Working Really Hard to Deixar a Vida a Roular

Soon after I arrived in Brazil I had an archetypal travel adventure on a bicycle. It was my third day in Brazil, and I was staying in the super-calm south of Florianopolis, one of the favorite places I have visited. I rented a bicycle that had a pile of shit stuck to the front tire. My Portuguese was still rusty, and I pointed it out to the agreeably dirty woman working at the bike borracharia (garage). She acted like she didn’t see it, and then used some kind of tool to wipe it off. Against my better judgment, I accepted the bike and rode off with a random destination: the reportedly New Agey part of town, Campeche.

I biked in the hot midday sun for almost an hour, really proud of myself for tolerating the sun. I stopped for agua de coco along the way. Then splat! Explosion! The tire exploded and the bike was history, at least for the afternoon. I had no idea where I was so I ducked into a nearby restaurant. As I explained the situation to the woman working the register, another young lady overheard me and offered to go with me, wherever I was going. I had no idea where I was going. She seemed to be going to the beach, so that seemed to be a good enough destionation to me. I locked the bike by the restaurant and joined her to hitch a ride to the beach. (I wouldn’t have hitched a ride by myself, but she seemed to know what she was doing.)

Two surfers picked us up, and she got out before we reached the beach. To where, I have no idea. Such are random travel adventures. While we were at the beach, I watched the surfers’ belongings while they surfed, and I enjoyed a nearly empty, broad beach and fresh orange juice.

I remember very clearly explaining to them my plans for my travels in Brazil. Specifically, that I had no plans. They told me, Oh, you are “deixanda a vida a roular”–letting life roll. A very Brazilian thing to do, it sounded like I had found the perfect place to travel plan-less.

Ever since I visited Brazil for the first time, the topic of planning has come up. Some of my Brazilian friends argued it’s impossible to plan here (she was from Bahia). Another, from the south of the country, said that’s not true, indignantly. You can plan. The South of Brazil is much more prosperous and organized than the North.

Here I am now in Rio, and I want the vida to roular, but it occurs to me that patience is also required to dexiar a vida a roular. I am a planner. I am happy when things are happening, rolling. I admire all the Cariocas that I see standing around on street corner drinking beers at botecas (Brazilian indoor-outdoor traditional bars) on Sundays even at 10 am (hell, even Mondays on 10 am). I look at them and think don’t you need to–want to–do something?! I mean, more than drink a beer and enjoy the sun and the company of others?

I wanted to learn how to “be” more on this trip, and “be” doesn’t have to mean drink “be”er, though it certainly seems to ease the process of “be-ing” in Brazil. I am a consummate “do-er” and unless I place myself in an ashram where there is nothing to do but meditate, I don’t know that I am ever going to become more of a be-er, at least through travel.

Deixanda a vida a roular–letting life roll–seems to require that being, the courage of patience, to believe that something will happen. At the same time, what if nothing ever does? Even here in be-friendly Brazil, the people on the Rio Couchsurfing group (who are resolutely middle-class, for the most part) are constantly planning adventures–hikes, parties, board game nights–weeks in advance. Planning is alive and well in Rio.

And that brings me to right now. I don’t know that Rio is the right place for me to stay much longer than I have stayed. The city is so dynamic and full of energy at times I feel like I am holding a live wire of electricity. The dynamism is incredible. Last night, a literary festival in the neighborhood where I am staying staged a concert of women percussionists and singers called Mulheres de Chico, women who love Chico Buarque. After the festival, crowds spilled out on to the streets on a Sunday night. It was the kind of street energy you associate with Carnaval, that happens very rarely in the States. It’s entirely impressive and amazing, but the party energy never ends. And I realize I am a more tranquilo person. I need some ambient music, some quiet. Here the samba beat never stops. Literally. LIving in Santa Teresa above Lapa I feel like I never have quiet. The writer, or solitude-seeker in me, is screaming, stop the world, I want to get off!

So where do I go? Or do I stay? Is it possible that if I found a more resttful home (I am living in a guesthouse right now) I would balance out and better enjoy all the great people I have met so far, all the amazing dance and drumming classes I have found? I am enjoying getting to know a place on a deeper level and all the weird intricacies of Rio’s culture. I feel very attached to the idea of staying in one place for a while, as if all the cool, sophisticated travelers I’ve ever talked to have impressed upon me that’s the best way to travel. And I wanted to form deeper relationships than you are able to create when you are constantly on the run from one amazing sight to the next. Rio is a strange place to make friends though–everyone is immediately friendly, but it’s a place that is very structured around “doing” fun stuff.

I had a dream about Belo Horizonte and Minas Gerais while I was home in April. I really have no idea where I will go or whether I will stay. I’m not looking so much for advice about where to go but just to connect about making decisions while you are traveling–how to make them. None of it is too serious, really. Obviously they are first-world problems. But I do think there is something deeper here about letting life roll and letting decisions happen naturally without a lot of angst.

