Serra da Lousã: 6 insights of a challenging hike

Last summer, I set out for a hike in the Lousã mountain range. I’m usually comfortable hitting the trails alone. I have some experience in mountaineering, and this route seemed easy enough. Something that would take about two hours.

At the start, the trail offered a wide, well-defined path, with shade and coolness. It was ten minutes in this setting until I reached the river. From here, the ascent began. Nothing special. Then a bit steeper. Manageable. Even steeper. An hour later, I had to use three points of contact (two feet and a hand) to climb. There were high rocks and imposing boulders. “If the route is classified as medium difficulty, this climb must end soon,” I thought. And it did. An hour and a half later, it gave way to a steep descent on gravel that made me slip with every step. Half an hour sliding down the slope. It came to an end. Another ascent. This time on beaten earth but quite steep. Another hour. I was already two hours in, and another half when I finally reached the schist village. Beautiful. Magical. In ruins.

I stopped for a moment to drink water then continued while nibbling on a cookie. Maybe I got distracted with the cookie, with the village, or with my thoughts. When I recovered my awareness, there were no signs of the trail anymore. I wasn’t inattentive for long, but given my nonexistent sense of direction, it was enough to get lost.

I had three options:

  1. Venture onto another path nearby, risking getting even more lost in the mountains.
  2. Follow the asphalt road, knowing I had 18 kilometers of walking towards where I had left the car.
  3. Go back on the trail I had taken, knowing the difficulties I had already encountered on the way there.

A journey that would end in half an hour now seemed much longer.

In the paths I’ve traveled through the mountains of the world, I’ve always had difficulty dealing with the ascents. I look at them and think I’m not capable, my legs will give out, I’ll run out of breath. I suffer in anticipation. It’s a kind of vertigo but in the opposite direction.

What made me choose to go back the same way was the fact that I had spent so much time climbing. Now it would be almost all downhill, it would be faster. The ascents that would turn into descents shouldn’t be that complicated. After all, I had managed to do them.

Three challenges: Some fatigue, scorching sun, and lack of water.

I moved forward. Standing there certainly wouldn’t take me back to the start.

In these steps back, I realized that the climb I had undertaken was indeed difficult and time-consuming. This made the descent itself a challenge. I was amazed that I had managed to do it and almost rejoiced in the way destiny had found to show me the real extent of my physical capabilities.

Facing the adversity of the mountain is like realizing a dream or pursuing a passion. If not, let’s see:

1. For better or worse we are on our chosen path

Our dreams, just like paths, happen because we decided to take the first step. Whether it’s to connect with nature and landscapes that are only accessible through footpaths or to chase a purpose, it’s necessary to decide that we want to do it. And then, we act accordingly.

2. Even with the inherent adversities, the result is rewarding

The realization of a dream can fail. But the greatest frustration comes when it was never attempted. Just like a hike. There are places and landscapes that I would never have known if I had never penetrated the heart of some mountains through paths where only my hiking boots fit, one at a time. The villages, the streams, and the trees I saw, the sounds and smells of the mountain, I would hardly have experienced them if I had chosen not to leave the comfort of the car on the asphalt road.

3. Small goals add up to big results

When we start our journey, whether it’s the pursuit of a dream or winding trails in a mountain, it’s essential to set small goals that we celebrate as great victories. Sometimes the distance we need to travel to reach our destination can be long. That fact can be quite demotivating. On my way back, tired, without water, and with the sun burning, I kept thinking: just get to the top of that hill and rest, if I can get past that curve, then the path to the ruins is easier, or at the end of this descent, there’s the river, I can refresh myself.

4. Focus on the present moment.

On my journey back, there was a moment when I found myself slipping and losing balance. I slowed down and thought that risking twisting an ankle couldn’t be an option. So I paid more attention to my step, slowing down the pace and making sure I placed my feet on firm ground. I abandoned the anxiety and urgency to arrive. Sometimes, when we decide to follow the path of a dream, we let our minds dwell on a future where the path has already been traveled. The future is something that doesn’t exist yet. If we divert our attention from what we’re living in the present, we run the risk that it will never come to exist.

