I have lived in Lahaina, Hawaii my whole life. I usually travel for competitive surfing year-round, but I’ve never been away from home for more than a month and a half.
This year, the World Surf League canceled all of our contests due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s hard to describe the emotional roller coaster I went through, but I imagine this pandemic flipped everyone’s worlds upside down. No Qualifying Series events gave me a chance to train and improve in every aspect I could; I just didn’t think I would be doing it in Brazil.
I traveled to Brazil in June 2020 with a one-way ticket, just expecting to be here for a few weeks to visit my boyfriend. The travel itself was extremely stressful and tricky. Before I even left Maui, two tickets I purchased were canceled and one was rerouted the day before I was supposed to leave.
Flights were very limited and the airlines were unorganized and chaotic due to restricted travel from the pandemic. I had to take four flights on two different airlines to get from Maui to Sao Paulo, Brazil – three of my flights were delayed and I was close to missing every connection. Despite almost everything going wrong, I made it to Brazil safe and healthy.
Once I arrived, it was like I was living in a happy bubble. The waves were perfect almost every day, the food was amazing, and I was getting to spend time with the person I loved and his family.
I was also getting to experience a new culture and language. My father is from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, so I am 50% Brazilian and have dual citizenship. I had only been to Brazil once in 2009 with my family and I hardly remember it. I’ve been here for almost five months now and I can honestly say that I will leave a piece of my heart here!
The Highs of Living in Brazil
I had a misconception before I came, that Brazil was very “third world” and didn’t have too many good waves. I was proved so wrong! It’s truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever traveled to and the waves do not disappoint (especially in Saquarema). The overall vibe is unlike anywhere I’ve been and the people I’ve gotten to know are incredibly lively, passionate, and hard-working. Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten my body weight in rice and beans.
I spent most of my time here going back and forth between Recreio (Rio de Janeiro) and Saquarema. Recreio was more “big city” and Saquarema reminded me of my little hometown, Lahaina. I felt really comfortable in Saquarema – there was a laid back vibe to the town and we just had a perfect routine every day.
There’s this bakery in the middle of town that has the best pão de queijo and the strongest coffee! It was one of my favorite places. When my boyfriend and I were in Saquarema, the waves were nonstop and we trained almost every day. That was one of the reasons why it was so easy for me to be away from home.
In Maui, it was the worst time of the year for swells and everything was closed down for coronavirus! In Brazil, I was surfing and training way more than I would be at home, with people who I could learn from. I was also getting to surf new waves that pushed me out of my comfort zone.
I will cherish the fun memories I had here, but I’m more appreciative of all the things I learned about myself and my career.
The Lows I Experienced
Spending time in Recreio was a little different. In the city, we didn’t surf as much, but we did a ton of fun things. Every day was a different activity – shopping, go-kart racing, arcade games, rock jumping. It was a blast!
Everyone in the city was always dressed up and looking perfect, which I’m so not used to coming from Maui! So, it did take me a little time to adjust. We also trained in the gym, went to the physiotherapist, ran errands, and took care of all the things we couldn’t in Saquarema.
Of course, everything in life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies and I did have some really hard moments while I was in Brazil. When I came here, I knew little to no Portuguese. I have definitely improved and I can understand most things, but my speaking is still muito ruim (really bad)! There weren’t many people at all that would speak English with me, and this caused me to feel pretty lonely at times.
Because of the language barrier, it was really hard for people to get to know me and for me to make friends. So, if my boyfriend was busy, I was kind of on my own. I also had no idea what was going on most of the time. I had to completely let go of control and go with the flow.
No cell phone data and no car made me very dependable on other people as well. All of this would boil up at times and I definitely had a couple of breakdowns.
Honestly, I Love Brazil!
In the end, I don’t regret one thing and I feel brave for putting myself out there in ways that were really hard for me. I’m grateful for the new relationships I created here, the times I was pushed out of my comfort zone, all the happy and sad moments, all the things I learned about Brazilian culture, and so much more.
I’m not sure when I’ll get to spend another solid amount of time in a place like this, with the person I love; but I know that I took full advantage of these past couple of months. I’m sad to be leaving this life that I created here these last five months, but I’m also excited to go home. There is no doubt in my mind that I’ll be back in Brazil very soon.