I met a young Swiss woman in line at customs when I came back to Rio this time who seemed to fly to new continents very easily. She decided to fly from Rio to New York, then San Francisco, then got bored with New York, so she booked a new, relatively cheap circuitous ticket back to Rio. I didn’t quite understand her budget, but I was impressed by her lack of attachment to a plan or the place, just going with what she felt at the time. She seemed hyper but with equanimity. I wonder if I could be like that. . . just say, OK, Brazil is over, I’m off to Asia now. That would be really badass if I found a cheap ticket and did that.

Most people must think coming to Brazil by yourself and hanging out in Rio for a while takes courage, but now, the ante keeps getting higher. I’ve met plenty of people doing this. For me, on some deeper level, I think all this travel stuff is about making decisions in such a way to maximize the enjoyment of my life. I want at least the illusion that I can control my life, and choose the things that bring me the most pleasure, the most thrill, the most enjoyment. Discerning what that is is the challenge, and that’s what I’m trying to do now. And theoretically, to let life roll.

By the way, I took the bus back to the bike borracharia and told them where the bike was locked. The dirty woman accepted the news gracefully and sent another guy off to fetch it. Luckily, I didn’t pay anything for my bike tire explosion experience.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Working Really Hard to Deixar a Vida a Roular

  1. Cyber-Laur

    Thanks so much for writing this blog. Been an occasional visitor to your Quirkyalone site since reading the book a few years ago, and what you’re doing now — travelling solo around Brazil — is really inspirational, something I hope to do as well someday.

    Since you spend much time pondering Brazilian attitudes and psychology, I thought I’d mention something called the Enneagram — kind of a hybrid between psychology and spirituality, outlining the nine personality types in amazing detail. I’ve come to realize that entire countries can have a predominant personality or “type” (eg. France being Type Four, America Type Three, etc.). From your descriptions, Brazil sounds very Type Seven:

    http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/TypeSeven.asp

    (I wonder whether many Quirkyalones feel a natural attraction to this personality type — like an attraction of opposites. Type Sevens can keep introverts from dwelling too much on their problems and show them the fun and excitement to be had in the real world. I’ve always found Sevens appealing, though once you get to know them better you see the flip side of their incessantly positive outlook — shallowness and the tendency to flee from anything painful, boring or sad rather than dealing with it.)

  2. Interesting! I love reading about the Enneagram. I’ve always thought that quirkyalones are naturally type 4s, the Romantics, yearning and searching for what’s missing. I’ve overheard people talking about countries as Enneagram types and always found that amusing. Is the US supposed to be a 1?

    Brazilians are enthusiasts, a la type 7, and do seem to focus on the positive to the extent that they often gloss over the negative, conflicts, etc. I’ve talked to some Brazilian friends about that–that it can be hard to get conflicts out in the open. On the other hand I have been observing passionate anger in the streets and in bars lately, particularly from women. So I am not sure. . . often the longer you stay anywhere, the more complicated a place seems.

  3. Cyber-Laur

    It’s nice for once to mention the Enneagram to someone and have them already know what it is. šŸ˜€ Yeah, quirkyalones do seem a lot like Fours. (I’m also a Four, with a Five-wing.)

    Well, the Enneagram literature I’ve read referred to the US as an increasingly dysfunctional type Three culture (the driven, success-oriented, image-conscious type). And with narcissism on the rise among young people and sites like Facebook based around creating and projecting an image, I see why people would make that connection. A Type One society might be something more like Switzerland — extremely well ordered and efficient, with everything running smoothly (like a Swiss watch or the Swiss banking system). Supposedly Type Six is the most commonly encountered type in the Western world. Our workplaces and governments seem very Six-ish in the way they operate.

    Ireland may be another Seven culture like Brazil: “The image of the Irish wake is one of singing and dancing in the face of death. When their time is up, the Irish begin to sing, to dance, and to drink. They clap you on the shoulder and tell another joke.” Wonder if Brazilians have any similar traditions when someone dies.

    Don’t know where the “passionate anger” you’re seeing comes from, although Brazilian women are reputed to have a jealous streak.

    You’re right that if you stay somewhere for a long time, you see the details of the place instead of broad generalizations. I’m in Canada and still don’t know what type to characterize this society. lol.

  4. Shay

    I will be traveling alone to Rio in November for two and a half weeks as part of my new “awakening” period of my life which some call a mid-life crisis.

    I’m terrified, nervous and excited all in one..never been out of the U.S. (except for a cruise) let alone to a completely foreign country where I still haven’t learned the language but I don’t care, I’m doing it! And I’ll enjoy every mistake as a blond gringa along the way..lol Any advice for this gringa?

    I’m determined to become a world traveler and not sit here in this town and rot away…there’s way too much out there to see and people to meet. I wish everyone would open their minds and their eyes to this realization. šŸ˜¦

    • That’s a hilarious formulation–my awakening period which some call a mid-life crisis.

      My advice for you is to check out the Rio group on couchsurfing.org. They’re a great bunch who are very helpful and welcoming and they are always always organizing fun outings, sharing tips about events, etc. You will have a fantastic time, I’m sure of it.

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