5. Silence the treacherous voices.

It’s important to recognize when our internal voices are just trying to sabotage us. Often these voices are only our unfounded fears. At one point on my journey, at the beginning of a steep, shadeless ascent, voices in my head kept repeating: “You’re not fit for this. You’re exhausted. You have no water. The sun that’s out will accelerate dehydration. Stop!” These voices are ourselves. As such, we have the power to control them. We have authority over them. That’s how I decided to put an end and tell them to shut up.

6. Celebrate each victory, big or small.

We become aware of our real value. Risking leaving our comfort zone to pursue a dream is a great achievement. Excessive modesty, undervaluing our true abilities, betray us as much as exaggerated presumption. We must enjoy the moment to the fullest, be honest with ourselves. In this experience, I had the opportunity to realize that my physical abilities and determination were much stronger than I thought. Furthermore, by making the return journey, destiny showed me that I have much more potential to tackle steep ascents than I had ever thought. Looking back now, it seems to me that it wasn’t even as much of an effort as I almost convinced myself it was at the time.

Traveling the world consciously and sustainably and sharing my experience, either through writing or with anyone who wishes to travel with me, is what I do and what makes me happy. The path I have taken to get where I am is very similar to my experience in the Lousã mountains last summer. The methods learned through experience in hiking, mindfulness, and writing have been good tools in this epic journey. After all, everything in life is connected.

Domitília Carvalho: Paving the Way

At the beginning of January, I was in Coimbra, a city I had yet to explore. A visit to the University of Coimbra was inevitable, despite my somewhat tumultuous relationship with higher education. I’m glad I did because during that visit, I became acquainted with Domitília Miranda de Carvalho, a woman whose journey profoundly impacted me and made me reflect on my own rebelliousness towards academic learning.

Domitília’s story began in the 19th century when she embarked on an unprecedented adventure and, against all social norms of the time, decided she wanted to attend the University of Coimbra. Of course, it wasn’t easy when access to knowledge and higher education was exclusively a male privilege.

After completing secondary school with distinction, Domitília wrote a letter to the university rector, a man with very conservative values. In the letter, the young woman invoked the reasons why she should be allowed to take her place alongside her male peers. She did so persuasively that, with no arguments to counter, the rector was forced to accept Domitília. However, there were some strict rules she had to abide by. Among them, she always had to dress soberly in black, wear a discreet hat, and under no circumstances was she allowed to behave in a way that would make her stand out among her male classmates. Knowing that sometimes compromises must be made to pursue a dream, Domitília agreed. She enrolled at the University of Coimbra in October 1891 and, for five years, she was the only female student in Portuguese higher education. Furthermore, knowing that she would have to work twice as hard as her male counterparts to prove her merit, Domitília didn’t just enroll in one course but in two: Mathematics and Philosophy. Moreover, after completing both degrees, she enrolled again, this time in Medicine, which she also completed with distinction.

Upon arriving in Lisbon to work as a doctor at the National Tuberculosis Assistance, she realized that her true calling was in education. Honoring her rebellious side, she became a teacher at D. Maria Pia High School (now Maria Amália Vaz de Carvalho High School), the first secondary education institution established in Portugal for women. She held the position of Mathematics teacher. Once again, she became the first Portuguese woman to teach that subject.

Domitília was a rebellious woman but never lost her conservative side. She was a monarchist and followed the political-ideological principles of the Estado Novo, supporting Salazarism from its inception. I want to believe that this was one of the choices she made, aware that it would be a way to help women gain space in a world where, until then, only men could access. In this capacity, she accepted to be one of the three women invited by the National Union to join the single list of candidates for deputies in the I Legislature of the newly created National Assembly of the Estado Novo.

Nevertheless, Domitília’s conservative views did not prevent her from promoting and signing a petition in favor of the legalization of divorce in 1909. It is this versatility that leads me to believe that, despite being a supporter of a dictatorship, perhaps that was the means that allowed her to leave to all of us, Portuguese women who came after her, the legacy of equal access to opportunities in all areas of society.

