Visiting India was the first awakening: there are a lot of people on the world, and I am just a little ant that is living here, my life reference has changed. I started to see the world with different eyes: my notion of the concepts of poverty and happiness have changed, I learnt that one could be happy with small things. Maybe it was the beginning of my journey to where I live now.

I was born in Lisbon, I grew up in a very protective family, my parents gave me possibilities which were very useful for the future in terms of education. They also tried to show me a little bit of the world and other cultures. My dad is Portuguese and my mum is originally from India, so I had the opportunity to visit India when I was young. The first time I went there, it shocked me. Everything is different over there, the weather, the smell, the people: they are very welcoming and simple, it is a special place. My experience was even nicer, because I have family there and they showed me how they live, what they eat and what the traditions are. Before travelling there I never imagined my mum grew up in such a different context. The society is very stratified, where each class has to behave in a certain way. The education is very strict, the values and rules have to be followed. I also grew up with these principles, so this had some impact on me, on how I see life today and how I act towards others, but I learnt that sometimes we have to question values that are communicated to us as the right way to be and to live. I believe what really make us the way we are is how we receive and perceive experiences, how and what we learn, what opportunities we create for ourselves and not the type of blood we have in our veins.

I love seeing other cultures, how they live and perceive the world. I think that while travelling in Europe we don’t learn as much as while visiting other continents. Being in contact with different cultures and roots can change us much more, here in Europe we look at life in more or less the same way. Less developed countries are still in a purer phase. For me visiting Mozambique in 2010 was also a life changing experience, till now it was the most important trip of my life. I feel a very special relationship with the world in Mozambique, the people of this place are so authentic and beautiful. They live day by day, which is something hard to do here in Europe. We always have expectations about work, family, house, etc. In Mozambique people are happy with the little they have and they even share that with you.

I can say I have had two lives, so far. I loved living in Lisbon, that city has an incredible light and way of life. However as time went by, my need for contact and connection with nature became greater and greater. I worked and lived in the centre of Lisbon, but every time I had the chance, almost every weekend I had to get away. Then  the job opportunity of Casas Brancas Association appeared, in the region of Alentejo, where I spent almost all my summer vacations. This was something I couldn’t say no to. I had everything in Lisbon: secure job, family, friends, house, but I felt I had to go. So in a month and a half I changed everything and I moved to Odemira in 2014.

The beginning was hard, because on the one hand it was fantastic, I was amazed by the feeling of being in the Alentejo, I ended everyday on the coast, here in Zambujeira do Mar with the sunset. The appeal of nature started growing, and I became more connected with the countryside, besides the connection I already had with the sea. But the work part was demanding, it was a new project with new challenges, and I worked all day long, so I didn’t have much time to socialize. But all of these gave me strength to stay in a place which is still very wild.

After Casas Brancas I had the opportunity to start working with Rota Vicentina, where I am coordinating all the projects we are developing. Step by step I understood how big this project is in reality and how we can use the trails for local sustainability. Rota is an educational way for all the people to value this beautiful place, to live here without ruining it and to understand all of this. I identify myself with the project: to give to the people what I was trying to find for myself. Before working here I had my job and my personal life separate, and now, because of the values of the project and the way I see life, for the first time my professional and personal life perfectly match. That is why working extra hours is natural, exactly how it is said in the new Rota promotional video: like eating and drinking, you live the project, it is yours. And it is something worth fighting for, this is what Rota gave me: my life project is also my professional project. It is a holistic ecosystem, which is fluid. Sometimes hard, but I feel I am on the right track.

I live a life which feels good to live, with my dogs and cat and surrounded by nature. I don’t like taking pictures, because I always feel that I lose something. I want to focus on the moments and not on the tools. This is the place for me to live, where I get my inspiration from the sea, the waves, the rocks, the birds, the trees, where I have the feeling of freedom. These dramatic landscapes give me energy, I don’t know how to explain, but it does. When I don’t have a lot of distraction, I feel more connected with the world, and the feeling of fullness happens to me here.

I believe our path is towards finding ourselves, what we really value. The universe gives us opportunities to do this, either we take them or not. But if we don’t take them, they will appear again in this life, or in the next one, but one day we will get there.

Filipa Curto

The photos were taken in Zambujeira do Mar.

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