Tomorrow everything changes. I’ll have no job and nowhere to live. But I am lucky. Because I planned this. I’ve been planning it for months. I’m giving up my life here in Brazil after six years, leaving the house I’ve stayed in for the last 18 months, saying goodbye to friends and setting off on the biggest adventure of my life. I plan to travel for as long as I can – or until the money runs out. It’s exciting, and terrifying. But it’s just what I need.
What have I learned about living in a foreign country for so long? The main thing is that living and working in a city is totally different from visiting as a tourist. The same things that got me down in London (the journey to work, overcrowded trains, a dull routine) also started to affect me in São Paulo. After years living here I also learned to see what ordinary Brazilians have to put up with, things you don’t see when you’re just passing through. Like the frustrating bureaucracy, the non-existent customer service, a surprising lack of respect and the appalling way that many employers still treat their employees.
But there’s so much I’ll miss about this country: the friendly people, the vibrant, spontaneous culture, the music, Carnival, the national parks and the glorious beaches. And I don’t yet know if I’ll be able to survive without my fix of açai na tigela – a frozen pulp of an Amazonian berry with granola and other fresh fruit sliced on top. Luckily, caipirinha can be found most places around the world these days.
I plan to visit India and Bangladesh later this year and go trekking in the Himalayas, but my first trip takes me to Chile and Bolivia and then the Brazilian Amazon before flying back to the UK in June. I’ll be arriving in Santiago and then making my way northwards, zigzagging between coast and mountains, before crossing over the Andes into Bolivia and La Paz. I’ll be heading into the jungle from there and exploring as much of the country as I can. I then plan to take a boat from Trinidad down the Rio Mamoré to Guayamerin from where I’ll be able to cross the border into Brazil and visit two remote states I have never been to before – Acre and Rondônia.
Brazil is going through tough times right now, with the recession biting and more and more corruption scandals surrounding politicians and Petrobras coming to light every day. But things will improve and it’s a place I’ll want to keep coming back to for the rest of my life. Right now, though, the rest of the world beckons.