I am far from being an advocate of the principle that the end justifies the means. In Domitília’s case, the concessions she made – even the seemingly more extreme ones – allowed her to set precedents and break senseless rules regarding women’s rights in Portugal. I have two higher degrees and a postgraduate degree because, in the late 19th century, Domitília didn’t accept a no as an answer to access the University of Coimbra. So, I am grateful to her. Just as I am to all the women who came before me and paved the way for the possibility of me having access to what I have today. Aware that the world is still not equal for everyone, I hope without any modesty that, in my capacity as a female entrepreneur who travels alone to any part of the world, I too leave marked trails that allow for improving the condition of those who come after me.

Accommodation Suggestions:

Hotel Astória: I stayed here about 5 years ago when I had to attend a work meeting in Coimbra. I loved the location, but above all, the charm of this historic hotel. Passing through the door is like stepping directly into the early 20th century, a time period for which I am fascinated. It has one of the most beautiful elevators I’ve ever seen.

JR Studios & Suites: This is where I stayed in January, right next to the Convent of São Francisco and in front of the Convent of Santa Clara a Velha. The rooms are spacious, with modern, elegant decor in minimalist style. The balconies offer stunning views of the city.

Morroco Coastline: A date with serenity

For this month, I chose to write about a destination that is particularly dear to me: the coast of Morocco. I was there about 6 years ago, and it wasn’t just a trip; it was an entire new experience for my senses (the colors, the smells, the flavors, the sound of the muezzin calling to prayer, the warm waters of the Atlantic…). I went without expectations and returned in love for two main reasons:

  1. You know that feeling when a journey begins as soon as you step out of your home? Morocco offers this experience uniquely and intimately, especially when traveling from Portugal, as I did. Unlike more distant destinations that require long-haul flights, Morocco is less than two hours away from Lisbon, Porto or Faro. Thinking in terms of sustainability, shorter flights mean:
  • Less CO2 emissions
  • More budget-friendly
  • Less fatigue, both in the endless hours at airports and planes and in recovering from potential jet lag.
  1. Along the coast of Morocco, I allowed myself to travel as I like: slowly, without the rush to move from one place to another. For reading, I brought with me the Alain de Botton’s ‘The Art of Travel’, which talks precisely about all the inconveniences that a journey brings until reaching the destination. It also mentions how we often become disappointed because, when we arrive, we find that the chosen location has little to do with the brochure’s photograph that led us to buy the experience in the first place. To Morocco, I arrived without expectations, without images built by marketing campaigns. And, in the end, I was enchanted. I discovered that the Moroccan coast is not just a beach destination; it’s a delight for the senses.

Among the various options, I highlight five cities that stayed in my heart:

Agadir – Renaissance after adversity

Perhaps the city most geared towards resort tourism, but it would be very reductionist to define it only by that. Agadir is an example of resilience and rebirth. After a devastating earthquake in 1960 (which was also strongly felt in Portugal), it managed to rise, literally, from the ashes and now has one of the most beautiful promenades in the country.

Asilah – Where sandy beaches meet colorful murals

This city, besides the beach, hosts the vibrant Arts Festival that happens every year in August. Experiencing it is like stepping into a fairy tale.

Essaouira – For those who love time travel

Here, you can immerse yourself in the sea and also in the fantasy world as you walk through the streets where Game of Thrones was filmed. Despite becoming more known after the series’ success, Essaouira has not lost its authenticity. It remains a haven for those seeking rest and relaxation.

Dakhla – The Kitesurf Refuge

A perfect marriage between the desert and the sea. A remote destination transformed into a mecca for surfing and kitesurfing. Dakhla offers truly authentic experiences for those daring enough to venture there.

Taghazout – Where Waves Tell Stories

A relaxed fishing village, still off the beaten tourist paths, where the waves narrate stories of times past. The mild climate, welcoming atmosphere, and stunning views make this place a hidden gem.

Come discover the coast of Morocco – an experience that goes beyond words.
Budgets from 490 Euros for five-night stays in a double room between March 26 and 31. Send me an email for a personalized quote. Or follow this link and tailor the trip to your liking.

What do Selfies have to do with sustainable tourism?

In a world flooded by the selfie craze, there’s an underlying narrative that permeates the superficial charm of perfect Instagram shots. This relentless pursuit of the ideal photograph often obscures the true essence of an authentic travel experience.

