I was not making a very good first impression. With a mouth full of water, bathing suit full of sand and sunglasses long gone in the surf, Copacabana Beach was not taking it easy on me.
“You have to dive under the waves like this,” instructed my Australian friend, diving under the wave and popping up on the other side looking totally at ease.
Somehow I’d made it to the age of 22 never having had a proper swim in the ocean. While I had plenty of stamps in my passport by then, none of them happened to be beach destinations.
While these days I’m nimble in the water, have a few more tan lines and can go from travel clothes to “looks like I’ve been at the beach all week” in under 5 minutes, I learned a few important lessons that day.
Go big or go home: This wasn’t just any beach, this was the famous Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We happened to be camped out on the beach just west of the Copacabana Palace hotel under the rainbow flag, which is the gay and transvestite section, known as the Stock Market.
So dive in and tackle the biggest challenge first. Everything else will be a piece of cake.
Timing is everything: It was literally the eve of Carnival and the entire city was wound so tight I didn’t think the energy could possibly last until the main event a few days later. Being swept up in the frantic energy gave my beach experience added energy.
You have to work for it: I was in Brazil on business staying at the Copacabana Palace Hotel. Check out this awesome history of the hotel’s scandalous past here.
I was a young advertising executive, and somehow managed to convince my boss and my clients that my presence was necessary on this shoot. In life you have to work hard for most things. Sitting back and waiting won’t help you fulfill your dreams.
When in Rome (or Rio): The excitement in the air was palpable as it was the eve of Carnival. Slow moving busses carried dancers and blasted live music from Ipanema beach down through Copacabana beach. We joined in the parade of dancing, drinking and singing, carried away with the crowd.
Embrace the journey and live like a local. Don’t watch from the sidelines.
Have you learned any life lessons while on the road? I want to hear them here!