The second time you don’t see things with your eyes anymore, you look at it from your heart!
Diogo Santos is one of the most recent tour leaders at The Wanderlust. One of the youngest members of the team is characterised by commitment, professionalism and dedication. He’s quiet until he starts talking about his passions. At that moment he takes us to travel with him without leaving the place.
With a scheduled trip to Thailand in November for which we are offering a place through the “Passport: Thailand” competition, he also takes travellers through Myanmar, and he is currently preparing new adventures that will soon be launched. We introduce you to Diogo Santos!
Diogo, what are your favourite destinations?
Thailand, of course! Since I’m a kid, my uncles told me stories about their trip to Thailand, and I remember asking a lot of questions, I created an idea about the country that, when I arrived there, many years later, I confess I was not delighted. However, I knew I had to give it a second chance; I always like to return to the destinations, because the second time you do not see things with your eyes anymore, you see with your heart. I ended up coming back twice more and discovering a country besides the tourist routes and fell in love.
I love Laos and Cambodia too, and out of Southeast Asia, China. It is a country of contrasts, on the one hand very technological, on the other very traditional in its customs and forms of interaction. It is a cultural shock, we think we know the Chinese people because there are many Chinese everywhere, but we have a very wrong view of the people and the country. I think it is very authentic; I felt difficulties in travelling there, even that reveals authenticity.
Why does Thailand fascinate you?
Thailand has so much to be explored. Going beyond the tourist places, there are authentic paradises to be found. Of course, beaches and islands, but not only! The Kao Sok Park, where we go on the trip, was practically unexplored and is probably one of the most beautiful places in Thailand.
In Chiang Mai, the fact of being able to embark on a trek of two days through the forest, have contact with authentic tribes (which are not explored touristically), is fantastic! In our trip we stay with the Karen tribe, for me, being able to share this experience with our travellers and still know that I am contributing sustainably and consciously to the country, it is incredible!
Thailand makes contact with nature and the people unique, although it is necessary to be adventurous and sensitive to find these points. That’s what I want to do, show other travellers this side of Thailand!
It’s a lot because of photography that I came accross this travelling lifestyle!
Besides the passion for travel, who is Diogo Santos?
I am a photographer of training and profession, I have other skills, but they do not define me. The photography has a lot of “fault” in this thing of travelling. Everything happens for a reason! It was through photography that I went to live in Macau and met two people who became great friends. It was Macau that allowed me to get to know other countries, and because of one of these friends, that I started backpacking.
Then, of course, it is that almost divine inspiration of photography, of wanting to photograph what is different. And when we are in a different place, and our eyes are not yet used to it, it seems that endless possibilities for photography appear. This allows me to begin to open my eyes and start to see beyond the obvious and the image. This is something that defines me a lot!
It also defines me conceptually. I like artistic photography, different from what I do in travel photography, but they touch a lot. My thinking and the way I invest in things, it becomes impossible to dissociate them.
When did you decide you wanted to be a tour leader and why?
I did not decide! The truth is that I entered the contest. Until then I knew some agencies did this kind of travel, but I had never researched deeply. Once again it was because of the photograph that I got to these agencies.
When I saw the contest, I thought about competing without high expectations. I made a video and showed it to my girlfriend, and my mother (I never tell anyone about these things) and they are almost mad at me. “How do you want to get into something when it looks like you’re scared?” So I did it again, with my girlfriend behind me, giving me directions. I’m happy I told her!
However, when I was selected for the interview, I started to think that I had probably done something well and that I could be one of the next tour leaders. I do not know how many months it was between knowing that I had been selected and the interview, but it was a hard time. I was writing my master’s thesis and couldn’t focus at all.
First I entered without expectations and then I just thought, “If I do not stay, I’ll be so sad!”.
When I went to the interview, and I realised that it was a job of a lot of responsibility and I realised that yes, that was something that I wanted very much to do.
I was so happy that I even cried when I heard that I had been selected.
It is motivating to be surrounded by people who like to do the same thing as me and who understand me. Finding people who speak the same language I do, this made me very much want to be a tour leader, and I’m entirely surrendered.
What are you preparing for the future?
One of my goals is to be able to develop photographic and documentary projects.
I want to spend my time between Portugal, and for now, Asia, which is a continent that I feel has still much to offer me.
Nowadays I travel with the premise that when exploring another country I will always be thinking about a new trip, it is not only of personal discovery, but it’s also about this willing to share the destinies with The Wanderlust’ travellers.