What Happened After Two Friends Went on a Trip Together
by Amy Mullen and Hope Lanphear
An update to: “Two Friends Discuss Planning and Budgeting for a Trip Abroad Together”, in which Amy and Hope planned a trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
What did y’all end up spending?
U.S. Dollars (per person)
• Flight: $1037 Airbnb: $457 (+ $22.5 for a late checkout)
• Travel insurance: $98
• Visa: $181
• Food/Drinks: $500 ($100 over budget)
• Shopping: $126 ($26 over budget)
• Adventures: $63 (nearly $150 under budget, due to hang gliding failure)
• Transportation: $68 (I had forgotten to budget for this!)
Total: $2,551 only $103 more than the original estimations
What was the worst thing that happened?
AMY: I fell for a scam wherein someone smears a brown substance on your sandal, gets you to believe that its poop, acts like a hero and cleans it off for you, then demands R$ 30. I was savvy enough to know it was a scam by the time he charged me…but not savvy enough to refuse to pay him. I paid him R$ 13. I don’t know why I did that. I was caught up in the moment and he was screaming “SHIT! SHIT!” and it seemed like the logical resolution. Afterward we laughed about it (me and Hope, not me and the shit-smearer) and I threw away the sandals — which I had originally bought as part of my bridesmaid’s ensemble for our close friends’ beach wedding in 2012, and which were already pretty worn-out — in the garbage chute at our Airbnb apartment. Sorry, Kelly and Katie. I truly loved those shoes.
HOPE: The whole trip went so well. A small hiccup was that nearly every single restaurant we tried to find we couldn’t until the next day when we’d be aimlessly wandering along and it would materialize in front of us. Four times this happened. Given that we always managed to find them, it wasn’t so bad.
My Worst Thing was that our hang gliding adventure was ultimately a failure. I looked up places and made an appointment. We got up early and ate our makeshift breakfasts of orange bread, biscuits, and yogurt. We got picked up by a driver (the email said to stand outside our hotel and wait for a taxi to drive by yelling our names), paid our registration fee, drove up to the top of the mountain, practiced tandem running off a cliff, and then waited on a ramp for three hours in 90 degree weather with giant kites strapped to our backs. Eventually Paulo, my tandem teacher, said, “The wind is too bad today, I am afraid.” And we drove back down to the beach. During those three hours I asked what kind of animals lived in the rainforest and he said, “Birds… two kinds of monkeys…. and skanks.”
Other contenders — Amy getting shit thrown on her sandal, a disgusting cabbie taking us on a scammy route to our restaurant, a group of rogue youths trying to steal my juice.
What was the best thing that happened?
AMY: Everything WORKED. I kept waiting for a part of the trip where we’d realize, “We didn’t think to prepare for this!” but it didn’t come, because we were adequately prepared. That didn’t mean there weren’t surprises. There was a surprise every time we sat down for a meal, and that was the other best thing. With every meal, there was at least one ingredient (or size-indicator) mentioned on the menu that we didn’t understand, and then our food would arrive andwe’d laugh out loud at what we’d inadvertently ordered. Like the time we both got acai but mine was in a small cup and Hope’s was four times the volume, served in a vase. Or when the waiter brought Hope’s single cocktail and then returned to the bar to lug back my giant bottle of beer, served chilled inside its own sizeable bucket of ice. Generally, I have a hard time dealing with uncertainty; it was great to let go of that and have everything turn out OK.
HOPE: My favorite moment was when the man we rented chairs from on the beach approached us 40 minutes later with two watering cans. Without saying a word or asking with his eyes he drenched Amy’s feet and legs and she screamed. But then also making it up to Christ the Redeemer, Copacabana stroll at sunset, an unbelievable Valentines dinner. This is sounding more and more romantic, but everything was the best part.
Did the plan of two adjacent aisle seats backfire?
AMY: HA, yes. And we realized it not two minutes after boarding the plane. I believe my exact words were, “Why did we choose these seats again?” It would have been so nice and comfortable to sit next to each other on a 10 hour flight. But on both long flights, I had the middle-aisle seat and no one next to me, so it was still fine.
HOPE: I say yes. Our seats were diagonal actually! While Amy lucked out with no one sitting next to her on either flight I sadly had to try not to rest my head on strangers’ shoulders.
How did the Airbnb work out?
AMY: Great! The place was clean and the shower pressure was fantastic.
HOPE: Terrifically. It was a perfect location and really close to everything. It had a little nook with chairs and our Airbnb host said, “You will eat breakfast here,” but really I just used it to air- dry the underwear I washed in the shower when I ran out. We slept in the same bed that got gradually more and more sandy. The elevator was tiny and terrifying with a metal gate that rammed itself shut as soon as you entered. I am embarrassed that I insisted on a full kitchen and then didn’t use it once. Live and learn.
Did you end up needing the travel insurance?
