March 2, 2021

The Backpacker From Brazil

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When I started thinking about going to Europe, my family turned my idea down quickly. Travelling to Ireland, alone, with 800 euros only and the ticket back booked to three months after my arrival? Crazy.”

You’ll be exploited, robbed, live with ‘rootless’ people, and you’ll end up coming back knowing how experienced we are”.

I was 19 years old and as brazilian families are not very familiar with the whole backpacking scene, they were almost thinking I was nuts! Even friends of mine, that thought my ideas were wicked and very adventurous, told me “just don’t sell your body”! hee hee. But instead of the prerrogatives, I saved the money for the ticket and on
the 20th of March, I was flying to Dublin.

The plans? Look for a job, save some money, make some friends and go travelling afterwards. As simple as that. I heard that Dublin was a good bet, as the job opportunities were massive and the irish people were really friendly. The irish never disappointed me!

There is this place called Temple Bar where there are tons of bars and the huge amounts of people strays, trying every tap. I went alone in the first night to The Oliver St. John Gogarty. In a short while, I was drinking and chatting with the irish blokes, tourists and immigrants in a wonderful atmosphere. What a great thing for a first night!

Dublin made me feel little bit like home. In the following days, walking around, the city surprised me with its vibe, beauty and history, sometimes dramatic, some times glorious.

But not everything was that nice, though, in the very beginng. Walking around, looking for a job in every single place, I just could not find a job. In one week all I heard was ‘no’ and ‘what’s your insurance number?’. Nothing! In one week, the despair was in my face. Even though I made some friends with whom I used to go out, I knew that I wouldn’ have enough money to keep that lifestyle for a long time. The lack of money and the tension started to affect my mood and my capacity to socialize.

In one week I was exhausted and willing to come back home. Humiliated, tired and jaded. I needed to get out of Dublin in order not to get mad.

Surfing in the internet, I started looking for the prices in the following cities: Liverpool, Killarney and Glasgow. In the first one, there was the Beatles factor, in the second one, an american told me that there were some jobsavailable and in the third one, there was a father of a friend that offered me accomodation. I went to Glasgow, eventhough everyone kept saying it is a grey industrial city with not much to see. But I had to think thoroughly! I had to save money! So, I’d stay there, in that home atmosphere with time to think and maybe find a job down there.

I arrived there about seven in the morning. Not to bother my friend’s father, I decided to stay in a hostel for the first night, as it was so early in the morning. The attendant in the Eurohostel said there was vacancy just for that night. It was Easter and all the hostels were full. Why should I care? This hostel was awful for my mood. It’s a small hotel with hostel
prices where no one socializes. About Glasgow, I can say it’s a really friendly city, but tough and dark enough to depress me. Anyway, as I was sure to stay at my friend’s father’s, I was OK. The only person I talked to in the hostel was an old english man from Essex. He was about 50, but was dressed and talked as if he was a youngster. For instance, I was nice to him, as I generally am and as it’s advisable when dealing to people in the dorm. The only sentences I’ll write here will be enough to show his intentions: “You have such an athletic body, looks like a boxer. I’m very liberal for a british person”. I walked out of the hostel and just came back late at night.

In the following day, the time to get out of the hostel was 10:30 and that was what I did. I tryied to call my friend and he said his father went out of town for the Easter! Ahh! Again I was really tense as in Dublin! I walked into a bookshop to look for a place to stay during the easter and then, who knows? Maybe come back home and that would be it! My trip was a total
fiasco! With the backpack in, I got the ‘Lonely Planet Scotland’ and found Stirling and its indie hostel. A 37.000 habs city, historical capital of Scotland.

My dialog with the receptionist:
-Please, do ya have vacancy for tonight?
-Well, we have three beds, you’ll probably need a reservation.
-But I don’t have a credit card.
-Uhmm, I’ll take your name and I’ll hold a bed for you. But if you give up
on coming, give me a call! What’s you name?
-Alright – I said exhausted – I’ll spell it – I was tired of no one
understanding my name – M-A-N-O-E-L.
-Where are you from?

In a sudden he started speaking portuguese! That was Allan. A scotsman that lived in Brazil for three years. Later I found out that he hold that bed for me eventhough many people came looking. When I arrived, we had a long talk when I explained my situation. Summerizing what happened in the following weeks: he showed me this restaurant that hired ‘under the table’ and I
started working in the hostel for accomodation.

So, it was two months living in Stirling, a city that warmly made me feel like home. Beautiful, friendly… perfect!

The Willy Wallace Hostel is a perfect place to the whole backpacking thing. The manager, young and that travelled all over the world, once told me “I make this hostel for the backpackers, not against them”.

He only hires backpackers to work there and sometimes takes the guests out, bringing such an atmosphere that hardly found in the hostels I’ve been eversince. In other hand it’s pretty organized and welcoming. I’m sick of these hostels that are almost like hotels and kill the socializing of the backpackers – that many times are solo and need good mates and nice chats. This specific hostel has characteristic and strongly recomend it to anyone that ever goes to Scotland. Stirling is a city that has attractions for one or two days, however, I’ve seen people that came and stayed longer only because of the hostel itself.

