Towards the end of last year we had the opportunity to travel to Brazil for work and decided to make a road-trip of it. The work part was just a few days but we booked 2 weeks, hired a car and hit the road in the state of Bahia… starting off in Ilheus and ending up in the capital, Salvador de Bahia. This experience was, in a word, life-changing. Well technically, that was two words… and it all sounds really dramatic, like I´m not the same person I was before I left, but I feel like we learnt so much and changed in a few small but significant ways that it´s impossible to say that this experience left me indifferent. Firstly, lets talk about challenging pre-conceived ideas. You don´t have to look very hard online and in travel forums to find people literally FREAKING OUT about how unsafe Brazil is. About getting mugged by policemen and being afraid to leave their hotel rooms. Brazil is a third world country and it´s obviously not the same as travelling in Europe but seriously, I did not feel unsafe here… particularly in the small rural towns. I come from South Africa and my concept of “safe” is maybe a bit different to yours but even so, I let the Tripadvisor paranoia get under my skin a little bit and I really shouldn´t have. You live and learn. Secondly… Brazilians are just about the happiest and kindest people I´ve ever met in all my life. You would expect that with the poverty and extreme difference between rich and poor that people would be angry, complaining, upset with life in general. But no, in spite of the fact that the majority have very little they all seemed unbelievably happy, always smiling, “tudo joia”. Of course I am well aware that this is a traveller´s perspective, that it´s hard to judge a country in 2 weeks and that things are not always as lovely as they first may appear but as far as first impressions go, I totally dig this country. We started our trip in the surf town of Itacaré and spent 4 days here before hitting the road further north to Barra Grande, on the Marau peninsula… more on that next week.