Girl from Ipanema

Enjoying a panoramic view of Rio

While lying on the white sandy beaches of Copacabana and looking out to a perfect teal ocean, I couldn’t believe that I was actually in Brazil. A light breeze moved the warm air across my stomach and the sounds of samba danced in my ears. 
I had finally crossed the “Rio de Janeiro during Carnival trip” off of my bucket list. To understand the significance of that particular accomplishment, we’ll have to back up about 10 years.

I was about to be a senior in college at UC Santa Barbara and my studies abroad led my to the small Spanish town of Salamanca.


White sandy beaches of Ipanema


It was there that I met a beautiful Brazilian girl named Renata. We shared a teeny flat through the Don Quixote School of Language housing program. Renata seemed so worldly and interesting, sharing tales of her travels abroad as we drank cheap Spanish wine in the kitchen. But it was her stories of home that fascinated me the most.

She told me about the beauty of Brazil, with its endless beaches and stunning geography. I listened intently as Renata described the people of Brazil, full of life and love. A smile crossed my new friend’s mouth as she recalled the incredible tradition of Carnival. She said, “Alexis, this is the most fun you’ll ever have. The music, and the dancing and, oh the people. You must go there someday. Promise me you’ll go there?” 
I said, “Of course Renata, I’ll go to Brazil for Carnival someday.” Then I gave her a huge hug.



One of many samba school's to perform during the Carnival Parade

I haven’t seen my Brazilian friend since we shared a tearful goodbye at a train station in Madrid, but I never forgot that promise I made to her.  So that’s how I ended up basking in the sun on the famous Copacabana beach this past March. When I studied abroad for the first time in Spain years ago, I knew traveling would always be a huge part of my life. Seeing the world, meeting new people, exploring new places. It’s exhilarating and scary and wonderful all at the same time. I feel the most alive in a new place or situation; it pushes me out of my little “Alexis bubble.”



Breathtaking look at Christ the Redeemer through the clouds

Experiencing Rio de Janeiro during Carnival is just one of many things on my travel bucket list. I still need to see more of the world. Even if it’s just a city down the freeway that I’ve never been to, I want to go there. I’d like to think that all of these experiences change me and make a better person…more emphatic, more understanding and more compassionate.

As I lay in the warm sand and looked down the pristine beaches towards Ipanema, I felt thankful. Thankful for my beautiful friend Renata for planting the idea in my mind, thankful for the means to take such an exciting trip; and thankful that I had the courage to grasp this opportunity by throat. After all, there’s a big beautiful world out there just waiting to be discovered.

What’s on your travel bucket list?


One Comment to “Girl from Ipanema”

  • Did you ever try to get in touch with your friend Renata? Heart felt story….was hoping to hear you reunited.

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