I live in exactly the place I have chosen to live and I do exactly what I have chosen to do, and this is already a big privilege. It’s very important not to focus so much on being wise and racional but to follow your instincts and to do not what is right but what you feel you have to do. I am struggling with my inner challenges constantly, the only thing I can do is to listen to my inner voice, to find every single day what I want and to try to achieve it. Negativity is something which we can’t accept in our relationship with the world, we need to check it and change it within ourselves, because it is always within ourselves. You can’t face all your fights; you need to choose the ones which really matter. This is something which guides me in my life and in my work.

I was born and raised in the centre of Lisbon, but I always had a connection with the countryside. I liked very much to walk by myself, I did it in the city, and in the countryside. Walking was always for me a way of transporting myself without the need of anything else. I was not sure what to study and I decided to choose Marketing and Administration. I did an internship in Brazil, which was a very important period in my life. I had the chance to travel a lot by myself there, which gave me the time and opportunity to reconsider everything at that moment of my life after graduation, with everything ahead of me. When I finished my studies, I was not sure if I had made the right professional choice, that I would feel fulfilled with the world of business. But soon it became very clear that it is possible to combine your values and professional skills with business management. I applied for the job at Casas Brancas and even before they replied, I was already sure that I was coming to the region of Alentejo and Vicentina Coast to invest in this place and to do something. They hired me and I started to work with Rudolfo Muller, who was a key person in my understanding of what my role was.

It all made sense, it felt right and I felt completely at home, I had the space to do something meaningful, which would make a difference. After questioning so much what I wanted to do and how to feel fulfilled, everything clicked into place, not just the work but also living here. This region is very very special, there is no other place that I could ever compare to this. Having the opportunity to work on this project with this land, made me realize not only that the very ambitious dreams can become reality, but also how much you depend on others to believe in what you believe in. You really need to find people who inspire you somehow, and to create partnerships to make it work. The good and positive energy is contagious, working together is extremely powerful, much more you could ever dream of.

Many regions have an issue with their identity in a period like this, when the tourism is changing so much and we are so exposed. At the moment, as the Executive Director of Rota Vicentina Association I’m very focused on the identity of this region in particular, and how Southwest Portugal can be more than preserved, how it can live with the tourism movement and even to grow with it, to feel stronger with and because of tourism, and not despite it. We are trying to keep together with partners, community, companies, tour operators, markets and hikers. We have to find the best model for the local community, for the people who not only live here, but feel the region for what it is, and who are really connected to this place. They are the ones that are in the front line of our work, no matter if he/she is a traditional fisherman, shepherd or has a very contemporary approach, they are the ones who we want to work for and with.

My work gives me a lot of doubts, maybe that’s why I feel it still makes sense for me. In the beginning it was a project, almost a dream, but now it is a big responsibility. This is what I find beautiful, not necessarily what we did, but how much we are able now to face the biggest challenges that are presented not only to us, but to every region and to the whole world. We achieved a network, where everyone’s responsible for making it better and stronger, in a moment like this, when Portugal and this region are very attractive. It is never done, and there is always a lot to be done, we just try to connect the dots and to support whoever wants to do something. The doubts are part of the game, without them you don’t even know where you’re going. The point is to find the way, not the solution, because it’s not exactly in our hands to solve the problems, but to go towards the solutions. I believe strongly in the power of questioning and answering, bringing different skills, people, projects and solutions together in something bigger. It’s really about thinking of the region in all its layers with our minds and hearts, zooming out and working together. I feel very fulfilled by doing it, Rota is so much more than a team or a group of people, it is a movement.

My biggest inspiration in life is the combination of everything which is beautiful on Earth with the people. How people manage to be so creative in the sense of facing the challenges of this world. I believe in mankind and I think a lot about why we doubt it so much. We will never be in peace and harmony, it is part of us as humans, always dealing with everything that we feel is not balanced, so we can try to poise, this is how it goes. We are so unperfect, all of us. But so many of us are so inspiring somehow, I need to believe that this is part of the game in order to understand and keep working with what surrounds us. The world is endless because of the people.

I believe you educate your children through facing your challenges, I feel I owe my sons my own happiness and good feelings about life and about relations with them and with the world. Being a mother is a big learning process, they inspire me a lot. I try to be very truthful towards my own challenges and my biggest message is how I prioritize the different elements in my life, and how I make big efforts to answer all of them. You always need to remind yourself what you want and I am with them, because I want to be with them. And when I am not with them, I do something which I really want to do. Everything goes together, that’s who I am. I am very passionate about my life and about the elements in it, and I think it is enough for them to understand how important all these are.

Marta Cabral

The photos were taken on ‘Endiabrada and the Hidden Lakes‘ Circular route of Rota Vicentina.

One thought on “togetherness

  1. In-depth story about Marta Cabral, a great woman and ambassador for Rota Vicentina. I met her only once, unfortunately. And only once hiked the ´Endiabrada and the Hidden Lakes´ Circular route,
    from Bordeira and back. Twice a pleasure. Portugal should be proud of the fantastic work she and her collegues are doing!

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