Porto Alegre, Brasil

Brazil is an amazing and interesting country. The people are friendly and beautiful, and they’re so willing to take time out of their day to help you out, share their food and just make you feel welcome. I had amazing time here this week. (It really helps that I didn’t have food poisoning this time around. Good start to the year!)

Some interesting things about Brazil:

  • The largest population of Japanese people outside Japan.
  • Lots of folks from Germany and Italy too. Many came here after the second world war.
  • Incredibly complex tax structure in terms of calculation, exceptions, and flux. With 5,000 taxing authorities, it’s estimated that a tax rule changes every 1.5 hours. (It’s intriguing for me since I like the complexity and I enjoy thinking about how the government is driving behavior through incentives and taxes.)
  • Very generous retirement benefits when you work for the government, and generous benefits for workers. My favorite is the 30 day vacation policy – you’re paid an additional 33% of salary when you’re on vacation, you’re allowed to “sell” 10 days back to Dell, and the remaining 20 days are sold back to Dell at double the rate. Managers have an incentive to make sure their employees take vacation. Oh, and you get an extra month’s pay in December. (The high tax and costs of living really eats into the perks. The same car as mine costs almost twice as much in Brazil.)
  • Folks at Dell are interested in practicing their English. Several folks mentioned something about this. While they learn English in school, many have private tutors. I was surprised when my colleague described her trip to Miami and New York as very fun and “a good chance to practice my English.”

Out with the Old and In with the New

Perhaps I’m naive, but I thought there wouldn’t be as much travel for me this year as last year. I still don’t think I’d do over 100K miles in 6 months. However, it’s the second weekend of January, and here I am on another trip.

Well, on my last flight from Taiwan, the TSA brutalized my luggage enough that I had to purchase a new carry-on. Ten years ago, I bought my Dakota Metro after spending 15 minutes at the Bag ‘n’ Baggage store at the mall. This time, I spent hours researching the best brands and models, agonized over 2 vs 4 wheels and hard case vs cloth. Some requirements:

  • Big enough for a week-long trip with work and workout clothes.
  • International carry-on (20″ length).
  • Durability. It sucks to drag along a broken suitcase when you’re thousands of miles from home. For some reason, emotions get amplified the further you are from home.
  • Ability to sit atop the luggage. I like to sit on it when I’m waiting around – either in a line somewhere or just before I board the plane. I try not to be gate lice, but there are times when I arrive a few minutes beforehand.

As long as the hard-cased 4-wheelers have been out, I wasn’t sold on the durability. So, I went with a Briggs and Riley┬áTranscend 20″ Wide Body. Since B&R have a true lifetime warranty, I figured they’d have to build bags to last and learn from their mistakes. I was concerned about going from a 22″ to 20″, but I’m short and my inseam makes it easy to fit pants folded in half. Also, I can use the extra space on the wide body to store my travel food (Jane-snacks during the week and the random packaged food when I return).

Strange that I have an entire post dedicated to my luggage, but it’s important when it’s your traveling companion for weeks (or months) on the road.

Note: I’ve since gotten a 4-wheeler from B&R. It’s awesome.