Between 26-29 September 2018 I had the chance to participate in World Trails Conference that took place in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Find out more about the program of the conference.
It was my first encounter with the world and professionals of the trails of the world. I got to know this world of devoted hikes that would go for hundreds and thousands of kilometers on the natural and remote path in order to discover places and most of all discover themselves.
I understood a lot of things about the economics of trails – one of their main purpose is to help remote, isolated, poor communities to develop in a sustainable way in order to help them keep alive their tradition, and keep the community alive because otherwise people would leave to more crowded places where they could earn a living.
A point that I left with is that a trail is not about hiking (even though hiking is the means), but it is so much more: it is about communities and people, about hospitality and tolerance, about human interaction, about healthy choices, about local products, about traditions, about ecology, it is helping to get in touch with nature and getting to know yourself better and challenge your limits.
Most of the trails presented got to me, so besides traveling the world now I have a new plan, to hike to this places I learned about. Because people who designed them thought very carefully to include the most important ingredients so you can have a full and enlighten experience, to discover nature and cultural particularities, to take you to the popular places that are on any travelers list (like in Jordan trail you will get to Petra and Wadi Rum) but you will also go to some other places that you can share with a small community of devoted trail lovers, where the buses filled with tourists don’t stop and where you don’t have to wait in line for a picture.
I never thought of hiking to discover a country, but maybe, just maybe this will be a the new thing for me.
Some of the trails that remained in my mind and convinced me to go and hike there:
1. Camino dos Faros (The trail of the lighthouses)
I made a promise to make this my first trail in May 2019 (by the recommendation of the people taking care of the trail)
It is a trail along the Spanish coast of Atlantic. I love water, so hiking on the coast with the sea on one side and earth on the other sounds the best first trail hiking experience for me. It is only 200 km compared with others that are 2000 km long, so it is accessible , but also enough to realize if you like it, this will be an experience that will make me live the trail experience. I think this is a good start.
It is also a great point for the sunsets, at this point I am totally convinced.
I love Traski – the mascot of the trails – it is unique, memorable and fun.
On our Sunday trip organized by World Trails Network Conference for its participants we arrived at Fisterra which is the end of the Camino dos Faros. I can tell you this is a great place.
It is a trail that goes through Rio de Janeiro area.
When you think about Brasil and Rio de Janeiro you think of amazing beaches, parties, but I haven’t thought about hiking. I liked the presentation because Pedro is so passionate about this trail and shared a lot of insides, I liked their logo (Jesus with a backpack) and also I liked the fact that you are so close to civilization, but also so far, also I loved the richness of the vegetation which looks very exotic for me.
In my opinion Transcarioca is the best example of trail architecture and management, it is a example for other trails managers to follow.
3. Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James)
Camino de Santiago is one of the most popular trail in the world with a total number of 300.000 pilgrims in the year 2017.
Being in Santiago de Compostela where the conference took place, we were on the end of the journey for people who did this spiritual trail.
I liked that part of the team walk the Camino de Santiago before reaching the Conference.
4. South West Cost Path
5. Jordan Trail
6. Lebanon Trail
7. Rota Vicentina
8. Jeju Olle Trails
The city of Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
Is was a very inspired option to host the World Trails Conference in this city which is at the end of the pilgrimage trails of Saint James. All day in the city there are arriving people with their backpack after who-knows how many kilometers. It is a place that it is in their mind all this time and once they reach it they have accomplished what they set out to do, it is a promise that came true, it is a dream that they lived. All this gives a very special feeling to the city.
The city is all made of stone. The architecture is amazing and it complements the hilly position of the city.
Toura at World Trails Conference
In my presentation I spoke about Toura as a digital tool that trails managers can use to create a digital travel guide in order to document and promote their trail. I spoke in the first day of the Conference in the “Trails an Technology” module
I think we are on the verge of using technologies in travel industries and trails professional seem to be early adopters. There a lot of initiatives in all kinds direction, we will see which will gain usage.
What I can say about Toura and the way we incorporated is that we are about any travel experience. For me information about a trail is important, but how I organize the hole trip is something I have to do and research on my own. This is why Toura wants to become a leader in the travel industry by integrating all the needs and expectations of the travelers.
I spoke with the organizers of this event about creating a Trails Atlas with the help of Toura.
The trail to “the end of the world” – Fisterra
The conference ended on Saturday and Sunday was reserved to hike a portion of the Camino. It was a great end of a great conference. We went to Sardineiro de Abaixo with a bus and from here we started walking towards Fisterra which by etymology means end of the land. This name comes before discovering the new and, so this is the most western point of the continental Europe, the end of earth. We walk for 10 kilometers on the cost of Atlantic.
Takeaways from this conference:
1. Trails are so much more that a dirt road. They are and could be the blood line of a country or a region by connection people, places, experiences, traditions, gastronomy, health, communities, and creates the best way of emerging into a culture.
2. I think all of us should take in our life a trail of at least 200 km so we can spend 10 – 20 days walking and clearing your mind. I now know that trails should be part of our healing process.
3. Most people who work for trails associations are volunteers and they fight lack of funds, bureaucracy, corruptions, besides nature challenges and hazards.
4. Trail management is a never ending process, as one speaker said, “water will always win”, but I would say it more generic “nature always wins” so trails manager have to maintain and clean the trail periodically, it is an never ending process. So huge thanks to this people.
5. Like any industries, trails need collaboration,
6. From all the adventure travel activities out there, hiking is 1/3 of it.
7. And to end in a positive note: in a world that we have growing population and density problems in the big cities, trails just might be the solution to our problems in our quest of being an individual, of becoming a better person, of getting in touch with nature and with yourself, of preserving the values of our ancestors and for a clean and healthy environment.
Next conference will be in Nepal in 2020, so I really encourage you to go and see for yourself a little good in this world.
Special thanks to Filipa, who made this trip special and I hope will be my lifelong friend.
Thank you World Trails Network