Twenty years ago I was so eager to reach the end of the process, when I would understand life and what I want. I think everybody is in this process of trying to improve oneself and be a better person. It is good to keep looking, because in the search you grow up, but with less anxiety, because you won’t get to the end of it. At least I don’t think I will in this life, maybe in the next one.

I was a very imaginative child, I used to play alone a lot at home after school. I lived in Lisbon and I studied Corporate Communication at university with internships in journalism. I started working as a freelancer after university, and I loved it, because I had the time to work on features I enjoyed. One of them was about Tamera, where they had a one week horseriding course. I participated in it and wrote a 10 page feature in a Portuguese newspaper, and I got a national prize for Revelation Journalist of the Year. This was one of those experiences, where I had the chance to meet people and communities, who don’t think or live like me, and was able to understand why they were like that. Journalism gave me the opportunity  to get to know a lot of people and places and gave me the chance to ask questions that I normally wouldn’t. To meet people intimately and to read them when I ask a question and they’re silent or they laugh or hesitate in answering. Writing about different feelings, noises, silence, music, smell or taste, and making the readers not just read but be there. To make the connection between the readers and the person I interviewed, the community I met, or the place I’ve seen, to make them feel. It is a storytelling of lives, I still consider myself, if anything, a journalist. Sharing is my path, the people impact me, and I hope to impact them.

I worked in the media for two years in Macao and for eight years in Mozambique. Macao still has a lot of magazines and newspapers in Portuguese, because it was a Portuguese colony. China is a very competitive country and a very strong and dense culture. There are a lot of people, there is no personal space, it is quite claustrophobic. You almost need to be aggressive to grab a taxi or someone will just push you and catch the cab you stopped. As I didn’t speak the language, I always felt like I was seeing their culture through an aquarium, but I Iearned that people can understand you without speaking the same language. When I decided to move from there, I applied for jobs in Africa and I started to work as an Economical Editor in a media group and later as an Editor in Chief of the Portuguese Sol newspaper in Mozambique. I really liked the project, I had a good team of great journalists, and I am proud of them and of the work we did. It really changed the place and what the people expect from the media there. The culture of Mozambique is very different from ours, even if we speak the same language. They are very friendly, and everything is easy-going, your social life is always busy, but the adaptation is not easy. It was a life-changing period of my life, I feel it is also my country, but I felt I needed a break.

My sister lived already at that time in Alentejo, so I started to work in the region, in Cerca do Sul with Sara Serrão. I wanted to have a tourism experience, and I wanted to work on my third book. But it turned out to be so much more: I changed and grew the most in such a short period of time. The things that I thought I couldn’t do, I started doing and it made me realize there are no limits. I think it was like a preparation for motherhood, so I can believe that I can do anything, and I’m strong enough to do it, both emotionally and physically. And I love tourism: not only meeting different people, but enhancing the experiences they may have in this region.

Here is a community in the village of Odemira, and the people are more and more friendly to you as they get to know you. It’s like a little clan that you have in the community: the guy from the coffee shop or the lady who keeps the good fruit for me because of my one-year old baby boy. I miss the countryside a lot though, but as a new mother at least in the beginning, I thought it is easier for me to be inside of the village and to feel the “support” of the clan. I want him to feel loved and secure, which can boost his self esteem and self confidence throughout life. When you have a good base of love, you can let yourself take a little risk or take chances, because you have a net beneath you. I want to make sure that he knows that he can leave his comfort zone, because he is strong enough to deal with it.

When I applied for the Communication vacancy in Rota Vicentina, I was already pregnant. Marta Cabral, who is the director, told me that as a mother she would never set this as a criterion for exclusion. She loved being a mother, and thought motherhood brought skills to women that other experience maybe didn’t. I don’t think you find this kind of attitude a lot in the world, which it is too bad. Mothers are not allowed to be mothers, it is not very easy to be one and to work and live at the same time. She gave me the possibility of having a job, to come back to Portugal and to live in this region, and I will always be grateful to her because of this. Working in Rota is being in the service of a project that serves the region and that enhances and changes people’s lives, not only in tourism but in the local communities, and those of the hikers that come. Rota Vicentina is five years old only, and it is already a huge project, which gives me a lot of comfort. I would love to work more outdoors, because my work is mainly in the office, and when I do have the chance, I see the way people feel about Rota and it really makes me proud to represent this project.

I believe there is something positive stronger than us: when my attitude is more positive things run better. I try to be grateful, and when I start to count the things I’m grateful for, I always feel I have so many things. I have faith in the universe. As my cells are just like yours, we are part of the universe. We melt into each other, into the context, into the water, the trees and the leaves, and this is the beginning of the world.

Marta Curto


The photos were taken on ‘Santa Clara Routes’ of Rota Vicentina.

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