By Rhonda Armbrust, author of the Remote Viewer series
For many of us, our responsibilities and drive to get ahead and prepare for a secure future take over our lives. I was committed to raising my children and as a single parent; it was all-consuming. In a good way. I loved all the stages my sons went through as they matured into manhood.
I am blessed to have attentive, loving sons who pamper me. And so, when they each offered me a chance to have enormous adventures, I dove in head-first, surprised by my spontaneity.
I had believed that, in my senior years, there would be no treks through jungles or overnight flights to exotic places. Undermining my eagerness to see new sights was the nagging question of whether I was up to traversing the globe. Especially during a pandemic.
After tossing my fears and limiting beliefs aside, I started roaming and continued for six months. My first stop was Maui, Hawaii, as I eased into my life of adventure. The number of COVID cases there was low and precautionary measures high. It seemed like a safer place to be than the town I
lived in. The Hawaiian government had recently opened up the islands, except for Kauai, to people with a negative COVID test, and so everyone on my plane had just been tested. Because of the pandemic, the islands were far less crowded than they normally are. So, for those reasons, I thought it was a great time to visit the Aloha State.
I had been to Maui, actually lived there, in 1978. It had changed. A drought had hit Lahaina, and the lush terrain that I remembered was dry and brown. My son and I discovered the flora I sought when we drove the winding road to the eastern side of the island. Here we hiked to waterfalls and swam beneath them. It felt like returning to the Hawaii of my youth.
Next stop, Oahu. Again, it had been decades since I was there. Infrastructure improvements had been made. I especially enjoyed the treks my son and I took up some extremely muddy, slippery, and narrow paths to multiple waterfalls. The scrambles through the jungle left me feeling as if I had climbed Mt. Everest! I was living the dream! The muddier the better!
After a brief reprieve at home, I set out again. This time to Nashville, Tennessee. People don’t just party there, they get down. Although dancing was prohibited because of COVID, my feet danced below my chair whenever I heard songs that I knew the line dances to. Think Country Girl and Boot Scootin’ Boogie. It took all my strength to stay in my seat.
From Nashville, we flew to Charleston, South Carolina. I adored the neatly placed English inspired architecture on display in the colorful Rainbow Row houses. You can also find Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, and other influences in the pristine homes and buildings in Charleston. A friendly shopkeeper described much of the city's history that seeps from every landmark in remembrance of characters from pirates, Blackbeard, to presidents, Andrew Jackson.
A few days later, I touched down in Miami, Florida, and headed straight to Miami Beach, home of one of the best beaches I have ever laid down on. The sand is cleaned daily; the water is warm, and in some areas, it is not crowded. Looking easterly, you can see forever and the sunrises are stupendous.
I continued to challenge my “I don’t think I’ll have another big adventure” limiting belief as we hopped on a red-eye to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (after testing negative for COVID as required). Media coverage of the P-1 variant had dramatically lowered traffic to the country, and so we stretched out and slept, each having an entire row to ourselves. I had been studying the COVID numbers and knew that Rio had far fewer cases than places like Miami, Denver, or even Spokane. My plan was to keep my immune system working at a maximum level, wear a mask, practice good hygiene, and only pursue outdoor activities, which is not that hard to do in warm climates.
Rio is a diverse, dynamic, and sophisticated city, teeming with gorgeous and helpful people, and a landscape dotted with steep mountains dressed in lush tropical jungles. We explored the vast region from Sugarloaf Mountain to Barra, a beachside suburb with more retail shops than I have ever seen in one place. The Google translation app turns your English speech into Portuguese, which was handy. That app plus Google maps, and the easily accessible and affordable Ubers, helped me navigate the foreign city.
Some of my favorite attractions include the street art, which is everywhere because it was legalized in 2009, and the beaches that are within walking distance of our condo. There are local farmer’s markets several times a week, overflowing with fresh produce, meat, eggs, fish, the hottest spices I’ve ever sampled, and crafts. My most rejuvenating activity was an unforgettable healing session with a Japanese acupuncturist.
One evening, my son hosted a Brazilian wood-fired barbecue. Chef Édson Alexandre of Maxxima Gastronomia prepared appetizers including grilled shrimp, Yuca fries, and catupiry pastries, followed by seasoned rump and flank steak, chicken, and pepperoni sausage with a dressing made from manioc flour that is toasted in butter and is simply called crumbs. My favorite dish was the flambe banana with cinnamon and vanilla ice cream that exceeded my expectations. My mouth is watering remembering it. Our Brazilian guests taught us how to do the Samba which is a dance to a 1-2-3 beat with a heavy sway of your hips and shoulders. I did my best.
I try to wake early each morning, to see the sunrise over Sugarloaf mountain. In Rio, like in Hawaii, people gather at dusk near the beach to watch the sunset. It is an exhilarating ritual. You will find groups meditating or in their own way celebrating the passage of time. The vibe is gratitude, awe, and hope. You don’t need to speak the language to get that.
I’m still in Rio, struggling to leave. I check the weather here and compare it to the Northwest weather, and even though it is warming up there, I don’t schedule my flight home. It’s a struggle to break away.
I have learned how to maneuver through a country where everyone speaks an unfamiliar language, where I don’t have a car or know my way around a vast city haunted by rumors of violent crimes. I’ve settled into a comfortable rhythm and have written over a quarter of my fourth novel’s first draft.
During the pandemic, each person decides how to manage it. I respect everyone’s path as these choices are difficult. Prior to my travels, I had been isolating for a year, and that was not easy. Increasing anxiety held a death grip over me. I could have said no to these adventures, but right or wrong I decided to travel. Happily, I have remained COVID free. I am not promoting travel in these trying times because everyone must weigh their circumstances and determine their own strategies. But I believe that fear should not be the driving factor, and limiting beliefs are just that: limiting.
Someday I’ll go home and take care of business, but for now, I’m checking off items on my bucket list like a mad dog.
Update. I booked my flight. It will be hard to say goodbye to the people I will leave in Rio and the exotic flavors of this South American land. But now that I’m on a roll, I’m certain that my adventures will continue.