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It’s been eight years since I took my first solo trip to a foreign country and I can still remember the feeling of apprehension. I was only 21 years old and getting ready to travel to China by myself. The country appeared to have all the reasons for a young American to be worried. Communism, diseases, and censored internet were just a few things that came to mind. Prior to the trip, people had warned me just how dangerous traveling abroad could be. When I returned, I remembered wondering: Was I just lucky or was China not as dangerous as everyone had said? Enter Brazil.
I must admit that it took me five more years and over 40 countries to realize something very profound: The rest of the world isn’t really any more dangerous than the United States. I reached this conclusion after my first trip to Brazil. What’s odd is I can’t even explain why I used to think Brazil was so dangerous. I can’t seem to remember a single reason, but I had somehow subconsciously associated Brazil with danger like Christmas with Santa.
Botafogo Beach where the Olympic rowing will be held
My experience with Brazil
In total, I’ve spent over six months in Brazil and have had no issues. I’ve been to multiple cities, ridden the bus and metro, and have walked around downtown Rio during all hours of the day and night. I’m not joking when I say I feel safer in Rio than in some areas of Tacoma, WA. The one “incident” I’ve had happen to me was during Carnival. A 14 year-old-girl tried to reach into my pocket and take my iPhone. If you think that’s a huge deal, try walking around Eastern Europe for a week and let me know how that goes. A friend of mine has lived and traveled all over Brazil for 11 years now. He’s never been robbed or had any issues. Think about that for a second—eleven years as a gringo in Brazil without a problem.
Zika, super bacteria and washed up body parts
So exactly how bad are the some of the current problems Brazil is facing? Think of it like mass shootings in the United States. Deadly, dangerous and tragic but unlikely to happen to you. I’ve now been in Brazil for 2 weeks since things have really “hit the fan” and I’ve yet to see a tangible danger with my own eyes. It’s not to say these problems don’t exist but it’s definitely not the apocalyptic scene the media had put in my head.
Remember the Ebola epidemic that was going to kill us all in 2014? That’s basically how I and most Brazilians feel about Zika right now. The virus is present mostly in the northern area of Brazil, and hundreds of miles away from Rio. Oddly enough, the Zika outbreak appears to have started in the same area where genetically modified mosquitoes were released. This was an attempt to combat malaria and other mosquito born illnesses. You can make your own assumptions from that one. Zika is now showing up in the United States so if you are worried about getting Zika in Brazil, you’ve run out of excuses.
Super bacteria sounds pretty scary and there are dozens of news headlines talking about it. Again, I’m not saying super bacteria isn’t a threat. What I am saying is these news articles are misleading you. Don’t forget that last year in Florida a man lost his leg after walking along the beach with a small cut on his foot. This kind of stuff can happen anywhere. Is the water in Rio a concern? Yes. My point is these news articles would have you believe a simple dip in the water is like playing Russian roulette. It’s simply just not true.
What do the locals think?
So what do Brazilians think about all of this? We interviewed two locals from Rio and one American visiting the city to find out. Both of the locals acknowledged that Brazil has some very serious issues but seemed to agree with the notion that many of them have been blown out of proportion. Watch the video and see for yourself.