I startle out of plane-sleep as we are flying over THE AMAZON, so indicated on the monitors. It is 4 am on the 30th of January.

Travel, though it pleases me, does not make my blood sing anymore. Nevertheless I feel the leap of excitement. Just as we have built a myth around the Amazon, we have raised the idea of travel to great heights, on the ladder of our collective yearnings for … transformation?

Both the Amazon and travel can be astonishing, but what about their underbelly?

The reality of travel is also discomforting, jarring, even gut wrenching. Tropical rain buckets down on you while the sun tries to suck in all your strength. Vegetarian food is unheard of, the tea is weak, spices taboo and sickly sweet cakes are standard breakfast fare.

At the hotel you make for your bed at the earliest opportunity. As you lie down, music from god knows where rushes in to welcome you. You close the open window and put on the AC. (The need for survival trumps environmental ethics.) You wake up after too few hours of sleep with a sore throat, the dozen things that must be done tick-tocking in your tired brain. After all you are in this exotic, foreign land for work, where things that were easy to accomplish in the familiarity of the office environment loom Herculean.

All this is not so hard. These circumstances are “normal” and can be dealt with. The difficult thing is the pressure the traveller feels to maintain and ideally embroider that well-entrenched, collective fantasy of travel and work travel (same thing is it not?!)
Travel as adventure, revelation, pleasure, fun, escape. It is something truly extraordinary and quite distinct from doing laundry in the sink.

Wave upon wave of travel writer, informal or official, has stoked that fire. (There have been a few dissenters.)

So what should I tell you now?

Should I talk about divine coconut water and delicious coconut flesh? Of coconut ice-cream and coconut desserts? The charm of the caipirinha – Brazil’s signature cocktail abroad which tastes pretty darn good at home as well? The creativity of Brazilian design? The colour of its weekend craft fairs where you can buy an amazing array of high-quality goods? The vigour of Brazilian democracy? Describe the amazing helpfulness of the people? The soulfulness of its street carnivals and the totally over the top quality of its garish official parades? Tell you that there are amazingly tall, beautiful, healthy trees amidst the endless skyscrapers? Remind you of the heady aroma of earth blasted by rain?

That the people I meet are mostly light skinned?

That I skipped my survival Portuguese classes but am getting around OK by acting, drawing, pointing, making up words, seeking out English speakers?

That Brazil is a country where I felt at home soon after arrival and that feeling has stayed with me?

That I may be making it all up and if I didn’t, you would make it up for me?