1) Brazilians really are friendly, helpful people.
I had the impression that I liked Brazilians already, but after the numerous people who helped me in Salvador, supposedly one of the most dangerous places I was going to visit, I really do think they’re some of the friendliest people I’ve encountered.
I am determined to travel as cheaply as possible now that I’ve left Rio, so I took buses to and from the airport. Both directions people pointed out the right bus to me, made sure I got on ok with my luggage, and made sure the bus went to the right place for me. I did check with three different people that the bus I got on today in Salvador was in fact heading to the airport (it didn’t say so on the bus) and they all said yes. I put a little faith in these hopefully helpful bus drivers and it turned out all right.
Also last night when we had to find new accomodation last minute after leaving a not good first couchsurfing experience, we wandered into Hostel Patua and asked if they had any beds. They said no, but they took us next door to see if another hostel had beds. When that one didn’t answer, they took us back inside their hostel, and two people who either helped out there or had been there for a long time were offered a place to sleep at the hostel owner’s place, and they gave us their beds. We witnessed the hostel employees helping a handful of other travelers who wandered in just like we did. You won’t go bedless in Brazil.
2) Bahian food is just as good as I thought it would be.
One word: moqueca. This specialty of Salvador is one of the best things I’ve eaten on my trip so far. It’s a sort of fish stew in a spiced coconut milk broth. We got the mixed version with fish and shrimp, and it comes with vegetables (thank god veggies!), and arrives still cooking in a stone bowl. With sides of rice, farofa and some amazing pumpkin puree, we devoured this feast not caring how full we were. Just. So. Good.
The other specialty of Salvador though I can’t give the same rave review. Acaraje – a street snack made of fried beans formed into a ball and stuffed with a spicy paste and dried shrimp – was just a bit too much for me. Individually the flavors were ok, but all together it was just a lot happening. The smell is also seriously off-putting, but at least it does taste better than it smells.
3) Hostels are the way to go.
I tried couchsurfing for the first time. I will probably try it again at some point, most likely in Australia, but for now I’m sticking to hostels. The guy we stayed with refused to give us a key so we didn’t have access to our stuff until he got home, which he told us would be at one time and turned out to be an hour later. None of this was specified before we got there, he just sprung it on us when we arrived that we weren’t allowed in the apartment most of the day and were entirely at his mercy for when we could get back in. This is why we left to go to a hostel.
As much as it was nice to get some local knowledge from our host, the inability to control our day and access our belongings was enough to drive us out of the apartment. Arriving at a hostel was a relief; we got to meet other travelers again, we felt like our things were safe, and we got our own beds instead of sharing an air mattress on the floor. As a solo traveler I just like the community and security that comes with hostels, so I think I’ll be sticking to them for now.
4) New travel buddies are great travel buddies.
There’s something awesome about planning a trip with someone you met while on the road. Kahlia and I were in the same hostel in Sao Paulo for 3 days and both wanted to go to Salvador after Rio. We realized our timing was the same and decided to go together. It worked out really well, and confirmed another hope I had when planning this trip: that I would meet awesome people on the road and plans would evolve from there.
There’s also a great camaraderie between travelers. A lot of time is spent talking about your travels, but there’s a certain understanding that comes with hanging out with people who are doing the same thing as you. It’s hard to describe, but I am pretty sure the people who I’m talking about know what I mean. The stories shared between travelers are different – they’re comforting and just awesome – and it’s like there’s some unspoken feeling of “I get you” between people who decide to take on a life on the road.
5) I’m not nervous.
I was sitting alone on a bus with the driver and the guy who takes your money when you get on, trusting them that I was actually going to get to the airport, and thinking about the next leg of my trip. I didn’t have any headphones in or any reading material out; I just looked out the window and watched Salvador pass by. I realized that I wasn’t nervous about any of this traveling, but that it just felt like normal life. I’m happy to be back on the road and continuing on my trip, and I’m not worried about getting around by myself. This is just what I’m doing; it feels like fact. And I’m more than ok with that. I like it.
As for Salvador as a city, its colorful buildings and picturesque beach made for a great quick stop in between Rio and the Amazon. Despite all the warnings about muggings, we were fine the whole time; we made sure to not carry a lot with us and not be obvious about taking pictures. I enjoyed seeing another part of Brazil, but I think just a few days was enough. It is pretty though: