Hello, Sao Paulo!

A few months ago, Etihad Airways launched non-stop flights between Abu Dhabi and Sao Paulo, Brazil, the airline’s first destination in South America.

My toes wouldn’t stop wriggling in excitement. I dreamed of the day I’d set foot in this colorful football country.

This year I am turning 28.

A few weeks before my birthday, I was ushered into another round of painful lessons in the school of life. I was caught off guard, pressed on every side and struck down like no other. I needed time off.

In all my travels, I see God clearer. I knew exactly what I needed. When one dream fails, you try to fulfill another.

So off I went to buy a backpack, shoved my clothes in, booked a ticket and jumped into a plane to Sao Paulo. It helped that Brazil is visa-free for me up to 90 days.

No big plans and no set itinerary, just me and my adventurous self.

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This is Etihad’s longest flight and I survived 15 hours of butt-shifting because no one was seated beside me. Thankfully.

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Good for me too that I haven’t slept a wink before the trip. I spent all night figuring out my husband’s surprise birthday gift for me. Because of that, half of the flight, I was dead to the world.

I had always been fascinated with Brazil. When I was a little kid, I remember buying those cheap snacks that had toys inside. They used to have international-themed freebies like Miss Universe stickers, football team pogs, paper dolls dressed in flags, and a lot of silly enticing collectibles.

Whenever I got Brazil I would jump up and down and shriek like I won the lottery. I rallied my friends to believe that Brazil had the prettiest ladies, the best football uniforms and the most appealing flag. Through the years, my collection grew from tiny toys to shirts, bags, slippers, underwears and seemingly useful whatnots. I even wanted to marry a Brazilian boy.

After what seemed like eternity, I finally saw one of the world’s largest cities from above.

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Nathalie, from my hostel, picked me up from the airport. She was so friendly and warm, I instantly felt at home.

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After half an hour of driving through traffic, my backpack arrived.

It was the eve of my birthday when I settled into my room shared with other backpackers. As my head hit my pillows, an overwhelming sense of peace embraced me and these words of comfort lulled me to sleep,

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed… Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

God is the God of my dreams – those that were shattered, fulfilled or yet to be born.

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