After Epic World Cup, Gavin Reflects on Brazil

Monday, July 21, 2014 | Brazil (map)

Festive street decorations in Salvador da Bahia
In ten great posts over the past few weeks, guest blogger Gavin Lippman has shared his experiences at the 2014 World Cup with all of us back home. Today, Gavin offers his final reflections on the trip.

The World Cup has ended and it will be another four years before 32 teams restart the chase for glory, this time in Russia. So as the summer rolls on, talk of the Cup fades away, and I depart my role as a guest blogger for Ibn Ibn Battutta, I wanted to share my thoughts on the World Cup and Brazil.

* * *

The World Cup is an event truly unlike any other. The closest comparison would be a hybrid between March Madness—because of the unpredictability and sheer passion—and the Olympics—because of the nationalistic fervor this competition generates. But even this hybrid would fall a distant second behind the World Cup. While TV, the Internet, and social media can give you an idea of how things

In Germany, Cautious Optimism Finally Pays Off

Saturday, July 19, 2014 | Stuttgart, Germany (map)

Gavin personally hoisted the (replica) World Cup trophy amid the celebrations in downtown Stuttgart.
For the past few weeks, guest blogger Gavin Lippman has been writing about his experiences at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Check out his tenth entry below, and follow all his posts here.

After almost two days of travel, I arrived back in Stuttgart safe and sound.

It took a few days to recover from my jetlag and reacquaint myself with the German language and wildly unpredictable weather, but after three weeks on the road in Brazil I was happy to be back in my house. Best of all, I didn’t miss any World Cup matches because I traveled on the rest days, and arrived in time to watch Germany in the quarterfinals. I now threw my support behind my second home, hoping that one of my teams could maybe take home the winner's trophy.

* * *

Ten days and two wildly different victories later, I find myself watching Germany take on Argentina in the World Cup final. How did we get here, you ask? We almost didn't. Andrew’s adopted home team, the Desert Foxes of Algeria, nearly pulled off the upset of the tournament in the Round of 16

Following the Cup from Iguazu Falls, a South American Crossroads

Sunday, July 6, 2014 | Iguazu Falls, Brazil (map)

Guest author Gavin at Iguazu Falls: Living dangerously, or just trying to dry off in the sun?
For the past few weeks, guest blogger Gavin Lippman has been writing about his experiences at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Check out his ninth entry below, and follow all his posts here.

It was so tough to leave Rio de Janeiro, I almost didn't make it to Iguazu Falls. I wanted to explore more of the city, lounge on the beaches, and keep relaxing. After the USA qualified for the World Cup's Round of 16, however, I briefly considered returning to Salvador to see the match with my Naval Academy friends, but flights were crazy expensive and I had already lined up a visit to Iguazu. "How often do I get to see one of the largest waterfalls in the world?" I thought as I boarded the plane to continue my Brazilian journey further south.

After lounging on beaches in balmy summertime weather, it was easy to forget that I was in the Southern Hemisphere, where it is currently wintertime. But I was reminded when I arrived in Iguazu. I had heard it would be a little chilly so I had packed a light jacket in my backpack thinking that would be enough... boy was I wrong. The moment I stepped off the plane, I felt a biting cold wind. When I arrived at my hostel and found everyone there bundled up in sweaters and jackets, huddled in front of a TV watching the Costa Rica vs. Greece match, I knew that I had made my second error of the trip. (The first had been to think I could make a 2:30am flight after a 6:00pm USA match.) "No journey is without its challenges, but damn, this waterfall had better be worth it!" I thought as went to sleep that night.

Six Days in Rio de Janeiro, No Stone Unturned

Friday, July 4, 2014 | Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (map)

Guest author and converted Brazil enthusiast Gavin posed on the Selarón Steps in Rio.
For the past few weeks, guest blogger Gavin Lippman has been writing about his experiences at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Check out his eighth entry below, and follow all his posts here.

I finally reached my guest house in Rio after a long, hectic day of travel that included a missed flight, a run-in with ESPN's Ian Darke, and a trip to Rio's second airport to retrieve my bag. After a week in the smaller, more isolated cities of Natal and Manaus I was happy to be back in a large city with plenty to do.

The name Rio de Janeiro brings many things to mind: Sugarloaf mountain, and the legendary Christ the Redeemeer statue perched atop Corvocado mountain. The districts of Rio, like Copacabana (home to a beautiful beach and even more beautiful people), Ipanema (another beautfiul beach in its own right, made famous by the legendary song "The Girl from Ipanema"), and Lapa and Santa Teresa (home to the Lapa arches, Selarón Steps and a huge party scene). Rio is also a huge sports hub, both for soccer—it is home to Brazilian powerhouse clubs Fluminense, Flamengo, Vasco da Gama and Botafogo—and adventure sports like hang gliding, paragliding, hiking, cycling, and rock climbing. But leading up to the World Cup, the press focused much more on the city's negative side, particularly the crime and drugs prevalent in its slums (favelas), giving the sense that Rio is a real danger zone.

To get a true sense of what Rio is like, I decided to venture into the favelas, try some adventure sports, take in a World Cup match at the legendary Maracanã stadium, hang out on the pristine beaches, and mix it up and party with the cariocas.

Ibn Ibn Battuta, 10 Years On

Saturday, June 28, 2014 | Algiers, Algeria (map)

Andrew in downtown Algiers, September 2013.
Amid the Algerian cultural musings, the occasional gelato-infused vacation update, and the recent World Cup guest blogging, I wanted to pause briefly to mark a milestone and to thank everyone who reads, reflects on, and sometimes even responds to the stories I share here on Ibn Ibn Battuta.