AMY: No, but it was definitely worth it to have bought it for the peace of mind. And for the ability to say, “I’m bringing my phone — if it gets stolen, whatever, we have trip insurance.”
HOPE: No. And I ended up paying another $49 to extend mine… But I wouldn’t have taken my SLR camera to the beach or maybe even other places without it. So the pictures and peace of mind were definitely worth it.
Who spent the most?
AMY: We split nearly everything equally so we spent the same. We took turns paying for things and wrote down in my notebook each time we made a purchase, and then on the last day Hope gave me 13 USD and we were even. On top of that I paid R$ 60 for a beach massage.
HOPE: I think I did? With the wine I bought at a crepe place as a “thank you for getting my visa” and the ice cream I bought for a lost bet. But then maybe not because Amy got a massage. We basically did all the same things and split 50/50. So I’m guessing it was the same.
How did you feel about each other’s’ spending habits?
AMY: The only time that I took issue with Hope’s spending habits was when we were choosing which tandem hang-gliding company to use. Lonely Planet listed three and Hope told me which she wanted to use. When I asked why, she told me, “It’s the cheapest.” I don’t think that’s the best way to choose someone to keep you buoyant after you’ve run off a cliff with him with a kite attached to your back. I suggested we go with the second-cheapest, but I lost. Overall, though, Hope was more flexible than I thought she’d be with spending. She had a more relaxed attitude toward money than usual on this trip.
HOPE: They worked really well! Amy didn’t mind going hang gliding or molecular gastronoming with me. But she also was cool with grabbing R$ 4 standup pizzas for lunch. She’s a keeper.
Did you buy white pants?
AMY: No. No one there seemed to be wearing white pants. I did not feel out of place without them. Actually, I didn’t feel out of place no matter what I was wearing, and that was one of the things I loved most about being in Rio. Whether I was in a dress or jean shorts or running shoes or a bikini with no shirt on, no one batted an eye. I found this very different from traveling in Europe and really loved the feeling.
HOPE: No. I did buy an oversized men’s shirt that says ‘keep calm and drink caipirinha’ that the salesman said “Many of the girls I buy like loose.” So, almost the same.
What did you disagree most on?
AMY: It was NOT whether to bring men back to our apartment — that did not come up at all. Our biggest disagreement was probably whether we were going to make our layover coming back. I was certain that the airline would take care of it and could not fathom why Hope was worried that they’d take off without us and all the other Boston-bound people on our first flight. I was also very grumpy by that point. It worked out great — we were given fluorescent orange cards that allowed us to skip ahead to the “special” security line. In that line, you don’t have to take off your shoes or belt, and a judgmental father barks at you about why you’re there because someone told him the line was only for families with kids.
HOPE: The conversion rate. I kept saying things were half what they were priced in US dollars (10 Reais I would say was $5) even though the rate was more like .42. Amy, frustrated by this, kept insisting things were about a third or a fourth of the price. A complex algorithm to get me to relax. Eventually I did.
There was also a beach seller, I don’t remember what he was selling, that Amy found annoying and I found charming. She pretended he wasn’t there and read her depressing book while I laughed and repeated all the Portuguese words he said to me. When he left I laughingly asked Amy what we were saying and she responded, “He kept asking if you were deaf and if you were mute and you kept repeating him.”
What did you agree on most?
AMY: Trip pace. Every day mid-afternoon we were ready for some low-key Internet time in the apartment, and every night after dinner/drinks we were ready for bed around the same time.
HOPE: How hot it was, how often we should apply sunscreen, and how yes, it was acceptable to get a dessert at the restaurant, take a taxi to a gelateria, and then buy several ounces of chocolate and meat flavored chips on the way home. Oh man, another worst thing — those meat flavored Ruffles chips.
Did one of you throw up?
AMY: No, but we did both get instant diarrhea from some hamburgers at an Irish pub (seems obvious in retrospect), thus fulfilling my initial worry that we’d have to deal with diarrhea in a tiny apartment. We handled it well.
HOPE: No! Hooray! Though we both got a little digestive issue after our burgers one night. But that cleared up right quick.
What did you spend most of your time doing?
AMY: Eating and laughing and talking. Also searching for places that were listed in Hope’s Lonely Planet guidebook that we could never, ever find until the day after we stopped looking for them. I think there’s a metaphor in there.
HOPE: Walking. We talked a lot, we hydrated a lot, we drank a reasonable amount for twenty- somethings on vacation.
What did you do for Valentine’s Day?
AMY: We took a cab to Oro, where fancy wait staff predicted our every need. It was astounding. We drank fast enough to get two glasses of wine with each course and were feeling fantastic by the end, and so full that we couldn’t even finish dessert. That has literally never happened to me, before or since. As we were leaving, Hope instructed me to “stop looking so cartoonish.”
