Coffee Time with Industry Vets: Clarissa Mattos of Eurail

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Think you know Clarissa Mattos, think again….

Growing up in a small town in Brazil, Clarissa Mattos, Eurail’s North America market manager, didn’t take her first memorable trip until the age of 8. But, it was an art exhibit in Europe that changed her perception of time and history; and while living in the Netherlands a job opportunity brought her to the travel industry. And now, the travel bug has given her a bite so to speak, as her travel bucket list is quite long with visions of Japan, Norway and Peru. We’ll let her explain more in this installment of our Coffee Time With Industry Vets Q&A series.

Where did you go on your first trip and how old were you?
I was 8 years old when I went on my first trip (or at least this is my first memorable trip). I flew to Rio de Janeiro to visit relatives. It was exciting to be in Rio, a city that is a dream destination to almost everyone. I used to live in Salvador de Bahia and Rio was so different from everything I knew, although in the same country. The Christ, Sugar Loaf, the people it [was like] living in a postcard.

What is your most vivid travel memory?
I was in Barcelona on a solo trip in Europe—my first trip to Europe. I was at the Museum of History of Catalonia and I saw, for the first time, art pieces from the 13th century. They were Gothic paintings, and since I come from a quite young country, it had a huge impact on me. This moment just completely changed my perception of time. Brazil is a young country and my idea of what’s new and what is old changed completely at that moment. I always loved history and it was like seeing history and not just reading [about it in] books.

What was the “Aha” moment that led you to the travel industry?
I’ve always loved traveling. I was living in the Netherlands for three years looking for an opportunity to work in marketing in an international environment. It was a perfect match with the Eurail Group—and the Eurail Passes are such an inspiring product to work with.

Where did you go on your honeymoon?
We travel a lot but there hasn’t been an official honeymoon… yet.

An image captured by Clarissa during her trip to Seville.
An image captured by Clarissa during her trip to Seville.

What was your favorite trip you took last year and why?
Last year I went on a Eurail trip to Spain. I visited Madrid, Seville and Cordoba by train. Spain is an amazing destination, combining two things I love: history and great food. Not to mention the incredible trains and the good weather—so scarce in the Netherlands. It was a fantastic getaway with its combination of landmarks, gastronomy and culture.

Where would you like to go that you have yet to visit?
Hmmm, this is a difficult question because my list is huge. There are still a lot of places in Europe to be explored, but also on other continents. Let me try: I would love to see the Northern Lights in Norway, I would love to travel by train in Japan, and the Inca trail in Peru is high on my list.

Do you always buy a souvenir the first time you visit a destination?
I always try to bring something that reminds me of the place and the moments. It can be something for the house, but it can also be something for personal use like a scarf, for instance. It has to be meaningful.

You can tell us – do you collect magnets from the destination you’ve visited?
No, but my mother collects thimbles and I always try to bring a new one for her.

What do you do to pass the time on a plane ride to the destination?
Usually working, reading or watching films.

Clarissa while traveling in Madrid with her favorite travel companion, her boyfriend Ron Beenen.
Clarissa while traveling in Madrid with her favorite travel companion, her boyfriend Ron Beenen.

Who is your favorite travel companion?
My boyfriend. He shares my passion for photography and music. We have the same travel style. We love to walk and discover new places, visit markets and taste the local food.

If there were one hotel room in the world you could call home the rest of your life, which would it be?
I don’t believe that any hotel room can be called home, but I can say that the last hotel room that made me feel at home was at La Em Casa Bar & Guest House in Brazil in the Marau Peninsula. They only have two bungalows, and I felt like I could stay there for the rest of my life (although I would miss the kitchen).

What is the best food you’ve had on a trip?
Don’t know if it was the best, but my memory is so vivid that I can almost recall the flavor. We were in a very small village in Tuscany and there was this tiny and delightful family osteria. They brought me the lightest ravioli filled with a very delicate ricotta filling with orange zest. The picture was complete: I was in Tuscany and tasting the best of the Italian ingredients.

Clarissa and Ron sightseeing in Madrid.
Clarissa and Ron sightseeing in Madrid.

The strangest?
Snails in Seville.

What can’t you travel without?
E-reader, smartphone, camera

Who is the most interesting person you’ve met while traveling?
I met an Indian freelance journalist on a rail trip in Europe. We spent hours on a train talking about life, about our cultural differences, and she told me how she left her job to follow her dreams. There was an immediate click, though I never met her again, but we stayed in touch for years. I still have an image of an India goddess that she gave me as gift.

Tropical beach or Snow Mountain?
Tropical beach, but being a Brazilian I also have a fascination for snow.

City or countryside?
I think city wins, but I do love to combine both when travelling.