I started working in an italian restaurant, that even looks like a nice place and has nice food, but is nothing more than a place where the bosses rips the employees off, accounting on the fact that we don’t have a work permit, so we can’t complain. They charge taxes, in the first place, and also make waiters do other duties rather than waitering, when the restaurant
is not full. They also keep a look at everyone to see if they’re not doinganything wrong. It was a shame, because, apart from me that was just working there temporarly, there were people that were immigrants and need the job.
The argie chef, a wanker, probably frustrated, was the worst. We didn’t like each other at all. Before the World Cup he kept saying “this cup will be easy! Brazil is too shitty to be a problem”. Hee hee! I’d like to listen towhat he’s saying now that Argentina didn’t even pass to the second phase.
Anyway, the mates from the hostel and even the other parts of the staff in the restaurant, made it really worthwhile. They were the basic reason that I stayed and kept on working there.

After two months I had some money! 450 euros and 160 quid. I caught a plane to Brussels. The city is beautiful, but there’s nothing special about it. But I was lucky enough to stay in the house of that same english friend’s sister. I didn’t know they were rich! The house was big and gorgeous! But the family itself would be enough, so warm and welcoming.
From Brussels, I went to Amsterdam. Unorganized I am, I got there without booked accomodation, which is a serious mistake. Whenever you go to Amsterdam, it doesn’t matter what part of the year, you have to book a decent hostel. For a simple reason: there are the hostels that are not decent and that you might have to stay if there is no other option. I had to stay
in this disgusting place for the same price as the Flying Pig which is really nice. In the floor there was a wet carpet with this liquid I don’t know what it is and the dirty and scruffy linen.

Anyway, what a gorgeous city! The canals, the bikes, the beautiful people! A fresh youth that is found walking around and in the cafés of the Jordaan. But there is the other side. The fame Amsterdam holds as a free-sex and drugs available city brought too many junkies that survive by begging money to buy their drugs. In the city’s crossroads, there are this huge banners saying “Be aware of the pickpockets” and in the train station people fight for your money! Apart from that, everything flows relaxed and organized.
I went with three americans to have a full Amsterdam experience. We went to these coffe-shops where they sell ganja legally. You have to ask for a menuwith all the varieties of pot and we choose ‘John Lennon’, one gram for 12 euros, the softest weed I’ve ever smoked. I pushed and pushed, thinking the flavour was so soft that the sensation would be as well. In a moment I was completely stoned! We went for a walk in the Red Light District where all these girls are dancing and stripping in the windows. But the streets are irregular and thinking I’d get lost, I left the americans without even saying anything to them. I had the Royal Palace as a reference, because the front of it faces the main square, the Dam. So I got to this church that I
thought it was the palace. As a result, I rounded it thousand of times before realised it was not the palace, definetly. Anyway, I got to the hostel safely!
After all the madness in Amsterdam, I went to Brugge, a small medieval town in Flandres. The city is beautiful! It’s a shame though, that the citizens had disapeared…Tourists are everywhere, everytime, there’s no one to give a precise information. The streets where there is no touristic point, no one at all! The hostel is excelent (Snuffel Sleep Inn), there is even a bar with
belgian beer – yummy! Very clean and good for socializing and listen tales from other travellers.

I became friends with a canadian and a group of crazy mexicans. We walked all over Brugge and had gread fun! They were all really nice guys.
Then, I went to Paris, the most intriguing place of all the trip. I stayed in the best location, between Arc de Trioumphe and Arc de la Defènse. In Hattie’s, to whom I showed Rio around six months ago. She was really sweet! At the first sight, everything is gorgeous, beautiful, breathtaking… It’s even weird to see the Eiffel Tower in the horizon! Anyway, the people are soooo rude and grumpy, I was even hesitating to ask if they had the time! So to visit it is brilliant, but to live must be bad! By the way, the tube is crap, though it’s cheap and comprehensive.
Already lacking of money, I went to London, the best place to be when you’re poor, if irony is applicable! What an expensive place! I stayed in my great friend John’s house in Notting Hill, that I met in Ilha Grande and that stayed in my place as well. The city is irresistable! Convent Garden, all the attractions, Notting Hill, the confident people! But anyway, no backpackers would be able to stay there too long if they’re not working. It hurts that I went away so soon, but that’s the way it is! I stayed for two days and loved it. The tube seems to be made out of lego, and the people are so civilized that Parisians looked like savages in comparison.

My friend took me out to dinner in a Thai restaurant and we even went out to drink. He is a top guizzer! Everything was fine, specially because I went to buy what people sent me money to, so I can say I went shopping for a day!

Now I’m back home, still dizzy about everything that a trip like this may cause.Many interesting people I met, so many prejudices I’ve lost, so much experience gained.

It may sound not much from the outside, but for me it was a lot, afterall I’m just a 19-years old bloke from the middle-class that never worked before nor had to worry about money. In a way, it changed my life. Before I was always complaining about not being rich nor no longer having a father to afford all my excentric projects. This is not a big deal anymore, as coming back concerned I made it all with my efforts only is such a good feeling!.

Now I have to settle down for six months and start uni. It will be a daily fight against the travelling bug, as it already is. I just can’t wait to come back to the road again!

-By Manoel Netto

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