A recent observation at the Musee d’Orsay, beyond the displayed artworks, served as a catalyst for this reflection. While I stood in front of the Impressionist paintings I admire, feeling privileged to be there, other tourists rushed from room to room, eager to capture each painting with their smartphones. My stillness and more contemplative attitude resulted in a few bumps and shoves from these hurried visitors. I was left with the feeling that, in the rush to cover all the rooms and capture as many images as possible, the opportunity to appreciate the art in front of us was somehow lost.

The situation reminded me of the story of Karthika Gupta, a photographer and writer, who witnessed her son being knocked to the ground by a group of tourists in Yellowstone Park, USA, all eager to capture the perfect selfie with bisons in the background.

The selfie Phenomenon

The selfie culture is not just a trend; it’s a phenomenon that can turn incredible locations into scenes of frenzied racing. The fear of missing out or FOMO, and the constant need to document every second on social media have a direct relationship with the current consequences of tourist overcrowding.

The pursuit of the perfect image can compromise the essence of the travel experience. For me, it’s not easy to think of visiting a destination without taking the time to breathe, feel, connect with its land, sounds, silences, colors, and engage with those who know the places I pass through best: its inhabitants.

In response to this mass tourism phenomenon, some destinations are implementing restrictive measures in an attempt to control overcrowding and preserve the authenticity of the location. New Zealand, for example, has adopted measures to discourage photos at tourist spots, and the city of Hallstatt in Austria erected a wall to block the view of the Alps in protest against noise pollution and excessive selfies. In Vermont, USA, influencers were discouraged from visiting during the popular fall foliage season. All these measures could be a good starting point for reflection on the need to balance tourism promotion with the preservation of the authenticity and tranquility of each destination.

My experience at the Musee d’Orsay reminded me of the importance of savoring each moment, especially in front of artworks that endure through the centuries and tell the story of humanity’s capacity to produce beauty. It’s a pity if we allow the race for selfies to prevent us from feeling the magic of a painting, getting lost in the brushstrokes that tell stories, or experiencing the wonder of genuinely connecting with our fellow human beings.

As an advocate for sustainable tourism, I see this as a call for a more conscious approach to travel. How wonderful it is to slow down, appreciate each moment, and respect the destinations we visit. Enlightening travelers about the importance of experiencing rather than just capturing is crucial for preserving the authenticity of travel experiences.

Our craving for perfect images should not extinguish the true beauty and meaning of each place we explore. Traveling with a deeper purpose, allowing space for contemplation, connection, and a genuine appreciation of the cultural richness the world has to offer is a much richer experience than the quest for the ideal image to share on social media.

5 Prehistoric Lessons Learned in Serra de S. Mamede

A Journey through the Megalithic Heritage of Northern Alentejo

Northern Alentejo stands as one of Portugal’s most remote regions, a land of extremes ranging from scorching 40ºC in the shade to negative temperatures within 24 hours. This less-traveled area, inhabited by wise locals, knows that time, like nature, cannot be controlled or measured in numbers. Those who linger here learn that time, measured in seconds, minutes, hours, or days, doesn’t truly exist. Everything is eternal, or rather, timeless.

Not by chance, it’s in Northern Alentejo, specifically in the Natural Park of Serra de São Mamede, that one can find one of Europe’s richest megalithic heritages. A generous collection of constructions erected between the V and II millennia B.C. by distant ancestors.

On a scorching summer afternoon, we set out in search of these ancient stones, guardians of the secret of longevity, hoping to discover what made them so. We didn’t return immortal, but each stone taught us something that, if desired, could well be eternal.

1. Sobral Dolmen: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Surrounded by a herd of cows, we approach, as if asking for permission. Never losing sight of us, the cows move away slowly. In this silent peace treaty, we reach the circle of stones supporting a slab that serves as a roof. Inside, it’s cool. We take a moment to enjoy the convenient break from the heat. The cows and their slowness join the calmness of the dolmen to teach us that haste can be our worst enemy. It diverts our attention from what can be truly threatening and consumes the precious energy needed to function under extreme temperatures like today.

