A year and a half ago I sat in the Gãleo international airport in Rio de Janeiro and cried my heart out. As I watched what I feared would be my last sunset in Rio, I made a promise to myself that no matter where life took me, I would come back - I just didn’t realize it would be so soon.
Coming to Rio the first time around was nothing but a pit stop as I waited to head to Europe, specifically London, a place I had dreamt of traveling to my whole life. Alas, the universe had a different plan in mind for me and in the course of two months my heart burst open and an overwhelming love for this city, this culture, and its people was planted inside of my soul. Throughout my life I have struggled to find a community that “looks” like me, that truly sees me and understands me. When I got to Rio I felt like I found my community and my tribe. And when I left my heart was broken and I was certain I would never feel such bliss, happiness, and love again.
Over the last year I struggled to live in the moment wherever I was. It wasn’t that I wasn’t enjoying life, but every time I sat down on my bed and closed my eyes, the first image that came to mind were the waves crashing against the sand on Ipanema beach. My friends tried to tell me to “move on” and appreciate the experience for what it was, a temporary moment of bliss. But I couldn’t get it out of my head and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t prevent the tears from welling up in my eyes whenever I would talk about Rio with people.
Coming back to Rio has been the weirdest, most beautiful, natural, experience of my life. Over the course of the Summer I was fearful that I had romanticized a blissful period of my life and I was nervous that coming back was a subconscious effort to recreate the impossible. In the weeks leading up to my departure I wasn’t terribly excited nor was I entirely nervous. I simply felt nothing which was driving me nuts. How, after begging the universe to manifest this for over a year, could I not be excited? When I finally boarded my flight from São Paulo to Rio I couldn’t contain the sheer excitement that was bubbling inside of me. My eyes filled with tears, my heart was beating like a hummingbird, and my soul felt oh so right. I spent my first few hours in Rio walking around my old neighborhood of Santa Teresa and was astonished at how natural it all felt – as though I was right back home, as though I had never even left. Instead of feeling out of place or nostalgic I felt entirely natural. During one of my many conversations with my mom she said something along the lines of “Your spirit is in Rio.. it’s calling you.” and she was completely right. Like Peter Pan and his shadow, I had to come back to find my spirit so we could be together again.
Even now that I am back I still can’t fully articulate what it is that mystifies me so much about this city. It’s a perfect combination of factors that all contradict each other – the warmest people I have ever met, magnificent beaches that are surrounded by some of the poorest communities in the world. Urban grit meeting the immense forest that surrounds the city. Violent rain and a searing but gorgeous sun. A failing infrastructure met with the most laid back attitude I’ve ever come across. Nothing about this city makes sense to the average person, but i’ve never cared for the average or the ordinary. I found my tribe, I found a city and a culture that accepts and celebrates me, and for that I will always be eternally grateful. The next five months are going to be a unique journey full of new and amazing experiences, and I am so excited to share them with all of you. To anyone reading this, I hope that you find the courage and the strength to chase after your spirit. Run towards what makes you happiest and don’t listen to the chatter from those around you. They mean well, but you know yourself best. If I had listened to those around me, I’d be abroad in Rome right now, but instead I followed my gut instinct and now I’m back in my personal heaven. You are the author of your own story – write it however you want.