I have changed and become more interested in walking, and the more I am involved in the work and travel the more I change, the two go together. I give more importance to things such as environmental issues, I am more aware of what nature is, what is in danger, and all the beautiful things we have in this world. And I also connect in a different way with people, my mindset has changed. Walking has taught me it is more important to have time to be with people and spend time in places doing things that you care about than to stress about things that you have to do in the office that will always be there to be done. Life is short. You have to learn to take your time and do things that are useful, fulfilling and make you happy.

I love walking, my holidays over the past few years have been walking holidays; it is a great way to explore your local area as well as other places and cultures. It is good exercise but it is also good for your mental wellbeing, you can leave your stress behind after 5 minutes’ walking. I love Rota’s maintenance hikes, because you are having fun and doing something useful at the same time. It is very fulfilling and people who have never volunteered for this kind of activity should give it a try. I have followed Rota Vicentina right from its early stages, since its beginnings. It is a wonderful project, it has involved the community and businesses, and it has brought life, hope and a different future for all this area.

My degree is in art history, but since then I have studied all sorts of different things: tourism, business, nature conservation, biology, things that I’ve never thought I would be interested in. I was working as a volunteer when I heard out about a 10 month course in Cultural Tourism in Mértola. I wanted to give it a try, but at that time I had no idea what tourism was about. After the course I started working for the Região de Turismo da Planície Dourada, which had been established for six months, first as a trainee then as a public officer. In 2008 we became Turismo do Alentejo and since then we have been responsible for the whole Alentejo, which is a huge area from the border of the Algarve all the way to North of Lisbon, a third of the country. For over 20 years I have been leading very different kinds of projects, one of the projects I am most proud of is a museum guide book, through which we can show people all the culture and history that we have in the Alentejo, and that many people are not aware of. We also developed a birdwatching project which goal is to sell the region and its birdlife, and after less than 10 years, we can say Portugal is on the birdwatching map.

Time is one of the things I appreciate the most here. Everything is so open, you walk outside and you see the Milky Way, which is a privilege, how many people can say that nowadays? The horizon, the sense of unspoiled space that you have here. I live in a small village in the municipality of Castro Verde, which like many others is losing its population every year, you can see how it is disappearing. You know what happens when you don’t have rain for 3 years, or what happens when it rains too much. You can clearly sense all these things. If you live in the countryside, much more than in a big city you are very much aware of what nature is, how much you depend on it and how things can come and go.

Ana de Seixas Palma

The photos were taken in Ruínas Romanas de Miróbriga, in Santiago do Cacém.

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