like five minutes.

I then needed to grab some food and came back to the hostel. Sao Paulo has lots of pretty girls. As it was Saturday, I was wondering whether they have a pubcrawl or some other cool events. Apparentely, Sao Paulo has an official pub crawl. I signed up for that, took a nap, and was good to go around 10pm.

The pub crawl takes place at Villa Madalena. The place was incredibly crowded; like Mardi Gras in New Orleans. People everywhere. Finally, I made it to the bar where everyone was meeting. It was an open-bar until midnight. Again, the female/male ratio was very good. I was being very sociable and met almost all of the girls. Brazilian girls really like to talk to you, are very easy going, and friendly.

Funny thing. At some point I met a girl from Seattle. Her “North American” attitude was horrible. So off the place. While Brazilian girls are happy and interested in you, the Seattle girl only replied with monosyllables. That only confirms my 4-year observation: European and South American girls are, generally, interested in guys and like them. North American girls (excluding Quebecers) prefer to hang out with other girls and expect the guy to babysit them. So unattractive, despite the fact that she was pretty good looking. I just told her she’s boring and moved on to more Brazilians.

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The pubcrawl was heading to the club. On our way, we were practicing arrocha with a very fun girl from Goiania. Again, I was very pleased about the ratio in the club. At least twice as many women as men. Lots of beautiful Brazilian girls who want to look their best. As I was waiting for a drink, a Brazilian girl approached me. What she was doing was pretty typical. She turned back to me, but was standing very close. She was brushing her hair and throwing it into my face. She was then checking with the corner of her eye whether I catch her. She was pretty, indeed, but my plan for that night was different.

Although the music was different, the party reminded me of the video Empinadinha. Lots of girls, lots of kissing. Jump to minute 2:00. Doing something like that is a piece of cake if she’s attracted to you (most of the time she is). You can kiss as many girls as you like.

After I got the drink I was approached by a girl with her friends from the pubcrawl. Maybe she was shy or something. They asked if I can kiss her. She had a leopard-print on her, so she scored a point. She was cute and small, so she got a small kiss. That night, though, I had only one goal. I wanted to kiss another lovely girl from the pubcrawl. She was 10 years younger than me, smart, and her English was very good. I rushed into the action.

I knew that she liked me, because she spotted me several times and raised her hand to grab her. Then the moment came.

me: I like you. I think you’re beautiful and I want to kiss you.
she: I’m not that type of girl.
me: I see what you’re saying. I like that.
she: I don’t kiss every guy in the club.
me: Are you saying you don’t want to kiss me? Don’t you like me?
she: I like, but all you can get is a selinho.
me: What’s that?
she: It’s a small kiss.
me: OK, let’s see

The kiss was indeed small. Maybe not even half second. I was really disappointed, because it was the first small kiss in Brazil. I couldn’t believe.

me: It sucks. What’s the point?
she: Well… it may lead to better things…

I really wanted to kiss that girl; no one else mattered that night. I decided to leave her for a while and was walking around the club. So many other girls were checking me out, but I didn’t do the action. I’m sure she could see that. I was dancing with other people for a while. Then, I went to the bar and got my favorite caipirinha: with passion fruit. I came back to the selinho girl.

me: You see, so many girls wanted to make out with me. I didn’t do that. I don’t care about them. I care only about you tonight. [I was sincere about it and handed in the caipirinha]

We chatted for a while. Suddenly, she pulled me to the side and delivered a proper kiss. It felt very good. She was my 63rd girl that I kissed within 10 days in Brazil. I liked her. She liked me. We were making out for at least three hours. In the background I heard divirta-se! (have fun!). Then she got us into a camarote (a restricted lounge area) for free. It was a perfect ending of my Brazilian adventures.

Sunday

I grabbed my stuff, took the cab, and went to the airport. I was semi-ready to fly back to the real world. Brazil is not the real world. It’s a paradise.

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Lessons Learned

Carnaval in Rio vs Salvador vs Porto Seguro?

Rio: big, traditional, colorful, famous, laid-back

Salvador: huge, crazy, cool, unreal

Porto Seguro: small, cool, young crowd, intense, sexy

Thoughts on Safety?