Hard as it is to believe, this month marks 10 years since I first started writing this travel blog.

Over the past decade, Ibn Ibn Battuta has known multiple platforms and designs, from its humble beginnings in a ratty notebook to the site you see today, but I have worked hard to steer its content in pursuit of a constant goal: "to show armchair travelers back home what they're missing and why I travel". That's how I have long articulated it, but in truth it is also more than that. For me, this blog is about opening eyes to the world in which we live, a world of which I have been lucky to see more than most, and a world that—if more people could know and celebrate its diversity—might be a better place for us all to live.

At some point between my first entry (warning: clicking that link will take you to an awkward picture of 19-year-old Andrew) and today, I began telling myself that I was writing this blog for me alone. (Well, almost: "Even if only my mother reads it, I will keep writing!") More than anything else, that philosophy has kept me at it, stubbornly, for the past decade. And I expect it will continue to serve me.

But after dedicating thousands of hours of work on this blog, I must admit to feeling a little thrill every time someone comments on the site or on Facebook, offering encouragement or challenging me to provide more detail, to explain further, to go deeper. Thank you to all of you who have found my work valuable in the past 10 years—to both those who have read in silent reflection and those who have shared feedback.

In my travels, I have learned much over this decade that I hope will make the next one even richer. Thank you for reading, and safe travels.

Notes:
  • Looking to explore some of the last 10 years' best entries? Check out my "Best Of" page.
  • Remember that I am always happy to hear your suggestions about what you would like to see more of on Ibn Ibn Battuta. Don't be shy!

In Algeria, A Historic World Cup Already

Friday, June 27, 2014 | Algiers, Algeria (map)

Jubilant supporters filled downtown Algiers last night after Algeria clinched a berth in the next round of the World Cup.
While guest blogger Gavin has been sharing some great updates from Brazil over the last few weeks, I've also been watching the World Cup regularly here in Algiers. Besides cheering for the US team, I have joined my Algerian friends in exuberantly supporting their beloved Fennecs. (I wrote earlier about the Algerian supporters' rather excessive affection for their side.) Through the tournament's first stage, the Algerian team have shown themselves to be lovable underdogs, bouncing back from an uninspiring loss to Belgium to smash South Korea in their second match.

Both games might as well have been played on public holidays here, given how little anyone in the country managed to work. Before taking off early to plant themselves at home in front of the TV, most people here in Algiers seemed to spend their mornings swapping projections about the team's prospects or relaying reports from friends among the 7,000 Algerians who headed to Brazil to support the team (on the government's dime, of course).

When, in their début against Belgium, Algeria drew first blood on a penalty kick, the city outside my

USA vs Germany Recap: A Loss, But We'll Take It

| Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (map)

Fraternizing with the enemy: Gavin (middle) watched the US-Germany match with Ben and Simone at the FanFest in Rio de Janeiro.
For the past few weeks, guest blogger Gavin Lippman has been writing about his experiences at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Check out his seventh entry below, and follow all his posts here.

Because I currently call Stuttgart, Germany home, I knew the USA-Germany match would be an interesting one for me at this World Cup. Moving to Germany in 2012 was one of the best things that happened to me, in part since it gave me the chance to leave eastern North Carolina—where I wasn't really happy—to start fresh. It would probably be an understatement to say that I have embraced the German culture and atmosphere. My Facebook page is full of updates in German and pictures of me in Lederhosen, and I have made wonderful friends there who have introduced me to so many new things. After summer festivals, late-night parties in the clubs and the streets, soccer matches, and two Christmases in small-town Bavaria, Germany has truly become my second home and I am thankful for that.

However, ... make no mistake: the USA will always be my home, my country, and my #1 soccer team. When meeting new people here in Brazil, I tell them "I'm from Baltimore, but currently live in Germany." When they say, "Oooh, who are you cheering for in the USA-Germany match?", the expression on my face says loud and clear: "Are you serious? It's USA all the way."

View from the Stands: Triumph, then Tragedy, as US Takes on Portugal

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 | Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil (map)

Gavin and the boys representing the red, white, and blue before Sunday's Portugal matchup.
For the next few weeks, guest blogger Gavin Lippman will be writing about his experiences at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Check out his sixth entry below, and follow all his posts here.

While I enjoyed Manaus and my experience in the Amazon, there was really only one reason I was in the city: Sunday's USA v. Portugal match.

After the euphoria of the US victory over Ghana in the opening match, it had been tough to wait almost another week to support the boys in red, white, and blue. There were some great games in the meantime (Iran nearly stealing a point from Argentina, Costa Rica shocking Italy, and Germany's pulsating draw with Ghana) yet when I returned from the Amazon on Saturday night, it was clear that Uncle Sam's Army had descended on Manaus to face the next challenge: Portugal.

The US had much at stake in this "Rumble in the Jungle". Because of Germany's 2-2 draw with Ghana the night before, a victory would mean a (once-unfathomable) chance to top the so-called "Group of Death" and secure a spot in the next round. Portugal, after a tough loss to Germany, needed a strong showing to have any chance of advancing. In 2002, the American underdogs had kick-started a run to the quarterfinals with a victory over heavily favored Portugal, and since that time the US has come too far as a soccer nation to be so easily written off again. While the US team had gained confidence from its opening match victory, Portugal's beating at the hands of Germany had left them without volatile defender Pepe (red-carded for an idiotic headbutt) and