Throughout our more-than-ten-year journey we’ve met people in intriguing ways, which in some cases has led to a long-lasting friendship: people who stopped us in the street to invite us to their house, an invitation through our website. We love the sightseeing and roaming-the-countryside aspect of traveling; however, in the end our warmest memories are always related to people.
I was reminiscing on this the other day with Coen, as we tend to do every while. Admiring a sunset above the ocean, sipping from our pisco sour cocktail, talking about the rich lives we lead… I figured it might be a nice idea to focus on a short series on exactly this aspect of traveling: meeting people, how beautiful they are, and how one thing can lead to another. Here’s part 1.
Meet Our Friends & BossHouse in São Paulo
São Paulo is South America’s largest metropolis and the place to go if you love international cuisine, entertainment and nightlife. Coen and I weren’t particularly attracted to it as its huge (17 million inhabitants!) and didn’t really have an image of being a safe place. There was no reason to visit it until we received an invitation from Milena.
In fact, our first contact with a Paulista (an inhabitant of São Paulo) had been months earlier. Matthias had found our website while we were in process of shipping our Land Cruiser from Asia to South America and emailed us. “Don’t ship to Brazil. I know it’s not nice to speak negative about my own country, but it will give you a headache and cost you a fortune,” he warned us. But not all was bad about Brazil. In fact, he encouraged us to do drive to Brazil, as it is a fantastic country that we would love.
As we approached Brazil we kept in contact and Matthias gave us tips on places to visit. “I can’t host you myself, but my friend Milena will. You have to come to São Paulo so we can meet,” he insisted in one of his emails.
Brazilian Family Life
We arrived late in the evening at Milena’s house. Her father opened the door, stretched out his arms and with a broad smile said, “Welcome! Fique a vondade!” (something like “Feel at home, my home is your home”). And we hadn’t even been introduced yet, how was that for a welcome? We fell right into one of Brazil’s typical family dinners: a churrasco – BBQ – and we’re quickly made part of the family.
We love becoming part of families. It’s a great way to learn a lot about the local way of life, eating traditional dishes, having time for lengthy, in-depth conversations, getting to know the places they go for shopping, dinner, an ice-cream (check out São Paulo’s famous acai ice-cream with granola and banana!), entertainment, etc. Staying with families is often a beautiful way to make friends, to feel you’ve become part of a country or culture, instead of looking at it from the outside which so often is the case most when you are traveling.
Exploring São Paulo
We had been warned a lot about the dangers of Brazil and Brazilian cities but now we encountered the interesting situation in which every single Paulista assured us that São Paulo is safe, except for a few areas (obviously, the problem for strangers is that they don’t know which are the areas concerned). Despite these assurances we were happy that Milena showed us around.
We visited a couple of places, among which the cathedral on Plaça Sé, the Mercado Publico to eat a mortadella sandwich, the Avenida Paulista with the modern art museum of MASP, and the Edificio Italia where we took in the view of the city from the 41th floor. One evening, Milena and her partner Clemence took us to São Paulo’s best pizzeria. Clemence and Matthias were a great help to find workshops where Coen got work done on the Land Cruiser.
It’s generally a bummer when the car breaks down. It hardly ever is a good moment or good place. Yet, getting work done at workshops is another way of getting to know local culture and ways of life and to find these workshops through the help of new friends worked out just perfectly.
Throughout the days we chatted away for hours on end, getting to know each other. A friendship evolved. Our expected two days’ stay extends to ten with lots of activities, sharing time and laughter and exploring the surrounding countryside when staying at their farmhouse. It’s a lovely place, hemmed in by forested hills. We hiked the trails, swam in waterfalls, enjoyed churrascos, campfires and spent nights watching stars. Our contribution was preparing Dutch pancakes for dinner. As yet more friends dropped in, the feast was complete.
That Christmas, Milena and Clemence drove 6,000 kilometers in 6 days to drive to Tierra del Fuego to spend the holidays with us there. A year later we returned to São Paulo where they helped us prepare for the Adventure Sports Fair.
Milena and her family started a Bed & Breakfast: the Bosshouse, as we learned during our latest visit. It was beautifully set up. Let me tell you a bit about it, as it could be really a nice play to stay if ever you go to São Paulo.
BossHouse Bed & Breakfast
BossHouse is a Bed & Breakfast Stay in São Paulo. It is situated in the safe and green neighborhood of Paceambu. Among its features are a spacious room, a kitchenette as well as privacy since the room is set aside from the main house.
The spacious room lies behind the main house and has a separate entrance (accessible by stairs only), offering maximum privacy. The room is equipped with a double-sized bed, a desk, television and has ample storage space for luggage. It has a parquet floor and is blissfully uncluttered. On one side is a kitchenette with a cooktop and refrigerator.
- The distance from the airport depends on the form of public transport (taxi, bus, metro). Find more info on their Airbnb Page.
- Milena and her family speak English.
Ways to Meet Local People
We’ve been extremely fortunate. What started with a helpful and friendly email from a total stranger, Matthias, has evolved into a beautiful and long-lasting friendship. We hope our roads will cross once more in South America.
Apart from invitations from strangers, which does happen more often, we have other ways to meet local people:
- We are member of the Hospitality Club and Couch Surfing.
- We are invited by, or check out, local four-wheel drive clubs as off-road driving is one of the things we love in our journey. But this could work for any hobby you have, or (professional) interest you take in. We know an overlander who used to work in an old-people’s home, likes to visit those places on her travels.
- HASHING is an international activity in more than 1200 places in the world. The Hash House Harriers is a running/walking club and is a great way to meet people, and to explore cities or countrysides you otherwise probably would not see or explore. (Here you can read more about it).
- For more stories on Brazil, see here or find them on our Landcruisingadventure website.
- For tips on other mind-blowing places in Brazil, check out Insight Guides; find their Brazil guidebook here. Or use the excellent Unibanco Brazil Travel guidebooks.