Having never flown alone before, the idea of that 11-hour journey from Gatwick to Rio was…formidable…to say the least. As soon as my mum waved me off at the airport, I was alone. Fully equipped with my backpack, bum bag and brave face, I was ready for the flight and I was ready for Brazil. Blessed to be sat in the back row with a space between me and another woman, I was able to stretch out and enjoy the journey without having to remain aware of the proximity of my elbow to my next-door neighbours. (This wasn’t the case for the flight home, and I feel like I didn’t appreciate this journey as much as I should have done!)
As the end drew nearer, an impending sense of doom was beginning to occupy my mind with the realisation that, as soon as this plane lands, I’ll be in Rio… on my own. It was my first time being abroad alone and it was also night-time, which isn’t the most optimistic time to arrive. However, it was important to remember that the likelihood of anything bad happening on the first day of my trip was slim to none. The first step off the plane, despite being nearly 10pm BRT and winter, came accompanied with an intense wall of heat and humidity. There was no denying that I had arrived.
Departures was overwhelmed with taxi drivers and companies shouting for business. Of course, many would think that a confused looking 18 year old girl would be easy prey to scam… and I was. After paying about double what I should have, I was happy to be sat in my hostel without having encountered any danger. Everyone I met at the hostel was lovely and welcoming, but I was leaving at 5am to travel down to Florianopolis, so I spent those few hours in that hostel sleeping… or at least trying to.
The two flights I took from Rio to Florianopolis that morning were the most amazing flights I’d ever taken. After arriving in Rio in the dark, I was able to view the city in all it’s glory. The initial sighting of Christ the Redeemer protruding from Corcovado mountain and overlooking the city was unforgettable. The land rich with greenery and bubbling with mountains meeting the scintillating blue ocean was truly a sight to behold. Yet, I was letting it go as I travelled further and further away. I would have to wait patiently for my month-long journey to collide with Rio once again.
As the plane progressed further south, my eyes were met with the most amazing aerial view of the landscape that I could ever imagine. Due to the plane only being a third full, I had been able to secure a whole row to myself. With my eyes firmly fixated out of the window, and my mind distanced from the Portuguese conversation around me, I fell in love. The tempting silhouettes of Ilha Grande, Restinga da Marambaia and the islands scattered along the green coast, the white beaches, the winding mountains, the flowing rivers and the vast miles of human-free, untouched space supplied unimaginable enchantment. I could never have asked for a greater spectacle to be greeted with.
The beauty of the journey may well have been endorsed by the comfort I felt due to the knowledge that once I landed in Florianopolis, I would be in good company and would lose the title of solo female traveller. A rollercoaster of emotions to begin my trip, but I couldn’t have been more excited to experience everything yet to come.