Teaching Traveling: There are all kinds of ways to be a “Teacher Traveler.” Meet Luiz, also known as Mister Brazil! Luiz, tell us about yourself.
MB: I’m from Buzios, a paradise peninsula with 23 gorgeous beaches, just 90 miles north of the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I am a 45 year old with an academic background in Portuguese and literature and post grad in in business with an extra course with a focus on Brazilian tourism. I began working in Buzios at the city hall in administration where I learned a lot about the inner politics and workings of a town. I also worked at area hotels where I got a good look what makes for a good hotel experience. My parents continue to work at a large luxury hotel in Buzios. I have now been in Columbia, South Carolina for the past eleven years. Besides my travel business, I work with students at the University of South Carolina, particularly at the Wesley Foundation. We take students on mission trips of various lengths both in the state and nationally but also to many countries all over the Americas, and even to Africa.
TT: Wow! Tell us about some of the interesting travels you have done and how they have impacted you.
MB: Coming to the USA for the first time was a fascinating and formative trip. It was my first international trip, and I joined a group of 17 young people for an educational and cultural journey. First, we had received students from South Carolina in Rio and also in my home in Buzios, and then six months later we visited the US and the students who we had hosted, then they hosted us for the same kind of trip. On that first trip to the USA I knew that I had discovered my passion for traveling and learning about other people and cultures. There was no turning back. That experience opened my mind, my ears and my eyes. Mister Brazil discovered the world.
The second awesome experience (of course, there were many in different countries) was in 2014 in South Africa. It was a dream come true to discover a part of this amazing continent. We worked in Howick in two schools for children under 16, most of whom lived in terrible conditions of poverty and abuse in one of the semi-formal settlements on the side of a ravine on the edge of town. The schools are funded by a small Methodist church in that town and a large church in the USA in the hopes that these children can escape the poverty and hard life that surely they will have without a good education. Even though apartheid officially ended in 1994, the effects are still greatly felt by many blacks. There is still great disparity. But on a more positive note, the beauty of South Africa is incredible. The sunsets leave you speechless, and how amazing it is to go on safari and see animals right there beside you, free and not in a zoo! I don’t have words and can’t describe the emotions I felt in places like that. I want to return as soon as possible.
TT: Amazing. How did you find these travel opportunities?
MB: Growing up in Buzios, an international tourist paradise spot, we received people from all over the world every day. We just met people on the beach, in the bars and restaurants and always made new friends. Many of these friends invited me to visit them in their homes in Europe, South America and in the USA.
In my own home in Buzios, my parents and I have probably received more than 1000 foreign visitors since 1991. There have been many groups from universities, friends, friends of friends, churches, and the list goes on. Everybody wants to visit Buzios. I guess my home was ahead of Couchsurfing, AirBnB, etc. But we never thought of it as a business, but rather we were just sharing with brothers and sisters from all over the world. My mom is very connected to the church and she always told me, “Remember. What we do for people here, others will do for you. God will open doors for you also. She knew that I would be flying everywhere like a bird. So I embraced my mom’s attitude and followed her example and I also always invite people to stay at our home. I meet many people and it is easy and enjoyable for me to travel and visit them in their homes.
Today, working with the Methodist Student Network at USC, we travel all over the Americas bringing doctors, dentists, nurses, optometrists and students to help poor communities. We served in Honduras, Ecuador, El Salvador, Venezuela, Peru, Brazil and also in South Africa and Lesotho… and the list goes on.
TT: So inspiring. How do you find the money to fund this travel?
MB: I consider myself to be a blessed person because many people gave me money without my asking for it. Some money also comes through the projects who need a person such as myself who has certain skills that are needed for the trips (music playing, speaking three languages, a big smile, a group leader, cooking, etc.) Now I also own SeeYouInBrazil, a travel company that sells luxury packages to Brazil, so I also pay for my own trips.
