TIP #1 - CONNECT WITH A BRAZILIAN
Luckily, in our case, we had an ‘in’ with a local family from the beginning. Ryan’s parents hosted a Brazilian exchange student, Bea, for six months back when she was studying abroad in America about ten years ago. Since then, she has been wanting Ryan’s parents to visit her someday in Brazil. Coincidentally, Ryan and I planned to be in Brazil by March. Knowing that we would be in Brazil and that they could tie in a visit with Bea, Ryan’s parents knew they had to make a trip of a lifetime to visit. Little did any of us know that the experience we would have with her and her incredible family is one none of us will ever forget.
TIP #2 - VISIT WITH THEIR FAMILY
When Ryan and I arrived in Sao Paulo, we had the chance to experience Carnaval in Sao Paulo or go spend the weekend with Bea’s family (her dad is one of ten children and Bea has over thirty first cousins) and stay at a beautiful 100-year-old Swiss farm house. We decided we may never get another experience on our trip to spend this much time with a local Brazilian family and soak up their culture and traditions, so we chose the latter option.
When we reached their property, we quickly learned that one of Bea’s uncle owns a motocross company called ASW. As we drove past the massive motocross track that bordered the mansion, we stared in awe of all the motocrossers clearing massive jumps like it was nothing. We made our way up the enormous stones that lined the path up toward the house and were stunned by the historic looking mansion we were going to spend the next few days. As we toured the property, Bea showed us all the amenities of the house such as a zip line, outdoor pool, hand-crafted sauna room, and the amazing flora and fauna that surrounded the property. I felt like I was in heaven. Not only was the place incredible, but the welcome we received from her family was something that I can only attempt to put into words.
TIP #3 - EAT ALL THE FOOD THEY COOK YOU
If there’s one thing I can take away from my time in Brazil, it’s 1.) Brazilians know how to feed you and 2.) you never turn down food from a Brazilian. Seriously, even if they’ve fed you so much you feel stuffed beyond belief, I would advise you to keep eating. You don't want to miss out on the food. We had the most amazing meals including some of the best barbecued meat of my life. They would cook fresh meat on their grill and if the meat sat too long, it was deemed no longer good to eat. Brazilians pride themselves on having the best barbecued meat in all of South America.
Some of my favorite traditional dishes included a cheese bread called pão de queijo, a more traditional dish with meat and beans called feijoada, and of course acai, which is a superfood berry used to make fruit bowls and smoothies. Not only were we fed such delicious and traditional meals, but we ate at what felt like all times of the day. They ate a major breakfast, then coffee and some type of cake for before noon, a massive lunch, coffee hour (with more cake) in between dinner, and then finally dinner. It was incredible, but I think I gained about five pounds after visiting for a week. (Atleast, I'm warning you now ;)
TIP #4 - JOIN THEM IN AN ADVENTURE
Ryan and I were warned before arriving to Bea’s family’s house that her dad, Nilo, was adventurous and a bit of ‘character.’ I didn’t know what to expect, but I just kept thinking that even my family has their fair share of ‘characters.’ Little did we know, he would be the one setting the tone for jumping off the zip line in the middle of the water without a harness, guiding us with a machete in hand on unmarked trails in the middle of the Brazilian jungle, and racing down the streets in his car to add to the experience of what would have otherwise been a simple ride to the grocery store. Whether or not it was safe wasn’t a question we even had time to consider. Nonetheless, every experience we had with their family was an adventure.
TIP #5 - RETURN THE HOSPITALITY YOU'VE RECEIVED
Being able to connect with Bea and her family was an experience far beyond my expectations. I truly felt like my own family was welcoming us back from being away from home for awhile. For anyone who knows me and understands how happy and filled up I become after surrounding myself with family can understand why this experience meant more to me than I can even begin to explain in words. Being away from home for over nine months will give you a such an appreciation for this type of hospitality. Not only are we going to remember the hospitality Bea’s family shared with us, but we are going to return this same warmth, kindness, and generosity to whoever we are able to host as we start our new chapter together.