It’s an honor to interview one of the most important Portuguese travel writers who is considered by many a pioneer in this industry, Gonçalo Cadilhe.
With 15 published books, 3 TV documentaries and over 100 countries traveled and many unbelievable stories, Gonçalo Cadilhe is a living proof that Traveling for a living it’s possible to accomplish!
GW: What was the biggest difference between your travels as a kid with the boy scouts and the same person now who has been in the Galapagos for instance?
GC:-The principal difference is about growing and the maturity process and the other one has to do with a privileged that most people from the West take for granted which is the possibility to travel.
-The difference between my first travel of 30 kilometers with 8 years old to Cantanhede (nearby his birthplace local) and the journeys I do know is that now I can relativise everything.
-When I was a child, I had no idea of how big the world really was so in that sense that was the biggest trip of my life because everything was off-scale and absolute.
-Going to Afghanistan or Galapagos when I was 40, just strengths your ability to relativise everything.
-Those who travel have this lever who improves their ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes.
That is what traveling is to me – a way to learn to relativise.
-So I would say that the biggest difference is that now I have the ability to relativise everything, in my opinion, this is a good quality as a human being.
It was a privilege to be able to grow as much as I did and to be able to keep traveling.
GW: In your Book “ Um quilómetro de cada vez “ you tell us about the story when you run up to your friend BEPE in a store in Australia after 10 years without seeing each other.
Was this the biggest coincidence of your life?
GC:-The biggest coincidence of my life wasn’t finding Bepe in Australia but rather to find the old me from 10 years ago in Australia.
-He represented a more stable and fixed part of my life when I was living in Italy and had a group of friends.
-When I saw him, I remembered that period of my life and I realized how things were changed now that I hadn’t a fixed address or a stable group of friends and who found a course for his life throughout instability.
GW: What was the place or monument who inspired you the most in all your travels?
GC:-It would be unfair to mention only one because I was surprised by many places, but if I had to say only one I think my biggest surprise it had to be Bagan in Myanmar.
-Because when I was in Machu Pichu I had my research done beforehand, when I was on Tikal, Guatemala I had information about that place.
But Myanmar (former Burma) was closed to the world for 50 years so there wasn’t a lot of information about it.
-Besides nowadays the most information we know is paid and provided the Tourism Ministry of those countries, and Myanmar had never invested in Tourism or ways to get promoted abroad.
-That was the reason why when I got there in 2011 I was very surprised with that abandoned city.
GW: When you were in Hawai you found a book with jokes about Portuguese people.
What you think is the opinion of foreigners about Portuguese?
GC: -It’s impossible to generalize because the world is composed of thousands of cultures and countries.
-Inside of some cultures, there are people from certain social ranks who associate Portugal to the Football team, others with tales of bravery regarding the maritime discoveries or even not so good opinions about this time.
-Generally, people who know Portuguese people traveling the world or backpacking think they usually are nice people and have a light positive image of this small country.
GW: Do you feel the pressure to represent well Portugal when you’re traveling?
GC: -No, and I don’t know why does my country have to be represented.
Also, the fact that most Portuguese people are not happy with living in Portugal is a mystery to me, maybe if they could travel more and relativise they would see how good it’s to live here.
–I’m not talking about the cliches like the weather or the seafood, but about a country who recently got out from a 50 year dictatorship that had people in ignorance and misery was able to achieve a remarkable level of equity.
-That should be enough to feel happy about living here.
–Besides representing a country is impossible because I can be polite and charming, but then another Portuguese can pass by and try to steal something or don’t pay for a meal so it’s not just up to one person to carry that responsibility.
GW: So you agree with the fact that even though all of our Portuguese history most Portuguese thinks everything done abroad is better?
GC: -No, I don’t because that’s generalizing and there are some things that the Portuguese do it better and some other ones that we are not far.
–The Mediterranean Lifestyle and cooking are some of them and maybe technology or innovation is something that we aren’t that advanced.
-Overall, I think Portugal is a country where many accomplishments were reached and there are more than enough reasons for most Portuguese to be happy for living here.
GW:In Indonesia, you were able to make friends even though they barely spoke English there, thanks to saying names of Portuguese national team football players.
What are the best “icebreakers” that you’ve used to get to know people in your travels?
GC: -The best icebreakers are the tools that we’ve developed throughout our lives.
-Once I’ve met an Italian, this story is in the book “The moon can wait”.
