Our World Cup journey began with a “hey we should” how most things start with us. Once those words come out of our mouths, the gears in the brain start working and somehow the plan begins to form. I was not a big soccer (futbol) fan at the start, in fact, I had never watch a match from start to finish much less live in a stadium. We were living in Chicago and there happened to be the final of the Gold Cup taking place and Soldier and on a whim we went. The United States beat Panama and it was so exciting, not bad for my first experience, see we needed to know I enjoyed if we were going to travel and experience all that the Cup offers.
We researched the lottery for the tickets and what we needed to do to get to Brazil, we had an idea but nothing would even make sense if we did not have the tickets. In December of 2013 as we were relaxing in the hotel the night before I ran the Honolulu marathon, we entered the lottery. Taking gambles with the groups just being announced however locations not fully determined. The wait was on. We waited what felt so long, the planner in me was getting anxious. Then in the middle of March we received the notification, we had two games- USA versus Ghana and Mexico versus Croatia!
The cup started in June, we only had three months to gain visas, plan transportation, find places to stay, and how we would navigate the enormous country of Brazil. We landed on four cities two to sightsee, navigate the international flights and two where the actual games were being held, this ended being Sao Paulo, Rio de Janiero, Recife, and Natal. Seeing as the rest of the world was planning to converge on Brazil at the same time, this was not easiest task. Many modes of transportation would sell out as soon as posted, hotels were very expensive, hostels were sold out, and AirBNB options were in and out of availability in an instant. We ended up doing a combination of all of the above.
Once in Brazil it was amazing, a party the entire time. Seeing the nations represented and the pride of wearing your colors along with the respect shown was beyond what I had imagined. We attended the matches in person and attended other games in local spots (no place did not have a TV with viewing, nowhere) or in the FIFA fan spots which were a lot of fun. We saw the usual spots- Christ the Redeemer, Copa Cabana, and all however, our most memorable experiences were in Recife and Olinda. I cannot adequately describe the hospitality and open spirit of all we encountered in this community. We were welcomed into random sweet sixteen parties, clubs, a parade in the streets, and so much more, truly unforgettable.
While the trip centered around soccer, it became and ended up being so much more than that. I made it back home with lasting memories, funny stories, chants from other countries, an even broader mind to life abroad, proven resourcefulness, and four speeding tickets (story for another time) I cannot wait to do it all over again. We just figured it out, made it happen, and just had fun.
So, here’s to Russia 2018????