I’m in my thirties now, and I have begun to notice that quite a few of my lovely female friends have decided to leave the world as they know it and go off on adventures. I find this really inspiring and interesting, and want to share with you some of their stories. Because there are women of all generations out there who are looking to live their lives with courage, passion and a dash of the whimsical that makes them all so unique!
Hopefully it will be a reoccurring feature where I get to share their stories, told in their own words. These are women who are running in high heels in their own way, and who are in search of their own Pura Vida.
Be warned: This blog post is about travel, adventure and change…And the blogger and contributors hold no responsibility if it inspires you to embrace your own running in high heels adventure – in whatever form that may be… 😉
I hope you will enjoy reading about their experiences as much as I did. x
Samba de Michelle…
A lovely friend of mine, Michelle, who shares my passion amongst other things for fitness and wellbeing, good food, and the occasional caipirinha, tells of when she upped sticks from the London life she had known for the last decade, and moved to Brazil to live and work for six months. And how this bold move triggered a change in lifestyle and the start of a whole new journey for her. ‘Let me take you to Rio…’
(And to take you to this place and time, here is a song to listen to while reading this.… )
What led you to leave your job and make this big change?
I had already made the leap from safety of a 10 year career in the corporate world, to the fitness industry working in a brand new and inspiring fitness concept in the City of London. But after a year, realised that although I was heading in the right direction, my heart was and always had been set on hospitality and more specifically, the food sector. But having just made the career change and heading into my 30’s, had NO idea how to make yet another big move, beginning again. As fortune and good timing would have it, I was having this exact conversation with a friend who lives in Brazil. She had just found out that she was pregnant and had already decided she wanted to come home to London to have the baby. So she invited me to spend some time out there looking after her bed and breakfast for a few months when she came back. My heart and schedule magically opened up and a few months later, I was gaining my first work experience in hospitality in one of the most beautiful places in the world!
What drew you to this place?
I never knew that Brazil would one day hold a piece of my heart, but a chance conversation with a friend, opened up the doors to this wonderful place. I like to believe that the combination of timing, having an open mind and talking openly about my interests and desires to anyone who would patiently listen was the reason I ended up travelling there.
What did your friends and family say when you told them of your plans?
I have the most supportive and encouraging parents anyone could ask for. They always instilled in me a sense that I could and should pursue my dreams and desires in order to live a fulfilled and happy life, whatever that may be. Ironically, I’m an inherently anxious and cautious person, so when I first had the conversation with them, I expected to be met with quizzical looks and sighs and them inwardly wishing they had produced a daughter who knew exactly what, where and when at the appropriate times! Luckily, those were my own insecurities. They were both supportive and excited, probably for me, as much as for the prospect of a holiday somewhere exotic!!
When did it finally dawn on you that you were committed to this and leaving…?
Straight away! It was one of those angel choir singing in the background moments. When I said yes, I knew it was something I wanted to do. The following months were a tangle of farewells, packing and a lot of skipping around in anticipation.
How did you feel boarding the plane?
Simultaneously, apprehensive and excited. Would they have my vegetarian meal booked?!? In seriousness, I wondered what the h*ll I thought I was doing, running off with a bag packed at my age? Surely, this wasn’t very sensible or smart! Turns out it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
What have been your biggest challenges with this?
Packing up and saying goodbye to a life I had known for eleven years was one of the scariest and most uncertain things I’ve ever done. Moving forward into the unknown is something we all do every single day, but it seems magnified when you are leaving your comfort zone. Another challenge was the language, I didn’t speak a word of Portuguese, aside from ‘pineapple’, which can only get you so far!
Did you ever want to go back and change your mind? How did you overcome that?
No, no going back, only onward! I did spend a lot of time on my own, which at times felt challenging and uncomfortable. Being left with my own thoughts in a place unknown made me want to run straight back home, but I had a wonderful support network of people locally and back home to call in those moments. Being able to talk about my fears and frustrations gave me the courage to carry on. After a while, the uncertainty and simplicity of daily living became normal and welcome.
Tell us what life was like for you there?
Búzios is a beautiful holiday getaway located in the state of Rio. It has about 23 beaches, hiking trails, excellent restaurants and cafés and a diverse mix of Brazilians, Argentinians and Europeans living together. I was based slightly away from the hustle of town where nature and man live incredibly close to one another. Brazilians are welcoming, warm people and despite my lack of language and initial fears of being alone in the middle of nowhere, it didn’t take long to get into the happy rhythm of life and I met beautiful people, who I now call my friends.
A typical day started with the sound of hungry cats trying to get inside for breakfast. Guests would be welcomed in the morning with a freshly prepared meal of fruit, eggs, bread and preserves on the terrace or their private balcony. I would help them to plan their day, book taxis or give them walking directions to one of the nearby beaches. Once they were off to explore and the cheeky cats had been fed, room cleaning would commence, followed by preparation for the following days’ check’ins and meals. An hour would be spent taking care of social media, marketing and reservations and once all this admin had been done it was either time to do some grocery shopping or head to the beach. I never knew I was a beach bum until I lived in Brazil. The water is the best place for me to be and I would try to swim or go for a run on the beach every day. Aside from keeping fit and being by the waves, it was also a great place to bump into new friends.
What have been your best experiences?
Too many to count, but a few favourites were learning a new language, meeting new friends, the sea and the noticeable transformation within myself in terms of confidence to try new things and peace in mind.
One of the best moments was a thank you card and gift left by one of my guests. The card was written entirely in Portuguese and with it my first pair of Havaiana flip flops! I loved having been able to communicate with them entirely in Portuguese and it was joyful preparing breakfast for them each morning as they always appeared delighted. This is one of the paybacks for working in hospitality.
What have you learnt about yourself by doing this?
That hospitality is definitely my jam. I love to cook and look after people, especially when they’re on holiday! Also, that it’s entirely possible to do things I know very little about and with an open-heart and honest approach to succeed. It was very liberating to be away from my comforts and find happiness in simplicity.
What would you do differently, if anything?
I would try to worry less about the ‘what ifs’. As I mentioned before, I’m quite an anxious person and at times found myself feeling afraid or panicking that I wasn’t doing the right thing for myself or my friend’s business. The reality was that I was doing the best I possibly could with the tools and skills I had at the time, and if I could change anything I would have given myself a little more credit for what I was achieving and peace of mind.
Would you recommend this to your mother, sister, best friend, other women?
100%! Women should be empowered to free ourselves of the pressures of what we think family, society or the world at large expect of us. As long as you are not doing harm to yourself or others, go and pursue adventure in this life, whatever that may mean to you!
What advice or tips would you give them?
Do your research. If you’re travelling somewhere very different to your own culture or city, try to find out what the do’s and dont’s are within that place. Be safe and vigilant, but be free and open to people and new things. And definitely learn more than the local word for ‘pineapple’ before you arrive!
What is your biggest fear?
That I will not have spent enough of my life pursuing happiness. Being bogged down by fear and held back by that. This fear is helpful, as I think it drives me forward.
What is next for you…?
Learning to cook in Italy. Where else could I possibly go to learn about my new vocation!?
… And Michelle went and did just that!
After leaving Brazil, Michelle completed a brief but joyful period of culinary study in Florence, Italy before returning to London to run a small, creative and exciting deli kitchen in Barnes, where she shares her passion for food, community and wellbeing with colleagues and customers. Out of working hours she continues to pursue her passion for food, fitness, wellbeing and travel through inspiring conversation, self-study and work with the local community.