-He learned how to speak Esperanto; a language created during the First World War by a polish man in order to get the Europeans together and to be help them to communicate with each other easier.
-This Italian man found a network of people online who spoke Esperanto and he organized a trip Round-the-World where he stayed with members from different countries like a Couchsurfing experience.
-I also knew a Portuguese who draws urban sketches and also did a Round The World trip just thanks to a network online of urban sketchers.
-Personally one of my best icebreakers is playing the guitar.
It allows people to get closer and once in India I was in a train where there was this band with a locally famous Indian singer.
When they saw the guitar they asked me to play and we all started singing and performing right there on the train.
-So as you can see for me those are the real icebreakers, the ones who depend on your talent and the tools that you developed throughout your life, those are the ones who will take you in the real trip.
-Search your talents and try to look for people with the same talents abroad in order to bound and create new friendships.
GW: Most of the time you travel alone, and you already don’t feel the loneliness during your travels.
What are some ways you have to entertain yourself during your trips?
-Reading books, writing and playing music where some of them, there were moments when I was on a cargo ship for 4 weeks where there are not that many things to do.
-Getting along with your thoughts is also something important that can help you spending time during your travels.
GW: I’ve created a concept called “Traveler’s Aura”.
Basically it’s the phenomenon that happens when one travels abroad and everybody from there wants to spend time with that person and find him/her very interesting because of being a foreigner.
Where was the country that you felt this phenomenon the most?
GC: -Usually, I feel that more in the countries where TV is really boring.
-People don’t have interesting things to watch so they seek to be entertained in other ways.
-In my book “Planisfério Pessoal” I went to see some pandas in a city with 20 or 30 million people in China and I went with an English girl that I met back in the hostel.
-There were several people there who were from small villages and went to see pandas probably for the first time in their lives.
-Then a funny thing happened, they were in one of the best places in the world to see pandas, but instead of paying attention to them the Chinese could only pay attention to us.
-They were trying to touch or hairs, touching my beard.
GW: So you were more exotic than a panda?
GC: -Yes, that’s correct. This happens more in countries less developed or with boring tv like I said.
-There is another side to this, if a traveler is in an Indian culture or a more conservative culture.
-If she shows a lot of skin or provocative cleavage this will also call the attention but in a negative way.
-What I mean is:
You’re right about the fact that most travelers have more attention on them just because they are foreigners but this also means more responsibility in order to don’t offend the locals.
GW: Alain de Botton on his book “The Art of Travel” defines the word exotic as the thing we are eager for and we lack at home.
What is your definition of the word Exotic?
GC: -I was in Nepal waiting for a green card and there is a Nepean girl there waiting for a green card to travel abroad as well.
-We started talking and she said Portugal was a very exotic country and I answered Portugal was a normal but Nepal is one really exotic.
-This just goes to explain that Exotic to me it’s something that goes out of the normality to us but it’s normal to the locals of those countries.
GW: Lastly for those of us who want to make a living of travel writing what is the best advice that you can tell us?
GC: -Well, when I first started 30 years ago it was enough to first travel and then write to sell those articles to magazines and newspaper.
-Nowadays there are more travel writers and the newspaper is a dying industry as far as I can see.
-My best advice would be for those who are starting just to travel and try to do what they love and probably try another distribution channel other than a newspaper.
GW: Like creating a blog or something right?
GC: -Yes, that’s what I was going to tell you.
-Maybe it would be easier to create a blog.
Promote a hashtag and create a buzz throughout the scandalous news like “Portuguese guy does Bungee Jumping without a rope”.
-You’ll see how viral the blog will get and he’ll get to pay for his travels thanks to that.
GW: If he survives. (laughs)
GC: -Well, that’s a different story. (laughs)
Thank you so much for this interview Gonçalo Cadilhe and thanks to everyone for reading this.
A couple of things I’ve learned from this conversation with Gonçalo Cadilhe:
1 –Travel without pressure.
Don’t feel you must represent your country because you simply have to represent yourself and hope others do it too.
2-Loneliness while traveling doesn’t need to be a bad thing.
Instead an opportunity to learn more things about yourself and to develop your skills.
3-Relativise is one of the best qualities every traveler (and human being) can have.
Finally: If you have a passion or special interest in some subject you should do what you like without worrying too much about money or ways to monetize it.
If you’re good enough, sooner or later the people will engage with your passion.
That was it for now but I’ll be back with fresh news soon.
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See you there!