Luxury Couchsurfing in Rio de Janeiro

Right around the time I had decided to go to South America, I kept seeing this guy Luis pop up on my Facebook news feed. He and I had met briefly at a Halloween party in the Hollywood Hills just months before — he, as a character from the Princess Bride, and I, as Cookie Monster.

Luis runs Privé Luxury Rentals, and his life consists of jetsetting to exotic holiday destinations to scope out high-end rental properties. Errrr, not a horrible life, if you ask me. This guy subscribes to the “work hard / play hard” lifestyle better than most people I know, and his Facebook updates really reflect that.

I kept seeing these incredible FB updates from Rio de Janeiro, and I figured I’d pick his brain for some tips, perhaps make some connections for when I would arrive there a month later in February 2013.

So I hit him up on Facebook: “Hey, it’s Cookie Monster…”

As it just so turned out, Luis would still be doing business in Rio when I got there. And not only was he there, he had a couch for me to crash on.

But this wasn’t just some ordinary couch.

This couch was located in the living room…
Of a two-story PENTHOUSE…
On the BEACH…

Botafogo is an upscale neighborhood in Rio that overlooks one of the city’s most well-known attractions: the famed Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar). This landmark is, as a matter of fact, the #1 attraction in Rio according to TripAdvisor.

And I had the privilege of seeing it first thing when I woke up every single morning!

Look at this amazing sunrise:

(Truth be told, I did not capture these photos as I woke up in the morning, but — in true Rio fashion — as I was coming home from an all-night bender. Imagine stumbling home to this! A sobering sight indeed.)

Feb. 13, 2013: 6:15am

Feb. 13, 2013: 6:24am

Feb. 13, 2013: 6:27am

Once the sun came up, I managed to shake off my astonishment at how beautiful and dramatic those 12 minutes were. I then looked left towards this gorgeous view of Botafogo (facing north and slightly east).

And about 180 degrees from there — from the balcony around the corner where we hung our laundry — was this famed Rio attraction:

Yeah, that’s that gigantic Jesus statue that every tourist in Rio visits (TripAdvisor’s #3).

So cool, right?! This scrappy little backpacker had it pretty sweet in Rio.

Oh, and did I mention it was Carnival season?! This would be the time of year when hostel rates skyrocket to, like, $100 USD for a bed in a 20-person dorm room, not to mention thousands of dollars for a hotel room. And here I was crashing on a luxurious couch with this luxurious view!

Luis rocks. He had nothing to gain by letting me stay on that couch, and he wanted nothing in return. Yeah, he lives a glamorous lifestyle that is the polar opposite to my backpacker ways, but Luis “gets” it – that thing we have as travelers, that opening of our homes and hearts, and that desire to just share with others and make human connections. Luis is one of those guys you wanna do business with, party with, travel with. Good guy. I’m so glad I got to experience Rio with him. A million thanks, Luis!

Luis and me at Carnival. And yes, that’s Spiderman behind us.

And if you’re suspicious that Luis had other intentions by letting this backpacker crash his couch, let me clear that one riiight up: I am not blonde enough, tall enough, pectorally endowed enough or supermodely enough, haha. This was a strictly platonic friendship!

Speaking of friendships – if it wasn’t enough that I got to stay on that couch, Luis’s kick-ass friends immediately adopted me into their network. There was Lydiane, Morris, Henry, Frederick, Vanessa, Francesca, and more. And a huuuuuuuuge shout out goes to Chad and Renata. It’s actually their penthouse we were staying at, and they were lovely.

Here’s Renata and me in Copacabana during Rio Carnival.

Renata made me that necklace. I LOVE it – thank you Renata!

Luxury couchsurfing and great friends were only the start of my time in Rio. I got into all sorts of shenanigans, and there are sooooo many photos and stories to come. Stay tuned!

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