I met Alex (@alexouthwaite) through an Instagram travel group. Well, I virtually met her that way.
There are 20 to 30 of us in that group, and we support each other through comments and likes. We also have friendly discussions about Instagram strategies and how to best grow our travel accounts.
We’re a group of social media-savvy travelers from all parts of the globe.
Alex is from the U.K., where she works for a travel channel that sends her around the world to film episodes. She recently won a 3-month blogging trip sponsored by LATAM to South America. She happened to land in Rio one day after we supposed to leave.
However, our flight was canceled! So Guil and I were able to meet up with Alex and her boyfriend Josh and show them around town.
I follow a lot of travel Instagrammers and influencers who rave about the friendships they’ve created through the platform. They often meet up abroad or go on blogging trips together.
I always found this a bit funny, but also incredible: Could you really get along with someone you “met” through the internet? Someone whose photos you like and comment on, who you’ve maybe exchanged a few backpacking tips or hilarious travel stories with, but not much else?
Luckily we were able to find out. We had the best day with Alex and Josh!
Sure, we were all a bit uneasy at first.
“Will I understand her British accent?” I asked Guil before we went downstairs to meet them.
“Do Brazilians like to drink?” Alex asked Josh when they were on their way.
As soon as we met, we exchanged travel stories and spoke about what led us to where we are today. From there, the conversation just flowed.
When you think about it, all travel Instagrammers have a few major things in common: They dedicate much of their time to traveling. That means they’re usually interested in meeting new people. They also have a passion for photography, and have curated the patience needed to get those epic shots.
Guil and I took our new friends on a drive through Barra da Tijuca, a neighborhood in Rio outside of the regular touristy area. From the car they caught a glimpse of the colorful homes making up Rocinha, the largest favela in Brazil.
We stopped for a traditional caipirinha at an outdoor bar facing the ocean. You could spot Leblon, Ipanema and Arpoador beaches from our table.
The warm Rio de Janeiro sun was beating down on us so we took a dip in Ipanema Beach. Guil gave them an idea of how much beer, water and snacks should cost on the beach to prevent tourist rip-offs.
He introduced Alex and Josh to an authentic Brazilian beach snack: Matte Leão (a sweet tea) with Biscoito Globo (an air-filled, salty and sweet cracker of sorts).
We even took them to the Arpoador rock to watch the sunset, although clouds hid the spectacular show from view.
Then it was time for dinner, and we went no where other than Guil’s favorite restaurant for picanha.
Although we had to wait an hour to be seated (and Alex and I were nearly ripping someone’s head off #hangry), we all shared a delicious Brazilian meal.
Needless to say everyone slept well that night. We hope they had as much fun as we did! Perhaps we’ll run into them again, as we’ll all be on the same continent for the next couple of months.
Here’s to making new friends, and to this crazy little app called Instagram, for crushing boundaries and allowing virtual friendships to blossom into real ones!