There’s an interesting chemistry of emotions that you experience when you dive into the unknown. For us, this mixture is one part fear, two parts faith, a sprinkle of calm, and a dash of excitement. 2018 marked an important year for Monos – from its inception to successfully launching our first Kickstarter, and shooting our first campaign abroad. Each milestone was an expedition through uncertainty, producing a unique kind of discomfort – the kind that we’ve recognized as a precursor to growth and one that we have learned to lean into willingly.
To put our suitcases to the test, we took a whirlwind trip across three countries to shoot our first campaign. Our team consisted of photographer Santiago de Hoyos, videographer Aaron Garcia, talent Gustavo Romano and Tarla Barbosa, and photographer Zé Pedro Alvarez – many of whom we would meet for the first time. What began simply as a collaborative project, however, transformed into something much more meaningful.
As we explored unfamiliar territories together, stood together in awe in front of the natural wonders of the world, and humbly learned from the locals who extended such warm and loving hospitality, we realized that this trip was a catalyst for discovery, and a window through which we were able to perceive the very things in life that deepen our connection with the world. It was precisely on this journey that the heart and soul of Monos – our philosophy of mindful travel – truly began to take shape – and for that we will be forever grateful.
All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware of.
– Martin Buber
We began our journey in Lisbon, a city that immediately draws you for its relaxed charm. Bright yellow, vintage trams clattered up hilly streets lined with colourful shops. Dangling plants and flowers adorned balconies, and drying laundry flapped on clotheslines above us. Warm laughter and clinking glasses beckoned us from every lively petisqueira (a bar serving petiscos, the lesser known Portuguese relative of tapas) we passed, with beautifully melancholic notes of fado (a traditional Portuguese musical style) echoing around each corner. Everywhere we went, there seemed to be something magical to be found just around the bend – a vibrant plaza, an endearing café, or a stunning vantage point such as the hilltops of Alfama. It was the perfect backdrop for introducing ourselves – to each other, to the warm and inviting culture, and to the journey that lay ahead.
No doubt the most authentic way to experience a new place is through the guidance of a seasoned local. We were lucky to have photographer and expert guide Zé Pedro Alvarez show us his native stomping grounds – the rugged and majestic coast of the Algarve – and to do so in his signature way – taking us off the beaten track in a beautifully restored Land Rover Defender 90.
We drove along the sea-carved cliffs of Sagres, chasing sunrise after sunset with a sense of freedom and purpose, and losing ourselves in speechless wonder as we stood before the commanding blue waters of the Atlantic atop a vast, wind-whipped fortress. In the evenings, we would gather around a simple, yet delicious dish prepared with love by our host as we exchanged stories and laughter, and cherished the spirit of adventure that ignited from the day’s exploration.