Tudo Bom 

giant rocks nestled in the water's edge in a quiet bay with boats in the background
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I took a walk alone down the streets of Ilha Grande passing the colorful homes, men playing soccer and the sweetest little girl on a walk with her baby doll tucked safely in its stroller. Without a care in the world other than her baby doll, the scene inspires thought rooted in the wonderment of childhood. The carefree and fearless approach to each day, the excitement therein, the naivety; for a moment I’m envious. She has a playful conversation with the doll, smoothed out the clothing, takes it from the stroller to her hip. We approach each other from opposite directions, but she doesn’t realize I’m watching her until she comes within ten feet of me and notices my wide smile. She smiles back and makes the doll wave at me as she passes. I wave back at her little baby, appeasing her greatly.

Further down the pebbled walkway, a stray dog topples himself over on his back in the middle of the road. Swaying to and fro scratching his back until contented then just lays there, panting, fully accomplished. This island paradise is the perfect follow up to my time in the touristy town of Paraty. A continued, colorful introduction to what is this massive country of ‘order and progress’. Paraty is fluorescent with brightly colored doorways with matching window sills, and cobblestone roads that flood when the moon is full.

The anticipation of an all-day boat cruise in the South Atlantic just off the coast of Paraty steers my heart in the direction it feels most secure, on the ocean. The flags at the bow flap in the strong wind as we pass small island after small island heading further out to sea. The crew entertains us with the Macarena and free-flowing caipirinhas as we drop anchor to cliff jump and swim in the warm waters. Our captain, Thiago, is more than handsome and he knows it. He brags endlessly about his fitness-full lifestyle as he repeatedly flexes his exposed six-pack navigating the water, commenting on his passion for the sun and sea; a pirates life indeed.

Flooded roads of Paraty, Brazil
Cobblestone roads, parked bikes and me
Ay ay Captain 😉👌🏾
Pirates life for me
Ilha Grande map
Footballers on parade
Unpaved roads and street art

The ‘Big Island’ is littered with abandoned boats and giant rocks suitable for sunbathing. Desperate for a break from heavy carbohydrates and grease, I choose a salad for lunch today. The seating area for the restaurant is on the beach allowing me to appreciate and feel the rising tide as I dine. The legs of my chair sink into the soft sand as the longest ends of my sundress are drenched by the soft waves. I’m grateful for this breathtaking view and the hearty salad before me, mindful in this beautiful moment surrounded by beautiful scenery, nature, and people.

Dusk settles on the island. The group settles in for a nightcap and a quick bite after watching locals practice Capoeira; a Brazilian martial art form incorporating music and dance. At the water’s edge children giggle while playing with giant bubbles on the sand. A group of older boys clamors over the cobblestone roads on trolleys pushed by their friends, racing to the end of the road. I sip on my Bohemia, take another bite of my quinoa burger and watch the moon peek out from behind the mountains and I am humbled. Being surrounded by such simple pleasures I’m again enchanted by the happiness of the simple life. Mom would have really loved this place.

Bubble magic and big smiles
Ile Grande sunset 🌅
Moonrise over the high hills

The tour keeps things next to non-stop; airports, vans, city to city. Every day filled with a new unforgettable experience. Brazil is massive and the greenery doesn’t disappoint. Tourism is both the lifeblood and the tangible evidence of the socioeconomic gap between the rich and the very poor. Boatloads of people roll in and disperse like the tide. In transit, the lifestyle and living conditions play out like a screenplay as I watch from the shuttle bus window; visibly changing along with the landscape.

The beaches on Ilha Grande are breathtaking. The white sands are as smooth as the refined sugar in a caipirinha. Chartered a taxi boat with a handful of the tour group in order to hike up to Lopes Mendes, voted by National Geographic as one of the best beaches in the world! This beach is unbelievable, photos do it zero justice. We picnic, chat, and sip our beer while a whale feeds just off the shore. We koo and ahh as it jumps, dives and slaps its tail fin on the surface; a private show.

20 minute hike into the woods and out to the other side brings you to this top ten beach
The hold the sea as on me…
Whales playground
My version of rock climbing

Saying farewell to island life is always challenging, but the busy streets of Rio de Janeiro await my arrival. The urban vibe and Brazilian culture that springs to life as we near the city are everything I’d hoped they would be. The close of the tour and my own space provide silence and peace of mind. Absent for too long from what my heart calls me-requires of me-I’m finally able to slow down and write.

The solace that finds me in the slowed pace brings deep thoughts and, of course, the tears. I try to meditate and calm my aching spirit, but the pain of missing her overwhelms me. I speak to her through the tears, “I miss you too much! Why aren’t you here? I need you here!” The depth of this pain remains heavy and is unlike any I’ve experienced to date. The feeling is as if my soul is literally ripped in two. I work to calm my breathing. In this rented bedroom curled into a ball, I whimper into the darkness, “goodnight momma” and drift into a deep sleep.

I wake the next morning with swollen eyes. Forcing myself out of bed I stretch my body upward towards the ceiling. I inhale deeply, exhale deeply. I repeat the action twice more. After a lukewarm shower, I pack a day bag, dress and head for Copacabana beach. The stretch of beach between my rented apartment and the hotel of the remaining members of the tour group enchants me. Couples are hand in hand, people of all ages playing volleyball, jogging or riding bicycles. The ever-present butt cheek, either in the flesh or carved out of the sand, a consistent reminder of which hemisphere I’m in. Artist and scam artists alike line the pathway selling, for lack of a better word, anything!

Want a tour of Sugar Loaf? Someone can help you along this stretch of beach with that. Want a Redeemer themed sarong? Someone can help you along this stretch of the beach with that. Want an antique Chinese string instrument or a multi-colored macramé hammock? Guess what? Having joked along the way about the size of my pack (60L and about 20kilos) I silence the shopper in me as I pass vendor after vendor. Carrying only a small canvas bag as I go I relish in the anonymity this part of the World provides me. Passing as a local, I’m relatively undisturbed by the tourist folly.

Volleyball, surfing, bike riding and artists in abundance
A girl on Ipanema goes walking
Sandcastles galore
You want it, they got it!

The spitfire CEO (Chief Experience Officer) of this tour group is an expert and customer service extraordinaire. This amazing young lady whose passion for life, laughter and loving thy neighbor give her an electric aura. Her attention to detail, natural hostess demeanor and flair for humanitarianism mirrors mine own and we are instantly bonded. Her big heart and contagious laughter remind me of my Mother. She and the beautiful people I’ve met in this chapter of my journey have helped me realize the urgency of which I should prioritize acceptance. That I need to take back the debilitating power I give to the ‘why’ and ‘how’, and to focus instead on the ‘who’ and ‘where’ to next. The courage they give me to continue this quest is priceless. Goodbyes never my forte, I dread the inevitable as the group continues to dwindle. The satisfaction I’m gifted by meeting these memorable souls from around the world is second only to travel itself.

GAdventures CEO, Pilar (Pily for short)
The group aka Spicy Pickles
Lapa steps aka Selaron Steps
Helicopter ride, ✔️ Iguazu Falls, ✔️
6 of 7 of the New World Wonders, done and done!
#Whereintheworld will Meredith San Diego go next?

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Welcome to Bag Lady Meredith San Diego!

As a global citizen with more than 57 passport stamps, my adventure mandatory, serial-expat existence offers intuitive insight into globetrotting as a solo Black, female.

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Bag Lady Meredith San Diego is always on the move! Completing her 57th country in 2022, where can you spot Meredith San Diego adventuring in 2023? Stay tuned to find out just where in the world is Meredith San Diego!