2. Melriça Dolmen: Stillness Isn’t Laziness

Leaning against one side, we imagine what it has witnessed: practically all of human history. While we rush through life—inventing, desiring, doing, buying, traveling, discovering, consuming, and living in the unbridled hurry to reach a goal that only exists in our minds—we slowly disappear in the frenzy of human existence. In contrast, Melriça, aware of the secret in its place of stillness, where time doesn’t matter, will survive all of this. It will outlive us if we insist on not learning from it. “Be still!” it advises us in silence.

3. Lancheiras Cairn: If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them

There’s little consistency among experts about the real function of these constructions. Graves, shepherd shelters, small houses, or pens—what’s certain is that it’s rare to find a cairn without its door facing east. There’s little to explore in this one. The brambles took advantage of complete acceptance of their presence and invaded it. They grow determinedly around it, preventing the approach of the curious. What we learned: surrendering to what we can’t control isn’t necessarily bad. It can even serve to keep unwanted intruders at bay.

4. Currais das Galhordas Dolmen: United We Stand

Certainly, the two oak trees flanking this dolmen are young compared to it, in their modest hundreds of years. Apprentices and master maintain the same attitude. Quiet, seemingly indifferent to their surroundings, they absorb everything that happens: they face the sun, welcome raindrops, endure a community of bees that establishes its hive there, and offer shade to a hurried rabbit escaping the persistent gaze of a bird of prey flying high above. Here, we take two lessons: Don’t live alone; join others, and you’ll be stronger. And don’t forget to listen to the old ones. They know more than you do. Not because they studied more, but because they’ve lived longer.

5. Meada Menhir: Size Does Matter After All

It’s assumed that menhirs were built by our ancestors to ensure the fertility of not only tribes but also nature, guaranteeing them food. The Meada menhir proudly stands as the largest in the Iberian Peninsula. Between its four meters in height and 15 tons in weight, it undoubtedly fulfills its purpose. Confirming the efficiency with which it carries out its function, a herd of wild deer approaches with a mix of fear and curiosity. The click of the camera makes them disappear quickly. But the menhir, it remains in its haughty position without any sign of fear or threat. Yes, size matters, even when it’s just a matter of attitude.

We return guided by the light of the stars appearing in the sky. The day’s heat begins to leave our bodies in the same hurry with which all this reality exists. We continue with the feeling that eternity doesn’t exist in our lives. Each one’s perpetuation lies in the ability to honor their passion. Ours is to leave home and discover the world. The memories of journeys and adventures we collect are our best source of eternity.

For more information about this and other tours in Northern Alentejo, please contact us here.

Lanzarote: An Inner Journey in the Land of Volcanoes

About a decade ago, I landed in Lanzarote, the volcanic island that was home to José Saramago, the Portuguese author, literature Nobel laureate. This piece of Atlantic paradise, with its origin forged in volcanic eruptions, displays a lava-filled soil that lends the landscape a barren beauty. At that time, much like the land, my mind was going through a period of aridity.

Discovering beauty in barrenness

In the beginning, the lack of vegetation gave me a sense of boredom. But as the island revealed itself, I also discovered more about myself. I realized that, although vegetation might be scarce, life sprouted in unexpected places. Much like our own inner journey.

My mind, much like the landscape, was in a state of emotional aridity. I dealt with loss and exhaustion from the frantic television world where I worked. The practice of meditation wasn’t yet part of my routine. Nevertheless, slowing down and simplifying were words already trying to manifest within me. I spent a lot of time looking at the horizon, contemplating the apparent emptiness that unfolded before me.

The constant metaphor of transformation

Today, Lanzarote is more than a memory; it’s a constant metaphor for my ability to transform. I compare it to the terrain of the mind, where thoughts bloom like flowers in the desert. Meditation, now an integral part of my life, has become the water that nurtures my inner landscape and helps reveal my latent potential.

Just as the farmers challenged Lanzarote’s aridity, we can cultivate fertile corners in our own minds. Instead of avoiding seemingly less interesting areas, meditation invites us to explore them, viewing them as opportunities for transformation and growth.

Daily practice becomes a journey of discovery, where difficulties are transformed into opportunities to see reality in a new light.

Discover more about my Travel Programs with Meditation and Purpose – A unique and sustainable experience for your mind. And for your senses. Subscribe to the newsletter to stay informed about all dates and destinations.