Looking at a map of the Americas, it is easy to let your eyes glide from the Northern reaches of the barren Canadian Shield down through the Central plains, Western mountains, and Southern deserts. From there, it’s on to the vast curve of Mexico, filtering out into the beautiful volcano laden strip of Central America and just making contact with that second ominous presence, the continent of South America. Letting your eyes roam once more, it is extremely hard not to notice one country that makes up almost half of the map, not to mention almost the entirety of the Amazon rainforest: Brazil.
There it is: the biggest and most populated country in South America, 190 million people spread out over thousands of kilometers, each vying for a part in its steady growth and emergence. This is a country with stunning landscapes and enormous cities, teeming with gorgeous people and diverse cultures – a country with a tumultuous history and even more exciting future. Brazil is calling.
Lately it seems that everyone I speak with about Brazil is either super-excited to go there, or wants to go there eventually. I feel that most travellers (young travellers especially) think Brazil is one giant party, with people dancing samba in the streets and free-flowing caipirinhas everywhere. Of course this is not exactly the case, except for maybe Lapa (Rio) on a Friday night. But for real, travellers are increasingly excited to visit Brazil and it has become a major destination in the last decade. Now, I could go into an endless monologue on the coast line, beaches, states, people, jungle, and so on, but really I wanted to write about Rio de Janiero specifically, and this feeling I have had recently – like this city has a pulse and that the people here have a certain undertone of excitement involved in everything they do.
I am currently in Rio finishing an In Search of Iguazu (JBR) trip and have a couple of days off before beginning another JBR headed back down to Buenos Aires. This is the sixth time I have been in Rio in the last two months. The Cidade Maravillosho is on the world map once again as one of the most vibrant and scenically beautiful cities to visit anywhere. The Cariocas have been selected to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and, only two short years later, the 2016 Olympic Games. Both of these major international sporting events definitely help put the pulse into the daily city life and have proven to the residents that they belong on the world stage, and that it is time to show Rio to the world once again.
The crime rate is down, the vibe is strong and the positivity is palpable. Rio would be a great place to start a small business – you’d be guaranteed work for the next six years, that’s for sure. However, it’s not just Rio reaping all of the benefits of the upcoming hype and being one of the most sought-after destinations in the world. The country is general has had a steadily growing economy and is quickly becoming a major global emerging market. Not that I’m an economist, but I would assume that this is a positive thing for everyone involved in exploiting natural resources for short-term profitable gain at any cost, including habitat destruction, environmental catastrophe, and possibly even human life. But that is a different blog post all together. The emerging market status in Brazil will bring more international investment and (I hope) help to distribute wealth and social services throughout the country.
Rio is a gem. It is a perfect mix of concrete and nature (if one could ever exist). The city is split into two sections, the Zona Norte and the Zona Sul. Most visitors will spend their entire time exploring the Zona Sul, with such landmarks as Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Lagoa, Poa do Azucar, Corcovado, and so on. The streets are lined with every shop you could ever think of, and most corners support delicious juice and sandwich cantinas. The beaches stretch for kilometers and are dotted with people selling beer, acai, coconuts, hats, sarongs, everything. There are about 3 million people living in Zona Sul, and sometimes I feel that 1 million of them have unanimously decided to spend a Tuesday afternoon at the beach. It’s incredible – do the people here even work? Yes, but not too often. And why would you, if you had a world class beach and some incredibly good-looking people to look at daily? (That’s every day, all year round.) Sound like somewhere you’d like to visit?
The city will only grow and continue to draw international attention with upcoming sports events, and I truly feel that Rio’s energy will suffuse well into the early parts of this century. There is something about this city – an invisible vibe, a pulse that interconnects everything and everyone, yet at the same time it is hard to pin down the exact sentiment. It’s just something which pulls you towards it and doesn’t let you go easily. As the Cariocas put it, this is the Marvelous City, and marvelous it is indeed. Come and see for yourself – Brazil is calling.