Travel Book: Chasing Bohemia: A Year of Living Recklessly in Rio de Janeiro

Book Cover: Chasing Bohemia: A Year of Living Recklessly in Rio de Janeiro

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I’ve never been to Brazil. I have, however, met a whole lot of great Brazilian people, and that alone has given me enough reasons to want to visit the country. But a new book by Carmen Michael called Chasing Bohemia: A Year of Living Recklessly in Rio de Janeiro is the cherry on top, and it’s put Brazil high up on the list of places I really need to visit soon.

Carmen Michael was an Australian ex-pat based in London, working in the travel industry and jet setting around the world. A self-confessed arrogant traveler, she decided to spend a week in Rio de Janeiro. That week turned into several years, and this book.

Chasing Bohemia is a memoir-style travel book about Carmen Michael’s experience of escaping the nine-to-five grind and settling down, completely unplanned, in Rio. It seems like she wasn’t afraid to get out there and see the real Rio, either, and that makes for some fascinating reading, whether she’s under threat by armed men in a favela or falling for a typically romantic Samba musician.

Until this book, Michael was really just a diary writer, who’d tried her hand at poetry. An enthusiastic response to her emails to friends and family about experiences in Brazil prompted her to start writing the book. She also wanted to explain why she’d given up the security of a “good job” to live a life of financial insecurity (but a lot of fun) in Rio.

Proving my point that traveling without a set goal is the best way to go, much of what happens to Michael in Rio is pure serendipitous luck. Take her accommodation, for example. There she was, wandering the streets of Santa Teresa, nicknamed the Montmartre of South America, when she struck up a conversation with someone working at the front of one of the beautiful houses there. Using her beginner’s Portuguese, she mistakenly said to them, “This is my house. Can you let me in?” and in surprise, they opened the gate and showed her through. The owner of the house, flamboyant Gustavo, let her stay for years. Whether you believe it’s pure luck or fate — I’m inclined to go for the latter — events like this are what makes traveling so fulfilling, as long as you’re open for them to happen.

I was lucky enough to see Carmen Michael speak recently at a writers’ festival and the nice thing is that she comes across as just a normal, interested traveler, probably much like any Vagabondish reader. She writes in the same interesting, conversational way that she speaks, and that makes Chasing Bohemia a really enjoyable read.

Chasing Bohemia was released in October 2007 and in December, a Hollywood firm optioned it for a film. If I don’t get to Brazil myself first, perhaps that would make a good substitute.

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