Three years ago I was visiting my friend Lilian in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. I had just wrapped up a year teaching English in Sincelejo, Colombia and was gearing up to move to Spain. Brazil was my first “big girl trip”. You know, the first trip that was fully self-financed after a year of hard work. I was so proud of myself and so excited that I was finally getting to visit perhaps the only country that had ever been on my bucket list.
I spent two weeks in Bahia and from the time I got to my friend’s apartment to the day I left, the experience was so much more than I could have ever expected it to be.
Being the adventurer that I am, when I met Lilian’s university friend and she excitedly invited me to spend the night in her town and meet her class at the school where she taught English the next day I figured, “why the hell not?”
What’s the worst that can happen?
If you’ve seen your fair share of thrillers, your brain would probably go into overdrive coming up with a million and one ways an unplanned detour like this could go wrong. For me, though, I was open to the idea of seeing how people really lived in Brazil.
To get to Camaçari we took a 10pm bus that picked us up in front of the university and took us to the central bus terminal where we would take another bus to where she lives. The best part is that this service was a free shuttle provided by the university!
It was almost midnight when we arrived in the town, and all I wanted to do was dive into bed. Instead, I was greeted with a table full of food her mother had prepared and she was excited to meet me and welcome me to her home.
This reminds me of home!
A quick Google search of the city only tells you that it’s an industrial town. There’s not much to do there and, in fact, it reminded me a lot of being in Trinidad and Tobago.
The landscapes of the area where she lived certainly felt like being home. I grew up in the hills of Port of Spain, so waking up to similar sights and sounds made me feel that much closer to home.
Of course, her mother’s cooking was what really did it for me!
The one thing you can count on when travelling to places like Brazil where there’s a large afro-descendant population is that the food is going to hit the spot. Not only were the flavours similar, but the pepper sauce we had at lunch time was basically homemade Trini pepper sauce – heavenly!
Am I a celebrity?
The most memorable part of being in Camaçari was the warm welcome I received. Honestly, the main reason I took Neline up on her offer was so I could meet the students at her school where she worked as an English teacher!
Let me tell you, that there’s nothing like having a native speaker of the language you’re studying show up at your school randomly one day. I think what blew them away the most was that I was a black woman that looked just like them.
Being there at that school affirmed that I was on the right path and I am happy to say that I am still travelling the world and teaching English.
I’m really glad I did this.
To be honest, I didn’t spend a lot of time in Camaçari. It was in, say hi and bye, and out! But would you believe that three years later it has probably been the trip that has left the deepest impressions on my life?
Neline and I are very much still friends! Last year when she lived in Malta, my friend travel buddy Rachel and I did one of our ridiculously cheap day trips from Madrid and I got to reconnect with her on the Mediterranean island. Her family is always still so happy to see and hear from me and are always asking when I will come back home to Camaçari.
Taking risks when you travel can feel scary as hell. Re-reading the post I initially wrote about this quick escape is cringeworthy, but it’s honest and it’s real. The thing about hindsight is, after three more years on the road I am able to look back and see just how much this one detour in Brazil three years ago shaped not only my travel experiences, but my life experiences for the better.
Have you unexpectedly gone off the beaten path on your travels? We’d love to hear your story in the comments!