It seems to be always at the least expected time, in the least expected place, I find the most inspirational people. Here I was in São Paulo, Brazil, a part of the Ball State at the Games team and that inspirational person was right in our hostel.
Her name is Carmen Dalla Rosa and she worked at the front desk of Ô De Casa Hostel. She always had a smile on her face and was so sweet in making sure everyone was comfortable in our rooms. Little did I know that this woman had a lifetime’s worth of stories about her travels from nearly every corner of the earth.
When in conversation, she made me feel like we had known each other forever and were old friends simply picking up where we had left off. At first thinking of her as a native Brazilian, she proceeded to say, ‘Me? I am only just learning Portuguese for a few months now.’ Although she could have fooled me. When she spoke in Portuguese to other hostel staff members or to our host, Victor, she spoke with a confident grace that I admired. She was actually from a small town called Asolo, a province of Treviso, just north of Venice. She had been in São Paulo for only eight months and yet she had the way of the Brazilians down.
I asked her about her travels and how she was able to accomplish it. I mean if I were not a college student, there would be no way that I would be able to afford traveling abroad as often as I do. What started as an interview turned into a long friendly heart-felt conversation as she explained to me her tricks of the trade. It was such a pleasure to be in good company.
Save. This is the most obvious one, but many people (especially college students) take out loans that they will have to pay off in the future for a trip. ‘It is usually the American way to do this,’ Carmen said, ‘but save up for the trip now so you will not have to worry about the money later. … Have a starting base [money] at least. Even when already abroad, I save a little sometimes so I can save up for something special.’ Her eyes brightened, ‘for example, I will buy a beer instead of a Caipirinha (Brazil’s national cocktail) or take the metro instead of a taxi. … Once a person gets to know the lay of the land, it is easier to save that way’.
Hostel. If you are an American reading this, this might sound a bit scary, but after my personal experiences living in hostels in Brazil, my worries were put aside. Carmen had told me she was able make it just by working in hostels. ‘Usually if you work in a hostel, they will offer benefits such as room, food, laundry, etc.’ She showed me two websites she has used in Europe, Asia, and South America for her travels: Couchsurfing.com, an online site that allows the user to sign in with Facebook or email. This site allows users to seek a person’s home, hostel, or apartment space they will be renting out for a time. The second website, Workaway, allows the user to search for hostels that are in need of new hires. This can also include lodging, room, laundry, etc., as mentioned earlier depending on the hostel. ‘This way I will never ever pay to stay where I live. At times I am being paid to stay.’
Skills. Carmen told me about the site Worldpackers, it offers the exchanging of skills for housing accommodations. As she showed me the site, it had places all over the world searching from musicians to nurses. I got the feeling of being small and obsolete. Here I was sitting next to a woman that alone spoke German, French, English, Portuguese, Spanish, and of course her native Italian (and this was just her language skills)—what could someone possibly want me for? She opened the occupation tab and asked ‘What skills do you have?’ I hesitated, ‘I can sew, but I really feel like I do not have anything useful.’ I admitted. Her eyes widened, ‘What are you talking about? There are plenty of openings for native English speakers’ She typed in ‘English’ and sure enough places from Mexico to China there was someone looking for an English speaker. Take away for this skills point-no skills required.
Airfare. At times some hostels listed on Workaway (see hostel) will even pay for airfare to the hostel’s country. If this is not included, this is where the saving comes in. ‘I look carefully and wait because almost always there is a hostel that will include airfare’ said Carmen. ‘If the hostel that I accept to work at is not a good match, there is an option a user can select to have one way ticket home ready at all times. So I know that option is always there and I am not stuck in a bad situation’.
After she had explained all of the amazing things about traveling abroad, I finally asked her the why behind her travels. Her response shocked me. ‘Where I come from, is see my friends getting married and having children. … I just felt for me there was something more than that life. I was tired of my surroundings so I left everything and started traveling’.
She explained that at first she moved to Berlin and lived there for a few years. ‘But it was not enough, so I traveled all through Asia starting in Japan eventually making my way back to Italy’. She lived in her hometown for a few months before she felt the urge to pick up her travels. ‘I still was missing something in my life so came here [São Paulo]…and have been here for the past eight months’.
I was sad to leave Carmen as BSU at the Games proceeded on to Rio de Janeiro. Her story of traveling to find the thing she is missing in her life inspired me to continue on with my search. I hope this will encourage everyone to find their happiness in traveling. Bon voyage.
Gabriella Harbridge is a Ball State University student and writer for Ball State at the Games, a group of 50 journalism students traveling from Muncie, Ind., to Rio for the Olympic Games. Follow them at bsuatthegames.com, @bsuatthegames on Twitter and Instagram, and facebook.com/bsuatthegames on Facebook.