Our Family Adventure in Brazil: Top 10 Lessons Learned

Now that we’ve been back from our 4 month family adventure to Brazil, I though it would be good to look back to see if I could identify some of the lessons we’ve learned as a family during our stay there.  These are “lessons” are in no particular order, just thoughts that Heather and I put together.

  1. $$$ != happiness.  To translate that code in to plain English: Money and possessions do not equal happiness. While having a roof over your head and food on your table are probably necessary for most people to be happy, after that, more money and possessions don’t make people “more” happy. It is easy to see that is the case in the faces of the kids from the slums playing on the beaches in Rio.  After the basics are taken care of, it is the relationships we have and nurture that bring happiness into our lives.
  2. Owning a car is a convenience, but not a necessity.  We went 4 months using almost solely public transportation in a semi-rural area of Brazil.  We had to plan further ahead, and travel time was increased, but if we really wanted to do something, then we took the time to plan a trip on the bus to do it.  Our travelling became much more deliberate, and as an added bonus, we met a lot of very nice people while travelling on the bus.
  3. The open ocean is alive, powerful, and can be very dangerous.  We learned this in our couple of weeks in Brazil when our two oldest boys were almost sucked out to sea in a Rip Tide.  They were lucky to be able to swim sideways and get out of the current before they were too tired to swim anymore.
  4. The most joyful moments for me during our trip were not looking at the Iguacu Falls , or standing below the Christ Redeemer statue in Rio, but in helping out at the home for Children with AIDS and sharing dinners and conversation with our friends.  While I’m glad we went to Iguacu Falls and Rio, I am also so grateful that we were able to serve.  The joy in the eyes of the children as we played with them, and cuddled them is priceless.
  5. Taking time to slow down was very enjoyable. We can choose not to be so busy. Our days do not need to be 100% full before we start to turn down new activities for our kids, or take on new commitments in our personal and professional lives.
  6. Smiling and saying hello to people on the street is a great way to get to know new and interesting people. This meshes nicely with “taking time to slow down is enjoyable” in that when you have a little bit more free time, you don’t feel guilty when you go a little bit out of your way to get to know your neighbours and co-workers better.
  7. Being to ashamed to wear a bikini or speed is a learned cultural behavior. At the beach everyone wears bikini’s and speedo’s, and no one bats an eye lash.
  8. Being Canadian has it’s benefits.  For better or worse, in Brazil when people find out you speak English and are not American, they treat you better. In general if people know your are American they are not as friendly with you until (and if) they get to know you better.
  9. Language barriers are very real. The most difficult thing for me and my family, was that everyone in the family depended on me to help translate when doing new activities, or inviting friends over who did not speak any English.  This improved some what over time, but did not entirely go away.
  10. Trying new activities and foods can be a lot of fun.  We did not enjoy every new thing we tried, but we did find new activities that we will hopefully will continue to do for a long time to come. Some of the new activities that we will continue to do are the Brazilian martial art Capoeira (along with the music that goes with it), Brazilian Jiu-Jitusu and eating Feijoada (spiced rice and beans).


  1. Dear Rich and Family,

    I was weeping while reading this. Thank you so much for this amazing list. These are the reasons we take our children once a year there. They play with these loving children and learn so much about true happiness. Time in a slower “clock”, community and joy.

    It is so beautiful to know your family experienced all of these gifts. Your children will remember and cherish this forever.

    Beijos em todos,
    Ana Paula

  2. Thanks for your kind words Ana! It was a wonderful learning experience for us all.

  3. Nice article. Some of the reasons I moved to Mexico! 🙂

    I always encourage my family and friends to get out of their country to learn a little about the world and themselves.


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