Personally, I had no problems in Brazil. There are several rules, however, that I was trying to stick to: 1) whenever possible, hang out in a group of friends; 2) avoid dark places; 3) in Salvador, empty your pockets or keep only the belongings that you are ready to give away; 4) visit only reputable districts; and 5) be cautious at all times. During the street carnival I didn’t wear any jewellery. Other times, I had no problem with it. I noticed that many Brazilians wear watches (they love huge watches) and carry cell phones. I was doing the same.

Who to Hang out with?

It depends on your purpose. If you don’t care about girls, then hanging out with anyone will do the job. If you like girls, however, things are more complicated.

It’s best to have a mixed group of local and international dudes. First, you can learn a lot from Brazilians. Also, international dudes, like myself, are a good company as long as they wing you. Brazilian girls are also OK, because they understand the tradition and they are cool with kissing.

Avoid hanging out with international girls. Simply, you don’t bring sand to the beach. They won’t help you with getting more girls. What’s worse, they may get jealous; which only causes drama. That’s the last thing that you need during the carnival. Apart from the carnival, love them and hang out with them often!

Thoughts on Brazilian Girls?

Moises once said: God was really generous in that matter with Brazil. Personally, I think they are amazing. They are genuine, warm, sexy, treat you like a king if you’re serious about them. They are honest and straightforward, so you don’t need to play any games with them. If they like you, they’ll tell you that very quickly. They are very open about their feelings. On the other hand, it’s easy to hurt them (I was guilty of that in the past). If you do that, she’ll never forgive you. Brazilian girls like men and they know how to get men’s attention. I got the impression that they always try to look their best. Finally, they are great sensual dancers and great lovers (that often goes together).

For Guys, Are Looks Important in Brazil?

I’m almost sure that good looks help immensely. Many Brazilian girls love blond guys with blue eyes, because it’s so rare there (besides the south).

Communication: English vs Portuguese?

I’d say that, initially, it’s better to speak English. She’ll understand the basics. You can switch to Portuguese later. She’ll be more excited by an exotic gringo. Alternatively, you can just say in Portuguese: nao falo portugues, so beijar (I don’t speak Portuguese, only to kiss). Worked for me every time.

How to Kiss Girls During the Carnival So that Both Parties Enjoy it?

A kiss may tell you something about the person. So, if you like the girl, do it well. This is what I found optimal (romantic) after tens of street approaches.

  1. Be brave, direct, carefree, and charming.
  2. Make strong eye contact. If she maintains the eye contact, she’s interested. Otherwise, move on to the next girl.
  3. Smile and approach her, or pull her by her hand, or do whatever it takes so that she faces you. Always maintain eye contact.
  4.  (optional) Slowly ask if she speaks English, ask about her name, say she’s beautiful or that she’s got beautiful eyes, or whatever you honestly like about her. Don’t say anything else. In the meantime put your hands on her arms and gently slide down.
  5. Gently brush off her hair from her pretty face with one hand. Put the other hand on her back and pull toward you.
  6. Start kissing her slowly and gently. Hold her head with the hand that you used to brush off her hair.
  7. Now, you’re on your own, buddy. Repeat that 50 times and you’ll get many compliments on how great you can kiss.

I found it important to be smooth, i.e., speak slowly and move gently. There are two reasons: 1) she may not speak English well; 2) you give her the time to see that you’re a different guy. In general, girls are approached all the time. Obviously, she cannot kiss every guy, so, by default, she’s not willing to kiss. That way you give her a chance to change her mind so that she wants to kiss you. Furthermore, body contact is crucial. Brazilians are very comfortable with touching.

When to Kiss Girls?

Pretty much any time is good. Perhaps, night is best as the girls get loose and wild. Depending on how selective you are, you can kiss as many girls as you like. If you kiss 500 girls, I’d say well done, bro, but I won’t be shocked. Also, if you like the girl, she likes you, and all the logistics are in order (or she makes them so!), there should be no problem with taking her home.

How to Handle Girls that You Don’t Want to Kiss?

At times girls want to kiss you despite the fact that you’re not attracted to them. Lack of eye contact will typically resolve the issue. If she’s persistent, then there are two ways. A less graceful way is to say you’ve got a girlfriend, point to a random beautiful girl, and kiss that other girl. Another way (let’s call it the French way), proposed by Guillaume, is to lift her hand, spin around, and throw away like a bowling ball haha. She’ll keep going.