I studied tourism and geography, and I was always interested in working in the cross section of sustainability, local community development and tourism: how to promote it in a way that respects the nature and has a positive impact on the locals. I believe when I work with tourism I can offer a life-changing experience with an amazing connection that people can make by going to another place.

I was born and raised in Brazil, although Portugal has been always part of my life, because my father and grandparents are from Portugal. It has been very present in all the stories that I heard, I remember wondering if one day I would have the opportunity to come here.

After a decade working with tourism in Brasilia, I decided to live new experiences travelling in a more authentic way. I’ve always been very curious about the world, to look around and understand how people live and see things. Travelling for me is such a power and tool, a way to self-knowledge, to understand and respect others and the world. For all these reasons I started to do volunteering in North-America and to exchange my help for anything the hosts needed. I was so grateful, and in reality they helped me much more than I helped them. Caring for each other and doing my best with love, regardless what I get in return, changed the way I see everything. People are so different but at the same time so similar, I believe that we have something in common and something to share with every single person. I also learnt how to live one day at a time, because during a journey you frequently have to say goodbye to people and places. Each experience is so unique, you need to make the most of it. This trip made me validate what I really want to do: to work in tourism in a different way, to offer a meaningful experience from people to people, and this time, in Portugal.

I always felt if I come here, I will come here to live. A few months after moving, when I saw the job offer of Rota Vicentina I knew this was for me. A project that I truly believe in and desired to join. Seeing day by day the positive impact and change in the local community, the small companies and the environment, inspire me a lot. I feel blessed to be part of this and to work strategically on the proposal to develop a network of trails for mountain bikes. It is very special for me to live in Portugal, work in what I love and learn new approaches for purposeful work.

Nature is part of me, it has always been my work and my refuge. This region allowed me to connect with myself and with the life I want: to slow down, to breathe and to live my life to the fullest.

Marcela Souza

The photos were taken in Nossa Senhora das Neves.

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