Monday, September 3, 2007

How it all started: Rio De Janeiro, Brazil - Jan 2001

My first ever travel experience to another country, (not counting Vermont and Maine, USA) was when I was a young 18 year old freshman at Univeristy. For some unknown reason, I had a horseshoe up my ass my first year of school. While “studying” I would listen to the radio, and constantly call in and win free stuff like movie tickets and C.Ds.

One day my roommate and I were listening to the radio, and they announced a radio contest to win tickets to Rock in Rio, a huge concert that takes place in January. I told my roommate Krista immediately upon hearing this, I said quite confidently, I am going to win this contest. While attempting to study, I heard the radio ask for the 9th caller through to register for the Brazil trip, and I quickly pressed my speed dial (yes, I had the radio stations number on speed dial ) and I was the 9th caller through. All we had to do was wait a few weeks for them to randomly pick one of the qualifying names.

When that day finally came, Krista and I were up at 7am listening to the radio, to see if we had won. When the phone actually rang, and my roommate answered the phone, I couldn't believe we had actually won the contest. I was so excited I could barely maintain my screaming elation. I had to share the news with the dorm, so I ran out in the hall screaming I won, I won… but sadly at 7am, nobody really gave a shit.

So this was it, my big break, my chance to finally travel and see the world! This trip was pretty significant, since it was a lot of firsts for me. My first time getting a passport, first time on an airplane, first time seeing palm trees, first time in the ocean, first time in a place where no one spoke English, first time burning my ass so badly I walked like I had hemorrhoids.

Krista and I left the first week of January for five lovely days in the sun. The radio station paid our flight, hotel, concert tickets, and gave us a bit of cash for food. We flew for 8 or 9 hours, with a stop over in YYZ-Toronto.

The drive to the hotel was amazing for me, its like realizing that the scenery does exist, and is not made up in some Hollywood studio. Our hotel was across the street from the ocean, and was in a quiet area outside of Rio. I had never stayed in a nice hotel before, and I remember there was a time I would be excited to stay in a comfort inn. We had a balcony facing the ocean and the hotel pool, and a basket of fresh fruit. I immediately called my parents to tell talk to them. I was the only one in the family to travel so far.

After we unpacked, we decided to make use of our complimentary drink coupons given to us by the hotel. I ordered a Pina Colada, and settled down in my chaise lounge by the pool to enjoy the southern sun. Like all one track minded Canadians, I was hell bent on returning to Montreal with a tan. But, I do not tan I burn and get freckles. This is a lesson I have never quite learned, or simply chose to ignore. So, I skipped on the sunscreen and turned a fashionably red color, with the pathetic justification that some color is better than none.

For supper, Krista and I were very adventurous and had spaghetti at the hotel restaurant. I mean its got to be exotic because we are eating it in another country right?

The next morning we enjoyed a continental breakfast of fresh papaya juice, orange juice, pastries, and lots of fresh cut fruit. After eating we headed to the beach. I think I immediately fell in love. Staring at the ocean reminded me of a campfire, that same hypnotizing and soothing feeling you get. I could get lost in the movement of the waves as they rush onto the shore. After admiring the crystal clear color, I headed into the ocean. While swimming, I comment to Krista how salty the water tasted and how my eyes were burning, which is a forgivable remark if you are used to swimming in fresh water and pools only.

After a while we headed back to our hotel, to get a liquid lunch. Since we were poor college students, we devised a scheme to save money. Instead of eating lunch we would drink, and eat at breakfast (which was free) and pay only for supper. That way we wouldn’t have to sacrifice experimenting with new cocktails for the sake of nutrition. Besides, it doesn’t require much energy to lay around and BBQ yourself.

The pool was perfectly set up for us, a bar right in the pool. So, every few hours we wound jump into the pool, cool off our scorching skin, drank a bit, and carefully swam or wadded back to our lounge chairs. I even saw Dave Grohl and his drummer from Foo Fighters in our pool, they were playing at the Rock in Rio concert that we actually never did go to. The price of the taxi to the concert was really expensive, so we decided to spend the money wisely and see the big Jesus statue and take a tour of the city.

It may not have been the most cultural trip I ever took, but it was fun and a great introduction to traveling.

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