If you live in a metropolis such as São Paulo, it is of utmost necessity to get out every once in a while. Leave the city for at least a couple of days for the sake of your physical and mental health, but also to remind yourself that there is life beyond city walls and you do not need to be available and connected 24/7.
The hustle and bustle of São Paulo can be exciting as well as exhausting for a small-town girl like me. While the whole country of Estonia has a population of approximately 1.3 million, just the urban area of São Paulo boasts a whopping 21 million. Some people call it the New York of Latin America, to help you grasp the vibe.
In São Paulo there is always something to do, something for all kinds of people, all tastes and budgets. Some place is always open, no matter the day or the hour and, most definitely, there is always people.
People mean queues, traffic, pollution, noise and a feeling of always being on the move, in the middle of everything and never alone. Time in the city does not stop nor forgive. You have to keep up with it no matter what; otherwise, you might feel as if you were falling off the edge.
The Rhythm of São Paulo
If São Paulo was a rhythm, I do not think it would be the pleasant and relaxing bossa nova, nor a joyful and upbeat samba. I think it would rather belong to the category of fast-paced work out music, with occasional hints to a melody. Something with a simple and steady, yet powerful (electronic) beat to motivate you to push harder, longer, stronger, mechanically. Something like this. Or maybe even this. Haha
Yes, São Paulo is intense and it presents you with the illusion(?) that a desirable prize is waiting for you on the other end of your never ending effort. If you have enough stamina to get there, that is. On the other hand, to be able to stay whole and healthy, you also have to follow a meticulous routine of personal care.
Exercise, eat right, sleep right, meditate, have fun – skip any of those and you will have a disaster on your hands rather quickly. You probably have heard it before, but I can confirm it to be true: São Paulo does make you tougher, and maybe even a bit colder. Nevertheless, it definitely does not leave you much time or energy to wonder about it.
São Paulo – The Place to Be
Despite some of the aforementioned characteristics, there is plenty of people that adore São Paulo and/or have even become addicted to it. They feel as if they would miss out on things if they left São Paulo, as if the train called life would pass by without them on it. It is because they think São Paulo is where life happens and the famous FOMO syndrome. In Brazil, São Paulo actually is the place to be, the hotspot for everything and for anyone who wants to be (or become) someone. I feel it too and it worries me, because deep down I know that this is not the kind of life I want for myself for very long.
That is also why even if you are determined to live in São Paulo, getting out of the city every now and then is essential. How else to keep your head clear and your eyes on your real long-term goals in life? It took me some time to understand this at first but since I did, I have made it my duty to always keep my eye open for opportunities to get out of São Paulo on the weekends.
The Story of a Commuter
When I first arrived in São Paulo, another exchange student and I rented a room in the apartment of a local girl that had studied in the same university that was receiving us and was, therefore, recommended by the international office. Let us call her Debora.
Debora spent up to four hours every day in traffic to go to work and to get back home at night. You could argue that driving your car alone during the rush hours to cross São Paulo from one side to the other is pure foolishness, but the sad truth is that public transportation is not much better either.
Probably you would have to change buses a couple of times, be uncomfortably pushed around in crammed vehicles where there is no room even to step, not to mention sit, and would end up taking the same amount of time anyway to get to work or home, just with considerably more effort and energy consumption.
Debora also had a boyfriend. During the month I spent at her place I never saw him, but I knew that absolutely every weekend they would travel out of São Paulo together. I remember clearly what I thought about it at the time: “Travelling every weekend after those long work weeks of hers, that must be absolutely exhausting. I do not think I could do it, I would prefer to rest at home at least on every other weekend.”
Getting Your Own Rhythm Back
Little did I know then that staying in São Paulo on the weekends is actually much more tiring and much less satisfying than leaving the city for the countryside, the beach or simply a smaller town. Even if you had to drive for several hours Friday evening to get there and then back again on Sunday evening. Now I can say that I get why Debora was never there during the weekends and how she found the strength to keep commuting each week. Getting out of the bubble, the great collective hypnosis, is actually, what charges your batteries the most.
I think it is the vibe of the city, a mass synchronization that even when resting does not let you relax completely. There is the need to do something all the time. Especially as we are always connected and witnessing life happen all around us, 24 hours a day. I think it gives you an anxiety of a sort, and if you do not submit to this anxiety, it makes you feel guilty for not having done things. Definitely, lots of FOMO all around.
Funnily, or rather luckily, whenever I leave the city, the anxiety stops as well. I adopt another rhythm, one that is more natural to myself, one that comes from within and differs greatly from the heartbeat of the city. Therefore, whenever I can, I try to escape São Paulo even if it is just for a couple of days. I come back renewed, fresh, feeling more like myself and every time a bit more reluctant to conform to the model.
Do you guys ever feel like that? What do you do to relax and get away? And what would be the rhythm that characterizes best your city/town?
Also, keep tuned, in my next posts I will tell you all about my favorite getaway place, the special spot to clear our heads and dust off our hearts AND some great places for a one-day-getaway from São Paulo where anyone can go.