I’m moving to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil!
Well, not exactly. It’s not permanent. I’ll be coming back to the United States after 3 months… (provided that I don’t like it too much and stay permanently).
It won’t be my first time in Rio. I visited the ‘Marvelous City’ in November 2016, for a one-week vacation.
It was my first time leaving the U.S. and experiencing a different country so it was an enlightening experience.
I learned a couple things during my time there:
- Brazil has a different (less powerful?) sanitation system so instead of throwing toilet paper in the toilet, you throw it into the trash barrel next to the toilet
- Brazil uses a different outlet so if you don’t have an adapter then you can’t plug-in your electronics
Despite these somewhat uncomforting things I learned, the biggest realization I had was this: one week in Rio was not enough.
And so, I’ve thought about Rio every day since I left—just wishing I was there.
What was is it that made me feel this way?
Maybe it was the trip through Tijuca Forest up to Corcovado Mountain to see one of the 7 Wonders of the World, Christ the Redeemer.
Maybe it was the time spent laying in the sand of some of the world’s most famous beaches—Copacabana and Ipanema.
Or maybe it was watching a pro soccer game amongst tens of thousands of screaming fans at Maracanã stadium (host site of the 2014 World Cup & 2016 Olympics).
Then again, it could’ve been the fun I had while visiting attractions such as Sugarloaf Mountain, Lapa, Parque Lage, Escadaria Selarón and Jardim Botânico.
All those moments contributed, but it wasn’t any of them individually that made me want to return to Rio—it was the overall experience.
In Rio, I experienced a sense of peace and bliss that I hadn’t felt before. (Probably because it was vacation, but I think it was more than that.)
While visiting the attractions—of which there are many—I noticed that I appreciated every moment, every sight, every sound, and every interaction more.
Going to Rio seemed to bring me back to a state of infancy.
When you think of infants, they are extremely observant and receptive to the world around them. Everything is new to them and so they sit there and marvel over everything in their sight–even the most simple things.
I found myself doing that in Brazil.
One time in particular, I was just sitting in a coffee shop in awe of what was going on around me—which wasn’t much. There was a barista behind the counter brewing coffee. There were signs and menus written in Portuguese. There was a couple sitting at a table next to me eating breakfast, talking in Portuguese.
Although there wasn’t really anything going on, it all seemed so interesting.
Later on, I thought to myself how I would never catch myself doing that in the U.S.—just sitting there marveling over someone ordering a large coffee in Starbucks. 😂
But that’s the thing, it wasn’t the U.S.—and it was exactly what I needed.
As opposed to being preoccupied with the future, or past, Brazilians were more present. They lived in, and enjoyed, the moment. The culture was one of leisure, and the people were laid-back.
I also felt a greater sense of community.
As opposed to the individualistic, capitalist driven culture of the U.S., Brazil felt much more communal. The people were friendlier and more inviting to one another.
Overall, they seemed much happier.
And in a place like Rio, it’s hard not be.
Rio is the perfect mix of industrialization and nature, both city life and wildlife.
With Rio, you get the usual benefits of a city—entertainment, nightlife, dining, etc.—but you also get an amazing landscape. On one side of the city is the sea, on another is mountains, and surrounding it is a rainforest. Whether you want to be indoors or outdoors, there are plenty of activities for either.
Rio has many options for things to do and I intend to explore them.
However, I’m not moving there just to spend more time at tourist attractions, I’m going there with a plan.
My plan is based on reasons that can best be described as cultural, social and professional.
Part of the reason that I am going to live in Brazil is cultural.
Staying in a place for 7 days, you can only experience so much. By moving to Rio for 3 months, I’ll get to experience the culture much more deeply than I did the first time. Rather than visit as a tourist, I’ll get to live as a local.
I’ll get to see what it means to be a Brazilian, and more specifically a Carioca.
My whole existence up to this point has been developed and shaped in, and by, America. The way I view myself, race, society, and the world is from an American perspective. I want to see the world through a different lens, and this will help me to do so.
By moving to Rio, it’ll give me at least one more perspective.
I intend to use my time in Rio to explore the culture—from the customs and traditions to the views and beliefs to the language.
It has always been a goal of mine to learn a second language, and reach fluency. With this trip, I have set myself up with the opportunity to do so. I have used language learning apps, read Brazilian books, listened to Brazilian music and watched Brazilian television (and more) to learn Portuguese, but ultimately the biggest component to learning a language is to speak it. The move puts me in an environment where I’ll have more opportunities to speak Portuguese, and will be forced to do so out of necessity.
Living in Rio will put the views I developed of the city and culture, from my limited exposure while visiting, to the test. However, whether the trip turns out to be good, bad or somewhere in the middle, it will be an enriching cultural experience regardless.
Part of the reason I am going to live in Brazil is social.
During my time in Rio, I will be doing social work through a volunteer program. As a volunteer, I will be organizing and playing sports activities with disadvantaged youth to help change the trajectory of their lives—and what better way is there to do it than through sports?
Nelson Mandela once said:
As a former athlete, this quote resonates with me. It resonates with me because I understand the truth in it.
Growing up basketball had this effect on me.
The basketball court was my sanctuary—a place where I could escape all my problems.
The sport itself was a vehicle for change— Taking me beyond the reality of my surrounding environment.
For many people, in unfortunate circumstances, surrounded by pain and suffering, sports is a path to a better life.
So although the kids may not be able to understand my Portuguese, they will be able to understand the message I send through sports.
I hope that message helps them to increase their resilience and build their confidence.
Part of the reason I am going to live in Brazil is professional.
As I mentioned before, Brazil is a society that emphasizes leisure and has a greater commitment to work-life balance. However, it can’t be all fun and no work—my capitalist spirit won’t let it.
So, to maximize my time in Rio, I plan on using this trip as an opportunity to immerse myself in the Brazilian sports tech scene.
I hope to discover the technologies being developed and the innovation taking place in the sports space.
How are teams using technology to better engage their fans?
What technology are athletes and teams using to improve their training and gain an advantage?
Who are the people leading this innovation?
What resources are available to those trying to innovate?
These are some of the questions I will be exploring.
Whatever the answers are to those questions, I will be sharing the findings on my Forbes contributor page.
It has been 240 days since I was last in Rio. I think it’s about time I return.
Follow me on my journey on Instagram (@zac.glover).