Meet the Contributors: Jocelyn Edelstein

Jocelyn Edelstein has spent extensive time in Brazil, dancing and working on her upcoming documentary, Believe The Beat, which follows a group of hip-hop dancers from Rio de Janeiro. Aside from the samba of Rio, Jocelyn has explored tango in Buenos Aires and flamenco in Barcelona. She currently resides in Portland, oregon, where she teaches dance, writes, and works on Believe The Beat. To find out more about what Jocelyn is up to visit her website at or to preview her upcoming documentary visit

When did you first know you were a traveler?

As a little kid my favorite game involved spreading out my mom’s collection of old National Geographics on the living room floor. I would arrange the pictures as individual islands or countries and proceed to step from picture to picture imagining that I was a part of the photo. I remember my mom commenting once that she had a sneaking suspicion I wanted to be a global citizen. I was nine and didn’t know what she meant at the time, but all these years later it comes back to me and I laugh at her perceptive, motherly premonition.

Who is the most inspiring or interesting person you’ve met on the road?

My dear friend Val has been the most inspiring, without a doubt. When we met we didn’t share a common language but managed to communicate simply by being in each other’s presence. After living with Val for nearly a year and witnessing firsthand her struggle as a woman and a mother living in the favelas of Brazil, I continue to be amazed by her persevering delight in being alive.

In your opinion, what is the greatest reward of traveling?

For me the greatest reward of traveling has been the chance to let go of all the previous decisions I've made about how the world works.

For me the greatest reward of traveling has been the chance to let go of all the previous decisions I’ve made about how the world works. The chance to experience a new version of myself when given a different language to communicate in and a new geography to navigate. Travel allows me to trust that somewhere there is always a way to engage one another, even if we don’t share the same life experience. The one thing we all share is the commonality of being human and that gives us a base to build upon across all other lines of disparity.

What’s one place that has moved you or changed you in a significant way?

Rio de Janeiro has been the place where I’ve faced the biggest personal challenges, experienced the most profound joy and undergone the most noticeable transformation. From being hit hard with dengue fever to dancing in front of an audience of 10,000 people for the first time to learning the unspoken rules of favela residency, my experiences there have been profound. I think Rio has brought me face to face with my own concerns and questions about why our world has such a terribly imbalanced distribution of wealth and what role I play in this confusing mix. I have also experienced very deep personal connections in Rio, which transcended cultural gaps, existing in a place of love and a shared passion for dance. The energy of Rio and the Cariocas who reside there have shown me dance as an art form of total conviction, endless freedom and ancient roots.

Is there something you always do when on a trip?

Every time I travel I seek out bookstores. Sometimes it’s out of necessity. I’ve read my one book and want another. But often it’s because of the delight I feel being in bookstores in different countries. There is something magical to me about the power of books, no matter where you go. You can find so many of the tried-and-true classic stories there on the shelves in different languages. It’s incredible to me how we all respond to the potency of storytelling and myth. I also love seeing the stories that are most resonant for the particular culture/country I’m exploring. Unfortunately the price of books in a given country says a lot about social exclusion and the type of access people have to these stories. It’s something I took for granted before I traveled to South America - the fact that books were more often than not affordable and available used. But this hasn’t been the case elsewhere and I realize the implications of this reach incredibly deep into a particular social infrastructure’s strengths and weaknesses.

In what ways does writing inform your relationship with travel?

Writing has always been one of my most treasured ways of checking in with myself while traveling. I try to keep a journal in my daily life, but when traveling, my journal becomes a very passionate conversation with myself and my experience of the place I’m in. Something about being separated from my familiar surroundings brings a new freedom to my ability to write without censoring. I just want to get it all down - all the base emotions and sights and sounds I perceive in the new environment I’m exploring. Later I always discover that, of course, my rawest and best writing has come from journal entries I wrote without pause, sitting on a bench on the sidewalk of a busy city, or on the back of a napkin, leaning on a tree trunk to get down my first thoughts about the smell of the air and the flowers and the sun.

What advice can you give women who want to start traveling?

To women who want to start traveling I would say that the adventure of traveling is in discovering your own delicate balance of instinct and planning. There is nothing wrong with preparing yourself in all sorts of ways before going on a trip. In fact, it is one of the joys of anticipation before travel. But if the planning overrides the development of your own instinct for what you need and want to explore when you actually arrive, then the true gem of travel gets forsaken.

Through travel have you overcome any fears or obstacles?

Through travel I’ve definitely gotten over any fear I might have had about being alone. Instead I’ve discovered and nurtured a delicious enjoyment of my own company and an acute awareness of my most authentic desires - the ones I experience with total clarity when I have no one else’s agenda in mind.

  Order The Best Women’s Travel Writing 2011   More info


The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality.” –Samuel Johnson