I spent most of the month of September in Brasil. In the past, I’d have written that sentence as “I spent most of my summer in Brasil.” That became less true when I went off to high school but, from five until 14, I spent every summer in Brasil. Both of my parents worked full time my whole life. In that way many parents ship their kids off to grandma’s for the summer, so did mine. My grandma just happened to live in Brasil.
When I started high school, though, the dynamic for my summers changed. I spent my summers at Y
ale and Georgetown (twice) and playing high-level competitive soccer. In college, I worked, lived at home, and even backpacked through South America as I did research on a grant. After graduation, things didn’t get exactly better. I was now responsible for my own expenses, and I want
ed to spend my disposable income visiting my then-long-distance boyfriend (and now fiancée).
It had been four year since I was in Brasil last- for my friend Paloma’s wedding. She’s since had a beautiful little girl who is not quite that little. The time I was in Brasil before that was for my cousin’s wedding. He, too, now has a beautiful baby girl. Both of these precious children I hadn’t yet met.
When I found out my cousin Ricardo was getting married, I defaulted to going. Of course I would be there for his wedding! I thought. But then, money stuff happened and, in April, I decided I wouldn’t attend. That changed in August when I ended up scoring my flight to Brasil for $435 through Scott’s Cheap Flights (I use the free version)!
In retrospect, I’m so so so very glad I did. In total, I spent $635 on all the flights and $700 in other related spending (casual + the trip to my dad’s afterwards, which I’ll explain later). I’m sure I’m missing some expenses there, so all in all $1400 is a fair estimate of what my whole three weeks away from home cost. At the end of the day, though, the opportunity to see my aging grandmother, be there for my cousin’s wedding, and celebrate there first annual reunion of my great-grandmother’s family were absolutely priceless.
My trip can be split into three parts: my time in Rio, my time in Volta Redonda, and my time in Minas. At the end of my trip, I tacked on a visit to my dad in Florida (which, like I said, I’ll explain below).
Getting to Rio was a bit of a saga in itself. I scored a phenomenal deal on my flight to Rio, just $435! The thing, though, was that the flight was in and out of the Orlando airport. That meant I booked a separate flight from Fayetteville to Orlando for $184 roundtrip. I wanted to be extra cautious to know that there is no circumstance in which I’d miss my flight to Brasil, so I booked my flight so that I would arrive in Orlando the day before. I was going to book a local hotel, get dinner with my dad, and get a solid shower in before I went off to the airport.
Well.. travel plans never work out the way you think they will. Because of a storm going through Atlanta, my Tuesday flight was postponed to Wednesday. I called Casey to pick me up and promptly inform him I was going to need him to drop me off at 330 AM the next morning (thanks hunny!!!). Unfortunately, my dad went off to Orlando and wasted the evening going 2 hours each way, but it is what it is.
Finally, on Wednesday I was off to Brasil. I flew from Fayetteville to Atlanta and Atlanta to Orlando. Then I met up with my cousin who was coming from Boston and re-checked in on Avianca to fly Orlando to Bogota and Bogota to Rio! In Bogota, our flight was delayed 4 hours but because of my Priority Pass I was able get us into a lounge with comfy couches that we could sleep on. With another slight delay, we were actually off!
When we arrived in Brasil on Thursday, we were picked up by my sister’s godmother. My sister was already there with a cousin of mine. We dropped of our suitcases and were off to the beach! We spent the whole day enjoying Leblon and celebrating Brasil’s Independence Day (September 7). That night, we headed out to the Lapa. We enjoyed some carne seca, drinks, and good company. Night one was a success.
The next day, we headed out to Volta Redonda.
Volta Redonda is the city my mom was born and raised in. It’s about two hours from Rio, mostly over mountains. This was the city I spent all of my summers in growing up.
We arrived in Volta Redonda the day before the wedding. The last round of family came in, after a 12-hour-delay, roughly at midnight. After a good night’s sleep, it was wedding day, and we were excited!! My cousin Ricardo had been
dating Marcinha for at least five years, if not more. It was about time.
The wedding was beautiful and the family was fun. The wedding went until after 2 AM, and then while my family continued the after party until after that I went to bed. Your girl needs her beauty sleep.
After the wedding, my time in Volta Redonda mostly consisted of working in the mornings and of catching up with friends and family in the evenings. It was nothing spectacular but it was wonderful nonetheless. I did not take vacation for my trip to Brasil, making it easier on my budget for me to travel, but that meant I didn’t get to spend all day doing the fun things and did have to work!
Nonetheless the luxury of being able to work while traveling significantly reduced the financial burden that comes with traveling internationally. I did, of course, take a couple of days off, but that was mostly for the next leg of the trip.
Minas Gerais is a different state in Brasil. My grandmother and grandfather moved from the country (Caratinga-area) to the city (Volta Redonda, RJ) in the mid-60s. Most of my trips to Brasil have included a trip to Minas, but more specifically the farm. For a long time we visited my great grandmother ,who lived and maintained her own homestead well into her 90s, but now we visit my great aunts and great uncles.
To be honest, I’m never a fan of visiting the farm. Of course, the people are great, but I don’t like the lack of internet, questionably reliable hot water, and the meat. I swear meat on the farm- meat raised for personal consumption, literally the cows that my great uncle milks by hand every morning- IT TASTES DIFFERENT AND I DON’T LIKE IT. I don’t like the farm and literally the whole time I’m there, I just want to go home. Unpopular opinion, stated.
The last day we spent in Minas was at a family reunion for the “Biatas”, my grandmother and her siblings. Six of the ten of them were there, which is great considering two are deceased, and they are all very elderly. There was so much family there that I had never met before, but it was wonderful to meet new people and see family I hadn’t seen in years. I am pretty sure I had my first-ever migraine that day and had to escape for a midday nap, but it was fun to get to dance forro and just enjoy the company.
The following morning, we took a bus from Niteroi to Rio. We got dinner with my sister’s godmother again. The next day before the sun was up, my cousin and I were off to the airport.
Getting back from Brasil to the US was a bit complicated. I’ve decided I’d rather not delve into it here, so here is the tl;dr: Rio to Bogota, 22 hour layover where I wasn’t able to leave the airport, then flight delayed, finally fly to Orlando, passport drama x49385.
When I landed in Orlando, I rented a car (if you don’t know the USAA car rental program is BY FAR the cheapest way to rent a car, especially if you’re under 25!) and then drove the almost-two-hours to Leesburg, FL. That’s where my dad has been living for a couple months, and I took the opportunity to visit him.
We spent a lot of time just hanging out, which is a thing my dad and I do. It was the first time I had seen my dad since I got engaged, so we got to celebrate.We went to the laundromat and washed and folded laundry over conversation. We ate really great seafood- oysters, mussels, and shrimp! We also did Crossfit at Not the Norm Crossfit together. Do you know how exciting it is to do Crossfit with your 60+ year old dad?!
At the end of the whole adventure, I flew back to Fayetteville, picked up Bo from the boarding place he was at for a couple of days (not my whole trip), and sunk into my bed feeling sad that the trip was over, grateful for the experiences, eager to get settled, and excited for the big trip to Europe I’d be taking in just a week. For just over a week, I was back to life as usual.