A reader of my blog recommended I write a post on things one shouldn’t forget when moving to Brazil. It’s a good idea and I’ll do my best to make a list of 5 things. Let’s see…
1. A way to get out of a rough spot in case one thing leads to another and you find your bank account emptier than you had planned it to be. It’s always good to have access to an extra US$500 back home, something that can be put into your account if need be. That amount can go a long way towards saving your behind and giving you an extra month or two (depending on how frugal you are) to sort something out. Both times I lived in Brazil, I would have really found such a thing to be a lifesaver (not literally of course but it would have let me breathe for a second).
2. A good book in your own language and not something you can read in a day. When you are away from all that you know and don’t have much access to your own language, it’s nice to have something to keep the wheels in your mind turning. If you do forget to bring one, try going to the local hostel because they might have a shelf in the main room with books in various languages, sort of a ‘take one/leave one’ type of deal.
3. Take an open mind with you because you will certainly run into situations where it will be useful. There will be things that are neither good nor bad but different and there will be things that really are good or bad…but you must accept them as they are. Don’t let yourself get frustrated by how it’s not like it is in your own country because it will certainly color your experiencing self, which in turn will color your remembering self (see this talk on the subject). Remember that memories are also effected by your point of view.
4. If you can get away with it (I’m not sure if it’s legal or not), but take a small supply of your favorite food and only eat it on special occasions. I remember wanting peanut butter in Rio and finding out it was US$10 at the store for a mini jar of a famous American brand while the Brazilian version (called ‘pasta de amendoim‘, or peanut paste…sounds great, right? lol) was less than US$2, although not as great-tasting. Even if your thing is chocolate or perhaps alcohol, take some from home. On the last night before coming back from Colombia late last year, I bought a 12-pack of Colombian beer and it was nice to have (and drink) while back in the States. Of course, check the laws first to see what you can and can’t bring.
5. Last but not least, what you decide to bring doesn’t have to be specific to what you merely enjoy because some things you feel like you ‘need’, so pack those things too. I use a specific kind of toothpaste so I bought two tubes before going to Brazil and never once regretted it. Deodorant is another thing. I brought two kinds of Old Spice and one, I later found out, had the opposite effect when mixed in with the heat of Brazil.
I hope these five things can be helpful but I think what matters most is that you apply the general idea to what puts a smile on your own face. None of these things will make or break your experience (except maybe number 3) but it’s quite comforting to leave home without thinking “shucks, I could’ve brought such and such…but I didn’t!”