Road Trips: A Mesmerizing Olympic Tour Through Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

A journey of food, fashion, and friendly faces that began with an unfortunate event.

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As we arrived into Tom Jobim International Airport in Rio de Janeiro, we were prepared for everything: Zika virus, muggers, pickpockets, etc. that everyone had warned us about. We were extra careful to photograph everything including our taxi receipt, exits, our ride’s progress and more.

Then an oversized pocket led to an iPhone 6 mishap. It fell back into the cab, we paid, we tipped, he drove away, and that was that. We prepared for all the things that would happen to us, but not for the things that happen because of us.

Throughout the trip, the inconvenience of not having a phone hit hard, relying on a coworker’s phone for the both of us. But while we ventured deeper and deeper into Rio, the lack of technology eventually became a freedom, we were able to soak in more of the culture that Copacabana, Ipanema and Barra da Tijuca had in store. The people were incredibly friendly and helpful, the locals were insightful and patiently accommodating (despite the language barrier) and the sights were both culturally rich, while not too unfamiliar. The radio, while more often than not played international hip-hop and pop songs, did give us a taste of true samba music that Rio prides itself over. Further, the weather was incredibly comfortable–a godsend for the athletes and guests who dreaded hot and humid environments.

Street art was perhaps the most prominent cultural feature of Brazil, as wall-after-wall was proudly displaying local artists’ work that ranged from simple tags and characters to murals and full-scale exhibition-like galleries. The artwork not only displayed the vibrant lifestyles of the Rio de Janeiro population, but often times were messages or symbols to political figures or events that Brazil had undergone throughout its extensive history.

Fashion-wise, Rio provided a glimpse into a style that’s strikingly similar to that of Miami or California, as the culture in Brazil’s second most populated municipality mimicked the lifestyle of surfers, longboarders and beach-goers more than urban sprawl city slickers. These design cues eventually found their way onto the adidas Originals Superstar Foundation sneaker, which was the topic of discussion when we met with Ricardo Nunes, founder of Brazil’s premier sneaker website Sneakers BR. Ricardo shed light not only on the booming art and fashion scenes in both Rio and São Paulo (where he hails), but also some details on the future of Brazilian couture and influences.

The trip thus enlightened us on the richness that, while secluded to simply Copacabana, Ipanema, and Barra da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro had to offer. South America welcomed us–or more accurately, the world–into its arms and we were fortunate enough (regardless of the careless beginnings) to be presented with sights, sounds, tastes and environments that few densely populated metropolises could even dream of offering.

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