Being More – Horácio Alves

Horácio is an epic scout and product developer with a specialism in active adventure. Based in Portugal his work takes him across epic destinations, hunting out interesting things to do, spaces to explore and networking with the people who can make it happen on the ground. Much like the founder Charlie Shepherd, Horácio’s story began on a bike.

Just 8 months in, we ask him about his background, new role and what inspires him.

How did you find yourself at epic?

When I met Charlie we had an immediate connection, the stars aligned…we both have a passion for bikes and running and weirdly we were both wearing the same watch! Adventure has always been part of me, when I was around 10 I did semi-professional bike racing, riding MPV bikes in XCO races, the idea of pushing myself and discovering new things was always there. It was back then when I found the connection between sport, nature and the outdoors; it was a defining thing for me, but I kind of lost track of it at some point.

More recently I was working in strategic and economic consultancy in sales, and software industries. A few life changing things happened over the past three years that brought me back to my roots, I had also lost my fitness and was smoking, partying and out of shape – so I took sport up again, for 2.5 years I couldn’t run more than 500m, now I can run 60K straight again without breaking a sweat.

I decided to quit professional office life to find something else that embraced my love of hiking, adventure and sport, so the timing was perfect. For the first time, I feel like I’ve found somewhere I belong. I’m curious by nature, I want to explore and I always was this guy who wants to get off the beaten track and Epic is a lot like that.

What is your role?

My main focus is on adventure, my job is to make this offer more epic, to create stand-out adventure products. It requires an epic kind of mindset – its about how we do travel, I go to amazing places and consider what is the Epic way of doing this, how can we make this more exciting, inviting, special and relevant? Honestly in Portugal where I’m based, there is no one doing what Epic does. There has been a huge tourism boom here, but many people are focussed just on the money making aspects, not how you innovate and do it in an empathetic way.

I scout new and beautiful locations, really if I like something, I know our clients will like it. In my process of creating I start with an idea, I don’t look at partners I go to the location and see what connection I have with it, what its telling me – I think, ‘what I’d love is to do this… ‘ ok then I see if it is possible – 50% of the time the answer is no but 50% it is yes, then it’s about trying to find partners to help make it happen.

Costa Vicentina

For example we are trying to create something new in ‘Costa Vicentina’ the most beautiful part of the Portuguese coast – there is a hiking trail there, the renowned “pilgrimage” of Rota Vicentina, but it’s too long, even just six days may seem too monotonous…so we’re looking into gravel biking with camping along the way and some wild cooking experiences and yoga. What we are trying to do is to find a partner there who can try and make it happen, then it’s just a matter of working backwards – trying to create an epic product that can then be developed with some exclusivity.

I want to fill a map of mainland Portugal and The Azores with different and unique experiences and most of all epic experiences, then I’ll tackle Morocco to see what can be refreshed there.

Tell us about a recent experience

The first job I did was for a big VIP guest, he wanted to do something different in the cycling space. I had a 4 x 4 and the day before the activity my car set on fire in the highway – that was the car I was supposed to carry the clients to the beginning of the hike, I was stressed, my first job… but I must have been in luck because while I was by the side of the car watching the flames the client called and cancelled the activity!

I was there the next day and got a message that they still wanted to do hiking with me. So I did and it went really well I was with him for the next 3 days, they invited me to their house, we became mates. It cemented in my mind, this is what I want to be doing.

What is different about the way epic does things?

Epic are rooted in the countries we work in, we’ve always been strong on supporting the local people and culture at a grass-roots level. For instance recently we’ve been working with a beautiful village in Geres called Fifyon, we have a 3 day experience there and 20 to 25 people are involved in it, only 3 or 4 are actual tourism operators, all the others are local people who welcome us and our travellers to the local village. We set up a premium camp and in the evening dinner is cooked by the local shepherd, we’re paying him well and to see him with such joy when we pay him, it makes a world of difference, he is also learning English – seeing the happiness on his face is a picture worth 1000 words

This idea of directly helping people lives inside of me, with what we bring we can really help them with some little luxuries like a TV, or take people from the rural communities to the hospital once a month, because they are helping us, it’s a symbiotic relationship. You’ll find the most generous warm-hearted people in these small communities; families that open their doors for you, offer homemade wine, a bottle of grappa, make a cake to welcome you, this kind of warmth is priceless because its genuine. For this particular village we are sponsoring 20 goats, to keep the traditions of the village alive.

Tourism has an important role in maintaining village life against a tide of urban migration, there is a village in Portugal which is a ghost town, yet you can do premium camping at an open site so you don’t pay, but there is an agreement with the mayor where we have free access but rebuild one of the derelict houses. It’s a win-win situation as we can use it afterwards again and it helps the village to stay alive – this is a positive future for tourism I think.

Horacio with a certificate showing sponsorship of 20 goats in a local village

People sometimes find it hard to understand what they are paying for when they book a vacation, but with Epic they can be sure that the quality of product they get isn’t just bought temporarily, but is actually a lifelong investment. We pay our suppliers properly, they get a fair share of the profits, and in return you get to spend quality time with happy, grateful people in communities where you can make a direct difference. Fair trade!

Tell us about the highlights so far

Visiting Sao Tomé & Principe was a beautiful and marvellous experience, the people are some of the best I’ve ever met in my life, and we really feel like we make a difference there. It’s a destination where we want to do more, but it’s important we do it the right way so we’re taking our time, as it’s not a high volume destination. We want to make sure there is a clear way of approaching tourism there, we’re already supporting local charities such as SOMA, but we need to work out what we are doing with individuals and how we handle the travel experience in such an off-grid and under-developed location.

I remember walking along the beach, and seeing young people picking up litter, I asked if I could join to help and of course they accepted, then there was a Portuguese guy almost managing the group, but rather than helping he was doing instagram stories, that’s not epic. It felt like a stereotype to me, the wealthy guy going on a safari, we don’t want to dominate, we want to be part of things to make a difference in the communities we travel in

If you could change places with someone for a day – who would it be?

I have been wondering what it would be like to live in the years where cell phones and computers weren’t really around. To live that experience, I would choose to trade places with Reinhold Messner.

Reinhold is one of the greatest alpinists of all times. He was the first one to conquer all the worlds 14 peaks above 8000 meters without any external oxygen supply. If this is already something extraordinary nowadays, can you imagine doing it in an era where communication was limited to letters and faxes?

I know society is evolving, challenges are getting greater and that we are now more connected to everything. It would be amazing to experience true adventure without fancy satellite communication devices and GPS. To grab a paper map and get out the door not being sure you will find your destiny, but knowing you will find something new.

And I think you would pay more attention, if your only way of recording was with 35mm B&W film. I keep saying I want to go on a trip without GPS or cell phone. Maybe I’ll get the courage to do it soon and really trade places.

For more information on new stand-out adventure experiences you can have with epic, contact