rioWe’ve pulled the kids out of school (again!), escaped the harshness of winter and have moved to beautiful and exotic Rio De Janiero, Brazil for a month of adventure, family together time and site familiarization.

What we’re doing might be a different take on ‘product education’ but our previous family experience of moving to Cape Town for five months ahead of the 2010 World Cup proved not only invaluable but also one of the best family times that we had ever experienced. The takeaways from that time away go on and on. Learning how to live in a new place is bonding. New activities, fresh tastes, completely different ways of doing things bring surprising joy and shared experience.

Along the way, new friendships and relationships are found and continue; particularly in this day and age of Facebook etc., South Africa has become almost like a second home for us. Memories of a different rhythm of life, a farm to table lifestyle, the dramatic peaks of the Twelve Apostles and its stunning rugged coast line plus thoughts of familiar faces all linger and still make us smile. We love Cape Town and have already been drawn back multiple times.

From a business perspective, the positives of really getting to know where you will be working are also plenty. Spending an extended time in a key destination goes far beyond what we in the travel industry would normally call familiarization. Business is about people. Investing the time to get to know your destination suppliers and partners makes all the difference for both them and you.  At the same time, you can achieve a level of comfort in a new place that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Before long you know the perfect place to find fresh orange juice, a preferred stoop to sip a cappuccino as the sun comes up, the finest deli or grocer to patronize and favorite restaurants and dishes to savor. For us, South Africa quickly changed from a ‘scary’ place that people warned us about, to a Garden of Eden that we are now eager to promote and evangelize about.

Coming to Brazil, we’re looking for similar things: a superior orientation that can only come from driving all over the place and occasionally getting lost, friendships and face-to-face encounters with all kinds of everyday Brazilians including hotel staff, destination suppliers, and even restaurant owners, and the successful pursuit of the ultimate churrascaria. I’ve got a thing for good beef!

So far, we are already loving it here in Rio. Our comfort level is high and growing. We’re figuring out how to do life Carioca-style; experiencing and negotiating a multitude of services and activities from surfing lessons to esthetics. I already consider myself semi-lingual in restaurant Portuguese!

I’m writing about it all, so that anyone who is interested can benefit a little from our experience. My perspective is of someone who has been to and worked at hundreds of international sporting events and who knows the unique challenges that come with every Olympics and World Cup. I also fit our customer profile. Over the years, I’ve become progressively spoiled! My tastes are those of the luxury traveler who is not easily satisfied. I own the title of “the pickiest person I know” from various friends and colleagues and I hope to apply those standards to what we see, eat, and experience here in Rio.

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