by Niall Doherty


I’m thinking more than ever about quitting the no-fly trip, weighing the pros and cons. Relationships, routine and business-building have become far more important to me of late, and they all suffer greatly without a home base. Maybe two or three years for this journey would have been better. I’m trying to finish what a different me started.


Across the alley from our apartment is a hospital. My bedroom window overlooks a little break area for patients and staff. About noon today I watched an elderly lady spoon feed something unsolid to a sad, elderly man in a wheelchair, probably her husband. I stood and watched and hated. Hated my ungrateful self for every petty complaint I’ve had in recent weeks.


Before heading over to a friend’s place for a taste of home, I lock myself in a room and sit quietly for fifteen. I’ve meditated a few minutes most days for years now, but only since I started using this Headspace app do I feel like I’m really reaping the benefits. I’ve come through the dark clouds of recent months, seeing blue sky again.


Back at forró class after a week-long break. The process is always the same. You never feel like going, but you’re always glad you went. They show you a new move each session and for the first half hour you battle frustration and feel you’ll never get it. But then you do. You always do. You relearn that same lesson every class, that so much of success is simply showing up and sticking it out.


She tries to make out with me as I’m saying goodbye, giving me pause. I wasn’t expecting that, never noticed a spark between us. And in that pause my mind unfurls a future. I’ll stay and we’ll sleep together, but it will mean more to her than it will to me, and I’ll be labeled a heartless asshole. “I really have to go,” I say again. “It was nice to meet you.”

A possible route overland from Brazil to Colombia

A possible route overland from Brazil to Colombia, the next major leg of my journey.


I dream of performing my little morning routine of breakfast and a book while sitting at a mahogany desk overlooking a canal in Amsterdam. Someday. But for now I’ll settle happily enough for this viewless apartment in Belo Horizonte. I sit here rereading David Allen between spoonfulls, occasionally distracted by the bed squeaking in the next room.


Becoming clear that I often keep people at a distance and hold back on expressing myself fully because I worry they’ll get too close and then I’ll have to do the hard work — work I’ve always struggled with — of enforcing my boundaries later on. This is all fine and dandy except for the massive opportunity cost.


Lunch for me here is usually the sem balança place down the street. I’ve been through 27 countries on this trip, many of them dirt cheap, but I believe this gaff offers the best value meal I’ve found anywhere. I can pile a dinner plate sky high with more than a dozen healthy foods, and get a side of fresh-cooked meat, all for R$9 (about 4 USD).


He writes me two prescriptions, tells me it’s nothing serious. I’m not so sure though. Could it be related to stress, I ask. “Do you feel stressed?” More than usual, yeah. “Okay, I write you prescription for stress pills, too.” And so he does. I pay him 250 reals and walk out of there with no intention to buy the meds. If I could afford it, I’d get a second opinion.


I look at a fat person and wonder how they can’t figure it out. Diet and fitness is so easy for me now. A six-pack is automatic. But I imagine a wealthy person would look at my business struggles and think, “How is he still broke? Why can’t he figure it out? Making money is so easy. $10k a month is automatic.” Business-wise, I’m still a fat kid eating at McDonald’s.

Feasting at a sem balanca restaurant in Belo Horizonte. $4 USD for all that!

Feasting at a sem balanca restaurant in Belo Horizonte. $4 USD for all that!


The time passes easy. Laila‘s at a zoo in Seattle. I’m sitting on my couch in Brazil. We’ve never met but she’s been reading these words of mine and felt like reaching out. Good at what she does: listening, gently questioning, encouraging. Kind and heart centered. I was going to postpone this call for a few days with the usual excuse. Very glad I didn’t.


“I think you hide a lot of things.” We’re at Jângal, music soothing, dancing entwined. Her words catch me by surprise. “Whenever we talk about something deep, you make a lot of jokes, like you want to avoid talking about it.” I tell her she can ask me anything. And so she does. We speak and sway with the music for the next half hour. No jokes. Best part of the evening.


I’m up to day twenty-one on Headspace, this third pack twenty minutes a session. My troubles haven’t subsided much these past few months, but I’m a lot more at peace since I’ve committed to this practice. Today, eyes closed in my chair, counting my breaths, I felt a whisper of bliss. A moment of stillness, no thoughts a-thinking, a pure sense of being.


I’m starting to write down and keep track of my limiting beliefs. One that popped up today is the belief that it’s not appropriate to call someone out if they’ve recently done me a favor. That is, someone could exhibit shitty behavior and I’ll convince myself to let it slide because they did some unrelated good deed for me a few minutes prior.


I take the empty seat begrudgingly and resume reading, but my mind remains on what just went down, wondering how I could have better handled the situation. A Steve Jobs stare might have been effective, but nah, too much of a dick move. Ballsy, yes, but lacking kindness. To be courageous and kind at the same time, that’s the trick.


You need a sense of progress. My life in New Orleans was great, then grew too comfortable. The travel lifestyle was a dream, but only to a point. Freelancing was the bees knees, then became stale. I’ve fallen well short of achieving all I wanted these past few months in Brazil, but I feel I’ve made some progress, removed some ignorance. And with that, I’m at peace.

Six hours a-waiting for a visa extension :-/

Six hours a-waiting for a visa extension :-/

In the comments below, let me know which of the above Momentos is your favorite. Which can you relate to?

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