The Black Expat: My Survival Became My Perseverance While Stuck In Brazil

Updated: Jul 26

DeAnna Taylor • Aug 11, 2020


Ohio native Terry Williams has called Medellin, Colombia “home” since early 2019. As a promise to his mom, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2016, Terry has spent the last few years traveling the world to scatter her ashes in places she never got to see.


He relocated to Medellin to study Spanish and work at a local university. He was living on a student visa, but it expired just before the pandemic hit. Like many expats, Terry found it best to make a visa run to another country so that he could come back to Medellin under a visitor’s visa.


Courtesy of Terry Williams

Knowing that he had friends and a fraternity brother there, Terry decided to take a 10-day trip to Brazil. However, just two days before he was set to return to Colombia, COVID-19 sent the world into a frenzy. “Colombia closed its borders to all visitors, which included me since my student visa was changed to a visitor,” Terry told Travel Noire. “Due to the borders being closed, flights being canceled, and the world turning upside down, I was displaced in Rio de Janeiro for 5 months.”

After trying everything in his power to get back to Colombia, where his important documents and belongings were, Terry had to mentally pivot into his reality of being “stuck” in Brazil indefinitely. “Plain and simple, I calmly panicked. Never in my adult life has something so drastically affected the world the way it did on March 16.”


Terry quickly sprang into action, researching long-term rentals for one, that were also safe. He knew for the sake of his mental health, that he would need to be in a place where he felt secure while also being accessible to the necessities, like groceries.


He managed to find a one-bedroom apartment on Airbnb that he booked for 40 days. After the 40 days, he made an agreement with the landlord to deposit the rent directly in her account versus going through the app.

According to Terry, the entire five months was an emotional roller coaster.


“The first two months were really hard for me,” Terry said. “I was depressed, confused, and ALONE. I normally travel solo, which I enjoy because I get to meet people and have a deeper connection without having to depend on anyone. However, during a pandemic, there’s no socializing.”


Courtesy of Terry Williams

He recalls falling into a state of depression and sadness from being left alone with his own thoughts for so long. Following the news and keeping up with social media, didn’t help either. “It actually gave me anxiety every night dreaming that I could get COVID, and die alone without anyone knowing what happened to me. I am not afraid of death, but I am afraid of dying alone and not having love around me. Having to be okay with the possibility of dying alone was very difficult to process. Also, watching how America is dealing with racism, police brutality, and the murders of George Floyd, Ahmed Arbury, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black people, I was just in a rage. I was just a mixed bag of emotions in March and April.”


Despite all of this, something shifted for him on Mother’s Day. During his morning meditation, he realized that he could no longer allow fear to cripple him. He had made so many strides in carrying out his mother’s dreams, and he wasn’t going to let it all end there. At that moment, he realized that the universe had put him in Rio for a reason.


“My survival became my perseverance,” he said. “I strived to become better each day in certain areas. While alone, I studied languages, meditated, and exercised regularly, ate healthier, and read books that could continue reshaping my mindset. I even discovered that I was currently living in the city that is home to the author of my favorite book, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It inspired me to finally start working on my book. Everything has happened for a reason, and it is our job to discover how each puzzle fits.”


Courtesy of Terry Williams

From that point forward, he made the most of his time in Brazil. Once the borders reopened, he was able to fly to Sao Paolo to catch a flight to Ohio, to reunite with family. He is not looking forward to being back in America and realizes it is not the best place for him mentally.


“I want to live in an environment that will give me peace of mind and space to grow, and America isn’t on the top of my list for that right now.” Unfortunately, Colombia has not reopened to visitors. Once it does, Terry is eager to get back to his normal life and to check on his belongings in his apartment.

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To find more from Terry, you can follow him on Instagram: @showkase3. You can also find more from his adventures through his personal hashtag: #terrystaytrippin.





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