Why You Should Visit Alentejo Portugal in 2019, by Travel Influencer Georgia Hopkins
When Georgia Hopkins (@_itsbeautifulhere) agreed to join us for our cultural, food and wine journey inside Alentejo Portugal, we could not be happier. At the same time, the pressure was on. Would our curated UNCOVR journey impress such a seasoned traveler? A contributor to BAZAAR, Conde Nast, Evening Standard, Vogue, AFAR, and more, Georgia had a long standing relationship with Portugal and we knew that she was about to bring precious insights and knowledge to the table. One thing is for sure, her positive mindset and contagious smile made perfect companionship to our small group of travelers…
Before we start, I would love to hear more about your early days as a traveler. How often were you traveling as a kid and teenager?
I feel very fortunate to have grown up in a family where a love for travel was fostered in us from a very young age. As kids, we were lucky enough to travel around most of Australia with our parents - from the beach to the desert and everything in between. We only did a few overseas adventures when we were young - just the standard kind of destinations for Aussies - Bali, Fiji, etc - but it was certainly where my love and curiosity for different cultures, languages and the joy of the unknown really set in. When I was 15, I went and lived in Japan for 3 months on school exchange. That was it for me. I was done. I loved the feeling of being so far removed from my comfort zone. I loved being challenged by a new language and loved meeting and learning from local people. From that moment on I knew that I wanted to fill my life with as many rich and fulfilling travel experiences as I possibly could, to explore every corner, and to learn more about the people and rituals that make this world such a special place.
When and where did you have your first ever travel experience outside of your home country? How did this first trip felt like?
I would have been about 8 years old when we first left Australia on our first overseas holiday, bound for Fiji. I remember being welcomed at Nadi airport by the friendly locals with their kind “bula” greeting and warm embrace, and feeling so curious about these kind and welcoming people. I remember them putting lays around our neck and I remember being desperate to have my hair braided as well. We had time spent on both the mainland and a little island as well, and I remember feeling passionate about wanting to try all the local foods, their Kava drink, and wanting to learn how to climb up a coconut tree! It was an amazing experience.
What best and worst memories do you have from that trip?
Hmm…the best was trying parasailing for the first time. The worst was witnessing a train accident (the train ran into a small bus that had broken down on the train tracks - luckily there were no fatalities, but it was still a scary thing to see).
Can you recall a specific moment or event that triggered your decision to start or switch your career to a world traveller and influencer?
Funnily enough, there was no “lightbulb” moment. I had made the decision to quit my career in investment banking (in Sydney, Australia) and move to the US in 2012. I wasn't sure exactly what I was going to do over there, but I knew I desperately wanted to live in New York City. I arrived in California to visit some friends, and ended up falling in love with Los Angeles instead. Throughout my 20s I could keep up with the 24hr non-stop pace of New York, in my 30s though I realized that the slower, quieter and healthier pace of California was definitely more my thing. I thought I might travel for 6 months or so and then look to get back into the corporate events/marketing world…but instead, and because i was doing so much travel at the time (having to leave the country every 90 days to renew my visa), my friends and family started encouraging me to start a travel website as a place to record my adventures, stories and photos…and so it’s beautiful here was born. There was no real plan or intention. It just grew slowly and organically from there.
What would be the most important values or lessons that you have gained from traveling so far?
I think the most important lesson is to stay open. And to always be respectful and kind. Also, I think it is important to try everything! Never say no to anything!
“Ahhh, Portugal! I have had a long-standing love affair with this country for the past 18 years”
Do you follow any travel rituals or principles which improve your traveling experience as a whole? If not, what steps do you usually follow when booking for a new destination?
I pretty much rely solely on Instagram now for all my travel research. I dig down super deep on hashtags of the destination I will be visiting to see what interesting things or people might catch my eye. I sometimes reach out to locals in advance to ask for their recommendations (or if they would interested in being featured in our Spotlight Series), and I make a note of interesting accommodation places and food joints that I want to try. I always, ALWAYS make sure I know where I will be able to find a good cup of speciality coffee well ahead of arriving in any destination! This is critical to me!
The top three things that you always travel with?
I always back some incense from an LA brand I love, Bodha - as it acts as a very calming and grounding ritual while on the road. I also always have my perfume, Florence by Tocca, as it reminds me of home wherever I am. And lastly, my sunglasses by Australian designer Lucy Folk.
When we reached out to you a few months ago about joining our Portugal journey, what interested you the most about this country?
Ahhh, Portugal! I have had a long-standing love affair with this country for the past 18 years, since first visiting as a young and very-green backpacker back in the year 2000. Over the past 5-6 years however, I have been making more regular trips, and last year I based myself in Lisbon for 6 months. It is one of my most favourite countries in the world - the people (so kind, warm and welcoming), their culture, the food, the landscape, the architecture and design, the hotels, the wine (hello, vinho verde!), the amazing artisans, and so on. I am totally in love. When UNCOVR reached out about being involved, it was a no-brainer really. I jumped at the chance. I felt honored to be asked to share the UNCOVR Alentejo experience through my eyes, and on meeting Jason, I quickly discovered that we basically think and travel in exactly the same way!!! I couldn’t have wished for a more better host. It was a dream to be part of your first Portugal adventure.
Now that you had the chance to experience this destination, what are your best memories from your journey with us?
My best memories of the first-ever UNCOVR experience in Portugal would be the incredibly genuine and passionate nature of your hosts (thank you, Jason); the authentic experiences that UNCOVR finds and shares; and the amazing hotels that are found.
Is there a specific place or local person which or who touched you more specifically?
I was especially moved by the charming local tahla artisan, António Rocha, we met at his factory near Vidigueira. António didn’t speak a word of English, but his passion for the ancient art of hand-crafting these large clay vessels - an integral part of Alentejo's winemaking heritage - was infectious and you could see how much he delighted in sharing the process with us.
What were your favorite food and/or wine experiences?
GH: I have a couple of favourite memories. One being the amazing lunch we shared with Fernanda Rodrigues and Jorge Cardoso at their beautiful herdade at the base of the Ossa Mountains near Estremoz. We sat in the shade of a stunning big oak tree and shared a delicious lunch and many of their incredible organic wines, while swapping stories and plenty of laughs. It was a beautiful day. Another favourite was the afternoon we spent with João and Liliana, organic olive oil producers from Amor é Cego (Love is Blind), at their farm, also near Estremoz, and the dinner they then kindly hosted for us inside their home. It was another night of delightful stories and connection.
Is there any book or podcast about culture and/or travel that you would recommend to our audience? Otherwise, could you name any readings or mentor that has considerably influenced your life or career choices?
GH: In terms of what I am reading right now, I would say that “The Courage to be Disliked” by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga offers a considerably empowering perspective on how to disregard social pressures and trust in your innate self-worth to find happiness. Full of powerful and inspiring messages, it encourages us, the reader, to live our best and fullest life.
Anything else that you would like to tell our audience about the infinite world of travel?
GH: Never stop exploring!!!
All images by Georgia Hopkins
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