Here in Favela Experience we meet incredible people from all around the world everyday. Some months ago we received Daniel Bury in our hostel, a digital nomad and virtual reality and 360 degree spherical video professional. He started following his dream when he dropped everything to create a self-funded travel series called Chasing the World in virtual reality, which is completely filmed in 360-degree spherical video and it’s the first project of its kind. Daniel has built a global following on instagram and facebook with his completely unique photography style and is planning on launching a 6 episode VR series in the near future .
Daniel talked to us about his experience in Rio de Janeiro, and specifically in a favela, as a digital nomad, including topics about safety, facilities, connections and special insider tips. Discover more in the interview that follows.
What brought you to Brazil and Rio de Janeiro?
My series is all about showing reality from the point of view of diverse people around the world. I had always been fascinated by Brazil's reputation for rich culture, and I wanted to show life from the unique point of view of the people who live there.
How would you explain to foreigners what a favela is? Why did you choose to stay in a favela and what were you expecting to find here?
To those who have not experienced a favela for themselves, a favela is simply a low-income area in urban Brazil. However, those inside the favela soon discover that it is much more. A favela is a place of beautiful chaos and seemingly infinite culture. Spontaneous gatherings and dance parties appear suddenly in the streets. Trucks roll down the hills with motivated vendors loudly selling their products through megaphones. A maze of passageways and walkways twist and turn endlessly around a sea of buildings stacked on top of each other. And, in these buildings the people coexist with intense love. It's a community unlike any other, where rules and guidelines that govern other societies are overwhelmed by big hearts, carefree attitude and fiery passion of its people.
Was safety a problem for you at any moment?
Before I embarked on my seemingly crazy solo walk up the hill into Vidigal favela, people warned me of the safety. I hid my camera equipment in garbage bags for fear that I would be robbed. I was on guard and filled with fear, but I did not encounter any problems. As time went on and I continued to live in the favela, the fear slowly dissipated as I realized I was surrounded by a community of loving people. By the end of my stay in the favela, I felt at home. I never had any safety issues.
What are the positive and negative aspects of staying in a favela? Would any of the negative aspects affect your decision to stay in a favela again?
That being said, living in a favela is not for the faint hearted. The smells were overwhelming at times, with sewage draining down the steep streets as I struggled to climb the large hill to the hostel. English was practically nonexistent outside of the hostel, and there's no comfort zone of which to escape. These could be seen as negatives for many tourists, but the travelers who I admire do not travel for comfort. They travel to put themselves outside of their comfort zone and to learn and grow as a result. Embracing and experiencing the messier side of life in favelas teaches us that loving friendship and community can exist without the comforts of the financially rich. In fact, it thrives.
How was your experience at Favela Experience?
When traveling, I always seek to surround myself with other people who are following their passions while doing their part to contribute positively to their surroundings and the world. I did not have any expectations going into the favela, but I was hugely surprised when I stumbled upon the team at Favela Experience. In the middle of the least likely of places was a huge team of motivated and inspiring people with the selfless goal of bringing people together from different backgrounds without judgment.
As a digital nomad, what are the facilities you found useful at Favela Experience?
There's an office space at Favela Experience that is always filled with artists, filmmakers and creative professionals working passionately all day and night. The vibe is very motivational and inspiring. It's completely unlike any coworking space I have encountered because of the sense of community, a spirit that seems to permeate from the energy of the surrounding favela.
How this experience at Favela Experience and in the favela in general contributed to your work and your life?
My time at Favela Experience was enriching to both my own personal development as well as my work. As a virtual reality filmmaker, being surrounded by the people at Favela Experience was a constant reminder that anything is possible. It's all about pushing boundaries and breaking down barriers to improve life in a way that is hard to quantify or express in words. It's priceless, and my time there has enriched myself and my art on a very deep level that I think will be very apparent when I release the extended preview of Chasing the World in virtual reality soon.
Do you believe tourism could be a catalyst for social and economic development in the favelas? How?
When tourists visit the favelas, there are many positive things that occur. On the surface level, the tourist dollars obviously contribute to the financial well being of the residents in the favela. On a deeper lever, when people from such drastic socioeconomic backgrounds come together, magic happens on both sides. The tourists become less judgmental and open minded when confronted with the beautiful spirit of the locals, while the locals may become inspired and motivated with a new avenue of opportunities to take action to improve their lives.
What were your favorite moments during your time in Rio de Janeiro?
My favorite moment was one of my first nights at Favela Experience when the entire hostel ventured to a massive party in the favela. I had a fantastic time soaking in the culture of the community and making lasting friendships with the people from the hostel alongside the beating drums and carefree dancing of the locals.
What are the tips and suggestions you would give to other digital nomads that are considering coming to Rio de Janeiro? Would you recommend Favela Experience?
In my mind, a journey to Rio de Janeiro would not be complete without a favela experience. Travel comes in many different forms. Some people go on vacations to escape their daily grind and relax on the beach, like at Ipanema or Copacabana. Favela Experience provides a completely different journey. It's an intense and unforgettable experience that showers travelers with life changing moments and countless stories. It’s such a unique and amazing community, and there's simply no comparison. I highly recommend Favela Experience, and I do not give out recommendations like this unless I really mean it.
What are the best memories you take from Brazil?
My favorite memory was when I first arrived at Favela Experience. I was lost, confused and afraid, searching for something to film for my documentary. Then, unexpectedly I ran into an American guy named Daniel. He told me about Favela Experience and before I knew it, I was living there and working alongside him as we edited our film projects. Furthermore, everyone at the hostel went out of their way to support me and bring me along film shoots and tours to some of the most dynamic areas of Rio de Janeiro, including the cable car at Complexo do Alemão and film shoots with famous Olympic athletes.
Where are you now? Where are you going next?
I'm currently in Santa Marta, Colombia filming the final episode of Chasing the World in virtual reality. Unfortunately, my travel journey is about to come to an end, for now. I need to go to the US to follow through on my responsibility to complete editing this series and ensure it finds distribution. A lot of amazing people entrusted me with sharing their lives and stories through this virtual reality series, and I am very excited to make it the best it can be and finally release it all to the public.