Now, I have a reputation on “Trip Advisor” (Mister Brazil) and a new Mister Brazil blog, and hotels like it when I visit them and produce some video (see examples here), so I do not pay for those hotels. We have hours of adventure tours, but it takes a long time to edit these videos. We are keeping a good quality of videos and design.
TT: Those videos are so neat. Now, tell us of one moment from your travels that is particularly memorable.
MB: This one was scary but it finished well. I was in the town of San Juan the Pastocalle, very close (about 10 miles) to the famous active volcano, Cotopaxi, in Ecuador. We were there painting a school and when I started cleaning the paint brushes, the paint solvent splashed in my eyes. So immediately I could not see well and the pain was very strong so I ran outside to the water tap to wash out my eyes. I must have looked very funny with my hands over my eyes and running around like a chicken with its head cut off. The ladies inside the kitchen saw me and started to scream, “No, no, no agua! Leche! Leche!” Meaning, “No, water! Milk!” They were trying to tell me that water would be worse for my eyes and that I needed milk.
The doctor who was supposed to be with us for that trip was only due to arrive the next day and so I would be blind if I had to wait for him. So a big lady grabbed me and pulled me inside the lower part of the dark, simple kitchen. At that point I could not say, “no!” First, I could not see and second, she was big and strong and was not going to let go. One of the other ladies who was about 41 years old just had a baby and she was breast feeding. So one lady held me in her arms, putting my head on her legs and the other one opened her blouse and began to squirt breast milk into my eyes for about half an hour. It was insane! The breast milk ran down my face and into my mouth as well. I don’t know how babies drink that. To me it did not taste good but I guess they don’t have a choice. It was like Igaussu Falls into my eyes, my mouth, my whole face… that skinny little lady had lots of milk and that saved me. Breast milk really saved my eyes. It is common in Latin America that moms breast feed their babies anywhere.
TT: Love that story so much! So, how have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and in your present career?
MB: I graduated from school to teach Portuguese and literature, but I guess I teach (and learn) better with the students if I don’t stay in the classroom. Where I work at the university with students we teach them about serving the community (service learning). There are many ways to teach differently than being inside a classroom with walls. In fact, I think we need to get out of those ways and stop just giving students things to do to keep them busy and not really teach them anything. We have to create long memories and lifetime experiences and not just short memories that stay with you until you do the next test and then after the test it is gone. We have to facilitate new ways of teaching and learning.
TT: So true. How have your travels impacted you as a person?
MB: Every time we travel, we see that we can be outside our protected zone of comfort. It is important to get out of your comfort zone. Even so, sometimes I am in a place of luxury and sometimes I am in a very simple place, without even running water. So we have to adjust and enjoy different aspects of life. But the best part is to be able to be with the local people from that community. That is what impacts you. It makes us respect and understand why people live the kind of life they do. This is what I call the perfect living and learning situation because you will learn so much (even if you do not want to) because real life is happening around you and that is what teaches you. The opportunity to be a part of someone’s life and to make a difference in each other’s life is magic.
This empirical knowledge makes us a way better person- makes us more human — makes us care more about people and nature- makes us smile more and pay more attention to what is really important in life. The essence of living, I believe, is how we handle the daily things of life with people and nature. And travel definitely helps us to improve in that area.
TT: Any other advice you have for those wishing to travel and learn, and even teach?
MB: When I started traveling I was part of an organization that had representatives all over the world and that really helped. But today, you will find it easier with opportunities online and even networking with friends. Start reading about other people’s experiences, whether it’s in a blog or in a book or magazine. Study some about the country that you would like to visit or teach in, if that is your goal. There is an opportunity to do volunteer work everywhere (though North Korea would be very complicated!). Save money and apply for funds and put together a strategy well planned. If you are teaching for more than five years then you may be qualify to teach internationally or be a part of a volunteer project.
It was awesome to have the opportunity to share some of my life with you. I wish a happy life to everyone with lots and lots of great travel experiences. If you would like to connect with me then just send me a note through my blog, and do check out my new video from Ipanema Beach!
TT: Thanks so much, Mister Brazil! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?