Cover of Moon Brazil handbook

Photo © Michael Sommers.

I’m always fascinated by inspiration and process, by how people get ideas and how things get done. Although my interest in the “makings of” extends across the board, I harbor a particular fascination with the behind-the-scenes workings of travel writing.

For this reason, I avidly gobbled up a recent post, by my Moon colleague, Laura Martone, who brilliantly evoked the joy and demonic obsessiveness involved in revising her latest edition of Moon Florida Keys.

For the same reason, I thought it might be interesting to share my own personal experiences in revising Moon Brazil, a task that involved several months of intensive work that I only just recently wrapped up.

Let me first begin by confessing that this is the first time I’ve actually revised Moon Brazil and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Having written the 2nd edition of Moon Brazil entirely from scratch – a Herculean (and, according to some friends, masochistic) undertaking—I was under the impression that producing the 3rd edition would be a somewhat breezier—even easier?—process.

In many ways it was. Thanks to all the groundwork laid and experiences gained during Moon Brazil 2nd ed., much of the updating process consisted of checking—and correcting, deleting, or updating—information and listings. (While light on creativity and heavy on the eyes, such work has the advantage of being less taxing on the brain).

However, updating content was just the beginning.

In the three years since I last researched and wrote Moon Brazil 2nd ed., so much in and about Brazil has changed:

– The Brazilian economy has boomed creating unprecedented growth, including in the travel segment. With more Brazilians journeying around their country than ever before, the travelscape has changed on every level.

– The selection of Brazil to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games has sparked vast investment in infrastructure and urban projects, ranging from the expansion of public transportation systems and the revamping of entire neighborhoods (ex: Rio’s formerly decrepit port zone) to the mushrooming of new hotels and the building of new soccer stadiums (a big deal in Brazil).

– The unprecedented valorization of the Brazilian real coupled with the plummeting of the American dollar—in addition to higher prices due to a combination of increased wealth and inflation—has really turned the notion of Brazil as a “cheap” travel destination (especially for Americans) on its head.

Having witnessed these changes first-hand, and been forced to adapt to them while traveling around the country, when it came time to revise Moon Brazil, I felt myself obliged to alter the slant of the book, to tailor the content and focus in ways that would guide travelers through this “transformed” Brazil and help them make the most of their journeys.

Accordingly, here are some examples of the changes readers can expect to encounter in the 3rd edition of Moon Brazil to be released in the fall of 2011:

More focus on Budget or Good Value Options. When the U.S. dollar was riding high, a trip to Brazil was a great excuse to splurge on fine dining, five-star accommodations, upscale shopping excursions, etc. without making much of a dent in one’s finances. Not so much anymore. As such, while Moon Brazil 3rd ed. still offers some top-of-the-line, not-to-be-missed listings, they’ve been pared down to the best-of-the-best, leaving increased space for middle and budget-range options (while steering clear of bottom-of-the-line listings that offer nothing more than cheapness).

More focus on the Local (i.e. Brazilian Options). Like the U.S. and Canada, Brazil is an extremely diverse and cosmopolitan place. Yet, it’s my belief that, aside from the odd pizza and/or sushi craving (which can be exceptionally well satisfied in both cases), most people who travel to Brazil want to eat, drink, and play like the locals (although not necessarily like upper class locals who often revel in the international and the imported). As such, Moon Brazil 3rd ed. has been customized to emphasize the homegrown and the regional, the artisanal and the innovative. In its pages, you’ll find more family-run pousadas than multinational hotel chains; a folk art museum prioritized over a high-tech science museum; a samba jam in place of a disco blasting techno; market stalls, juice bars, and street kiosks at the expense of international eateries. Once again, I haven’t eliminated the latter, just narrowed them down to the most unmissable. Ultimately, the focus is on places, food, experiences that you’re likely not to have anywhere else but in Brazil. (That such options are usually kinder to one’s pocketbook is an extra bonus).

More focus on the New Off-the-Beaten Path. It’s incredible the rate at which Brazil’s 8,000 km. of coastline is being developed. Secluded fishing villages that were recently quite isolated—not to mention paved with soft sand and lit by gas lamps and candles—are increasingly asphalted and lined with condos and mini shopping malls. While improved access and infrastructure (not to mention economic development) are wonderful things, sometimes, at some point, the balance tips, and once remote refuges morph into full-blown resorts crammed with tour buses (or boats), crowds, and too many trappings of modernity. Between the 2nd and 3rd editions of Moon Brazil, a considerable number of former paradises have gotten dangerously close to this tipping point – or tumbled over the precipice. Happily, new “undiscovered” getaways are always emerging. As a devotee of earthly paradises, I’ve tried to compensate for such changes by whittling down coverage of the overblown tourist hubs in favor of new and (still) relatively unknown spots.

More focus on the Getting There. Sadly, I can’t take credit for this change—it was an editorial mandate. And yet, due to Brazil’s vast size and sometimes confusing transportation networks, I hope that readers will benefit from the fact that Moon Brazil 3rd ed. provides very detailed listings of how exactly to get to and from A to B (both formally and informally), who will take you there – and when; how long said trip will take (usually much longer than mere kilometers would indicate); and how much it will cost. I hope that such information will help travelers to plan journeys, small and large, while encouraging them to get off the beaten path and make discoveries of their own.

While on the subject of discoveries, perhaps the biggest one I made during this process was that revising Moon Brazil had caused me to “revise” my own constantly changing views of the country in which I live. In the same spirit, I hope that aside from benefiting from updated information, Brazil-bound readers who invest in the 3rd edition will find themselves armed with a guide that helps them to better navigate, enjoy, and understand a constantly changing Brazil.