HOPE: During the day we went into the city. Amy found us a rather lovely breakfast place where she had two pastries and I had a turkey sandwich. We sweated and shopped and went to a post office that reminded me of the DMV. I understood nothing and stood by Amy eating an ice cream cone while she expertly mailed our postcards and didn’t buy a lottery ticket the postal worker tried to sell us. On the way to dinner we took a taxi with a driver who spit so much. Like, humans don’t make that much saliva, I don’t know where it was all coming from. The meal however, was fantastic and Amy let me take pictures and the very pregnant hostess fashioned a hook for Amy’s bag and led me to a curtained restroom.
What did you splurge on most?
AMY: FOOD. And drinks. I think that’s basically all we paid for. There are juice bars everywhere so we became pretty familiar with how to pronounce rainforest fruits. We took taxis multiple times a day but they were cheap so food still won out. The answer to this question WOULD have been “hang gliding,” but we didn’t actually get to go. Hang gliding costs R$320 but the experience of standing on a ramp in the hot sun with a hang gliding apparatus on your back while people gossip in Portuguese around you for four hours is priceless.
HOPE: I’m not going to call our expensive Valentine’s a splurge since I had planned for it. Probably getting two times as many baked goods for breakfast as Amy every morning. And I guess taxis? Though they ended up being so cheap. Worth it.
Did one of you get bitten by a shark?
HOPE: Nope. No one at all on the beach got bitten by a shark that I could tell. Lucky.
What was the best part about traveling with someone else?
AMY: Having someone to bounce uncertainties off of, i.e. “Lonely Planet says that Brazilians never touch food with their hands and that they use a napkin even for finger foods! Do you think that’s why the restaurant from before had those tiny napkins everywhere? Should we do that from now on?” We decided that yes, we should, and it worked out great.
HOPE: So many things! Probably someone to hold my shit while I switch camera lenses. And someone to speak the language while I smiled dumbly. Amy also perpetually told me what time it was because even after three days I couldn’t figure it out. Amy was also in charge of getting us places. I had/have zero sense of direction. Oh maybe most of all someone to reassure me through the JFK layovers. Thanks, Amy.
What was the best part about traveling with your best friend?
AMY: Every night, after climbing into our queen bed but before donning our eye masks and earplugs, we’d conclude the day by reverting to our 12 year old sleepover selves and having total giggle-fests. Topics included, but were not limited to: how we’d introduce ourselves as standup comedians focusing on dick jokes, which of our hang-gliding instructors we’d most like to marry, and why the people in the adjacent apartment seemed to be having a seven-day-long ping pong tournament.
HOPE: On our first full day in Rio we went to Christ the Redeemer. After climbing a veritable mountain in 90 degree weather and waiting for a rainforest trolley for an hour we were pretty ready to shower and bask in the AC with Internet. Unfortunately we ended up on the wrong bus and didn’t realize until we were literally on the opposite side of the city than our apartment. I urged Amy rather panicked that we had to get off the bus ASAP. While we were disembarking I worried how we’d get home, how hot it was, how annoyed she must be. But she hopped down the steps beside me, cocked her head and said “Juice?” and in that moment everything was perfect.
What did you like most about the destination?
AMY: Speaking Portuguese. I got such a kick out of having real, extended conversations with people that surpassed, “We are going to this address. Please use the meter” and “May I please have the largest bottle of beer that you carry?” I also LOVED how happy and congratulatory Hope was about my Portuguese-speaking. I think if I went somewhere where I didn’t speak the language and my friend did, I would get jealous or feel frustrated. Hope was so encouraging and happy to let me try to explain afterward what we had heard, and always ready to offer guesses/theories if I didn’t actually know what the person had said.
HOPE: Brazilian people are the best. They’re all really considerate, really helpful, really friendly. From the woman I sat next to on the plane who was genuinely concerned she gave me wrong advice about customs forms, to the countless restaurant workers who gave me free spoons when noticing I was unable to eat my food with the utensils provided, all the nice old gentlemen offering Amy tissues for her shit-shoe, and just overall relaxed smiley nature of everyone we met.
Did this trip change your friendship?
AMY: Our friendship is the same as it was: strong, always gathering new experiences, and filled with laughter and good humor.
HOPE: I think it made it better. I learned that Amy is bad-ass at Portuguese, at what age she stopped wetting the bed, and under what conditions she’d change her last name. Also I learned I should probably cool it with all my budget talk, internationally and domestically.
What would you do differently?
AMY: I’d reapply sunscreen more often, including in the moments after a man on the beach poured water all over my body — toe to neck — to cool me off as I reclined beneath an umbrella with a caipirinha in hand. Something I would NOT change is traveling somewhere warm during the dead of winter.
HOPE: Not get an Airbnb with a kitchen. Maybe double book hang-gliders. Spend more — I say that after every vacation. One day I will learn.
Amy Mullen won’t fall for any more shit-scams.
Hope Lanphear plans to get Amy to drunkenly promise to go to China next.
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