Bahia: "A Fight for Your Heart"

If Sao Paulo was a blind date and Rio de Janeiro swept me off my feet, then I'd have to say Salvador de Bahia was the one to fight for my heart.

A forgotten city that so quickly becomes etched in your memory, Bahia is full of color, flavor and culture. Its teeming from the brightly painted buildings and samba filled streets. The constant parades of drums and locals and tourists alike following them through the steep and winding hills of Pelourinho. Bahia is a cultural mecca... but that wasn't my first impression. 

| first impression

As soon as I got off my plane from Rio and entered the humid, aging airport, my inhibitions began to rise. I remember thinking, "What have I gotten myself into?!" I calmed my racing thoughts. After all, it was only an airport. I wasn't going to be sleeping a Gate 6 (I hoped).

I grabbed my bags and met my shuttle company at the exit. A sweet girl in her late-teens doodling on the sign with my name on it before she looked up and saw me walking towards her. I signed off on the transport and she walked me outside to meet my driver. The exchange was minimal, but somewhere in the conversation I managed to understand her complimenting my hair (protective twists that had held up surprisingly well for the past week). Eventually, we made it to my driver and he packed my bags in to car. Off I went.

Finally we arrived at dinner where I met my fellow travelers for the week. They all seemed a little tired for their neighborhood tour, so I grabbed a seat at the end of a table and got settled in.

Our icebreaker was to spend 10 minutes getting to know the person next to us well enough to introduce them to the group. At the end of the 10 mins, I sat back to listen to the introductions. It was the first glimpse at how grateful I was to be on this TN Experience.

Part of my travel crew! 

Part of my travel crew! 

I sat back and listened as they listed the interests and travel adventures of the women in my group. They were extensive, but without a drop of pretension. We all were excited to be in Bahia, anxious about our upcoming adventures and open to whatever challenges lay ahead.

The dinner itself was full of laughter (some of which I'd attribute to exhaustion). The conversation was easy and effortless and everyone seemed genuinely interested in what everyone else had to say. Utopia, right?  Day 1 done. 

| surf's up, yogiana and island hopping

Yes, it is as amazing as it sounds!

From lessons at Bahia Surf Camp, to morning yoga sessions Baianan style to setting sail on an hour boat ride to the Ilha de Itaparica and from there to Ihla dos Frades, this trip was nothing short of amazing. One thing that shines brighter than any other in Bahia is the intense feeling of a second home.

For people of the African diaspora, we so closely affiliate with African and African nations that we sometimes exclude the rich culture beaming from our other sisters nations. Bahia’s deep heritage can’t be overlooked when discussing the dispersement of African heritage and culture around the globe and is a true daughter of “The Motherland.”

Our journey through Bahia with local guides exposed many historical and culturally relevant aspects of the city. From Capoeira to authentic cooking classes (inclusive of market visits to find the freshest ingredients) to private drum circle lessons, this TN Experience nailed capturing the cultural essence of Bahia, escaping the tourist traps most preset itineraries can fall into. 

| farewell or nah? 

Me and my crew-- the first TN Experiences group-- on the steps of the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos in Salvador, Bahia.

Me and my crew-- the first TN Experiences group-- on the steps of the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos in Salvador, Bahia.

It finally came. Our departure date.

Surprisingly enough, what was slated to be a day of ‘goodbyes’ turned into ‘new beginning.’ Many of us had already made arrangements to stay another night. Some (including myself) made plans to travel to other cities with the new crew. I fly back to Rio for a few days with one person and met up with another in São Paulo on my true departure day back to the states.

We just didn't want to leave this beautiful place or each other's company. It was truly #blackgirlmagic at its finest. It’s hard to chronicle every event, but almost as if Salvador de Bahia knew it’d be viewed as the underdog of Brazilian stops, it won my heart many times over.

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This is not sponsored content. Views expressed are my own and I really enjoyed my trip!