When I think about Rio de Janeiro, it’s always a challenge to choose one defining characteristic, for the “cidade maravilhosa” is built on many.

Each person who visits, and strays from the traditional path (think Christ the Redeemer, Copacabana, Pão de Acúcar…) will fall into their own, smaller “cidade maravilhosa.” It is not my first time here, nor my last, but each time I leave, I find myself leaving a different city behind.

Rio de Janeiro, surprisingly, can actually be a difficult city to fall in love with. Without the right people, the right knowledge, and the right attitude, it’s easy to simply skim across the surface without feeling an imprint. I, however, have been lucky.

This particular endeavor has been about color.

It has been about color in many ways: a city in colour. I am from London and was previously living in New York, so I know a lot about shades of grey. Those cities, too, are beautiful and colorful in their own ways, but not in the ostentatious (yet also subtle) ways found in Rio.

In thinking about color, I can’t help but return to this Brazilian concept of time.

We don’t really make plans here and, if we do, you should probably assume that they’ll happen three hours later than the agreed upon time, and might well switch locations five times in the time in between. However, this total lack of structure — while inconvenient in some ways — allows for the sprawling of an organized chaos and the birth of an unadulterated observation. A street voyeurism, perhaps.

A few days ago I chucked on some clothes and, in typical New York fashion, was dressed head to toe in black. Someone stopped me on the street that day and asked me if I was a “viúva,” a widow. It was only then that I threw my head back and laughed.

I laughed and looked around me and, for the first time, I really began to take in the city: a city drenched in color.

It is not just the mosaic tiles and the rainbow walls, the flowers and fruits bursting at every street corner — it is also, simply, the city’s inhabitants. The way people walk. The way people dress, how they talk and interact, the nuances that separate one city and one culture from another.

If there is one thing I have learned, it is that travel is rarely profound or philosophical (though it does well in prompting those questions…). For me, it all eventually boils down to human connection and our similarities. Human connection, and the small details – the color in each city, if you will.

Related:  Finding Joy in Traveling Solo
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Emily Nabnian
Emily Nabnián is a freelance writer and photographer from London. She is currently residing in Brazil but never stays in one place for too long!

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