It took me more than 24 hours to fly to the other side of the world. 12 hours across the Atlantic Ocean, in what turned out to be one of my scariest flight experiences ever. I think Mother Nature decided to show me her worst before she could show me her best. The huge plane trembled like a leaf in the wind bravely going through what the flight attendants politely called “un mar de turbulencias”. And while we were “atravesando” this sea of turbulence, I seriously thought about my life so far, about the possibility that these might be my last hours on Earth, or actually above it.
This trip provided me with a wonderful opportunity to reconsider what I had to be grateful for in my life and to think of all the reasons I still so badly wanted to live. It also made me incredibly happy to have my feet back on the ground when we finally landed and gave me a renewed sense of wonder for everything around me. I discovered a fresh capacity to look at the new world unfolding before me with a child’s eyes – full of joy and curiosity and deeply connected to the magic of being alive.
I finally made it to Brazil, the land of luscious green forests, breathtaking sunsets, wild waves, amazingly colorful birds and strange bugs. I found myself happily drowning in the emerald sea that assaulted my senses from all directions.
Waiting for my last plane connection to my final destination in Bahia I had a few hours to get acquainted to the warmth of the people here. I’ve seen countless people hugging, stewardesses coming back from their flights happily greeted by their colleagues at the airport with a kiss on the cheek and a heartfelt hug, people smiling everywhere I looked.
I wondered what is it about this land and its people. In the few days I’ve been here I’ve seen more people smiling than I see at home, in Bucharest, in a whole month. Shop-keepers, waiters, people on the street – they all seem so care-free and living in the moment. On the reservation where I spend part of my time a house is being built. All day long one can hear workers laughing, joking among themselves and singing. Never once did I hear one raised tone or word spoken in anger. People simply seem content with doing the work and with spending all those hours every day alongside each other.
Where does this apparently intrinsic joy come from? Are they all genuinely happier than people from other parts of the world? Could it be because of the sun and all the green surrounding them at every step? Or is it just the way they are? Is it contagious? Could I bring some of it back home?
“People here don’t really understand the notion of “stress'” – a friend who has been living here for some years told me. “They don’t live on tight schedules, they live life one day at a time”
Another expat living here – a lovely, cheerful, Australian woman – is running a bakery together with her Brazilian husband. We were discussing how business has dropped in the town of Itacare over the past year or so and how apparently business owners are complaining that tourists don’t spend as much as they used to. She told me: “When we first opened this business we both agreed on what we reasonably expected to get as income from our shop – it wasn’t much, but it was the least we’d hope for. We’ve been pretty much able to make that income on a daily basis and we are extremely grateful. We won’t get rich, but life’s good, we can raise our child peacefully and we really enjoy what we have”.
I’m not going to idealize Brazil or its people. Of course there are problems, there is poverty, there is crime and of course there are discontented people. From many points of view people here are worse off than people back home, in Romania. To me, this makes it even more amazing that they manage to keep this joie de vivre, despite all hardships.
I wonder if there is anything we could learn from them. Perhaps the secret to happy living doesn’t lie solely in how much you have or how successful you are. Actually, I know quite a few people who are very well off and deeply unhappy. The joy of life really seems to be a matter of attitude.
Are you happy with what your life gives you? Do you choose to see the bright side in everything that comes your way? How open are you to offer a kiss and a hug to a virtual stranger?
Genuine connection, alongside a willingness to embrace life with a smile might well be the beginning of a path towards a different way of living – less worried for tomorrow and more grateful for today. This was my first lesson from this land of ever-green forests and smiling people.