Editor's note: Each month, we'd like to introduce you to one of our wonderful Glamping Hub hosts and what inspired them to create a glamping site. This month, we have David and Marta, who manage a unique glamping property on the Península de Setúbal near Lisbon, Portugal.
1. What is the story behind you starting your glamping site?
[David:] There are two stories behind starting our glamping site: a childhood dream and a love story. I was a boy from Lisbon, spending all of my weekends and holidays at my parents' bungalow in the countryside (what is now the glamping property) and reading many Mark Twain, Jules Verne, and pirate books that took me on amazing travels and adventures around the world without ever leaving the sofa.
Fascinated by Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn's tree house, when I was about 10, I decided to build a tree house—which ended up being a few wood boards tied together with a rope on a big pine tree close to our house. Since that moment I dreamed of living in cabin or tiny rustic space one day.
Many years after, Marta and I met and fell in love in Lisbon, and as soon as she visited the property for the first time, she, too, surrendered to the beauty of this place, and we soon decided to leave the city and move to the countryside to start our glamping project.
2. What did you do before becoming a glamping host? What drew you to glamping?
[David:] After high school, I studied hotel management at university and started working as a bellboy in a 180-room, four-star hotel in the center of Lisbon, later moving to reception. Six years later, I changed to another international hotel chain, where I later became the Front Office Manager where I was also responsible for the Back Office, group reservations, meeting rooms and events.
The turning point to change things was when I decided to go back to university and do a postgraduate degree in hotel management. One of the subjects was innovation in the hospitality and tourism industry, and we had to present a group project. I suggested a project about eco-friendly tree house glamping, including an organic garden, animals, solar energy, rain water collection, and school excursions to put children in touch with nature, see how food is grown, and have them taste some real, healthy, organic veggies grown without any chemicals or pesticides.
The teacher liked our project but we were even more enthusiastic. The glamping "seed" that had been in my mind for so long had finally started growing, and I started to feel the need to change my direction towards a more natural way of life and to share our unique space with others.
In 2015, we made the first experience transforming a storage space into a small cottage. After the successful results, we started seriously believing we could make a living out of it—a family-friendly life in harmony with nature and far from the stressful urban environment of the big city. One year after I left the company, I moved with my family to our property in the countryside, and we started making our dream come true!
3. In your opinion, how does your accommodation fit the definition of glamping?
My idea of glamping is a way of connecting people to nature and wildlife without sacrificing luxury, sleeping in original and cozy accommodations in an environmentally-friendly place.
Our original "Hobbit pods" and tree house cabin are entirely made of wood and perfectly match their natural surroundings. The caravans from the '80s are completely renovated and lay in the shade of the property's beautiful pine trees, where our guests can fully immerse themselves in nature in a place where ecological awareness and sustainability are always present.
Environmental problems are of great concern for us, and we make a real effort to be as eco-friendly as possible. Our electricity comes from solar panels; the water comes from our well; we use dry compost toilets and organic amenities; and we have a beautiful organic garden, from which we take most of our food during spring and summer, that we love to share with our guests.
Living our lives like this also gives us the opportunity to help develop the local economy, as we buy most of what we need in the village, including fresh and delicious regional cheese and bread from the local baker. We also recommend great restaurants in the area and a large number of outdoor activities organized by local companies, such as dolphin watching, rock climbing, caving, paragliding, kitesurfing, and more.
4. What is the most special thing about your property?
If I had to choose only one thing, it would have to be the special and unique beauty of this place! We're just 45 minutes by car to the south of Lisbon, and we're in a secluded area near the sea, which forms part of the Parque Natural da Arrábida. It's the perfect place for those looking to connect with nature, explore the beauty of the nearby beaches and the endless coastline trails, watch stunning sunsets over the Atlantic Ocean, and stargaze while listening to the waves.
5. What do you love the most about running a glamping site? What are some of the challenges you face?
What I love the most about running a glamping property is the independence that it gives me. It allows me to simultaneously spend time with my family and work in the place I've always dreamed to live, surrounded by pine trees and beautiful landscapes while listening to the ocean nearby.
In the last few years, I have learned so many different things—from management to organic gardening, from social media to carpentry, from accounting to electrical work and construction. This changed my way of looking at things and to start focusing on solutions instead of problems. The most important thing is to live a happy life and go to bed each day with a smile on my face and the feeling of having had a productive and fulfilling day.
6. Tell us about your most memorable guest experience to date.
We have had quite a few memorable experiences, but the last one was just before Christmas. We received a message from a super-friendly couple with a photo of an ultrasound scan, saying that this was their baby—a result of the two amazing weeks they spent on holiday in our caravan last September. What could be more memorable than that?
7. Which three words are most commonly used in guest feedback about your accommodation?
The words we hear most often to describe our accommodations are peaceful, magical, and charming.
8. Tell us about the experience you provide for guests visiting your glamping site.
There are different kinds of experiences you can take away from a stay at our glamping property.
On the one hand, our unique, eco-friendly glamping project is an ideal way to experience the great outdoors without sacrificing luxury. You will be immersed into nature and have the chance for a relaxing holiday that mixtures countryside, sun, and sea.
On the other hand, and from a more philosophical point of view, it can be an introspective exercise that may lead you to find out that you could happily and easily live without most of the stuff we have at home. Why not downsize and get rid of things we do not really need? We had this conversation with many guests where we noted this question stayed in their minds.
9. If you could have anybody stay at your accommodation, who would it be and why?
Greta Thunberg is definitely the person I would love to host the most. She is a 16-year-old Swedish activist that is seeking to fight global warming, and she is a perfect example of the determination that young generations need in order to face big environmental challenges, such as global warming, carbon dioxide emissions, and plastic pollution.
She has participated in the Rise For Climate demonstration outside the European Parliament, the United Nations Climate Change conference, and the Davos World Economic Forum, among other events. She represents the future we want for our children and younger generations, who fairly deserve a healthier planet than the one we have now.
10. Are there any upcoming additions/changes to your glamping site you would like to share with us?
Last season, we built a new cabin that has been a success, and during the winter, we did the deck and insulation. We now have six accommodations in total! This year, we will not add any more units, but who knows if next season a beautiful gypsy caravan may make it's way to the property or not...?
To book an unforgettable stay with your special someone at David and Marta's glamping property, click here or here for a "Hobbit" pod, here or here for a caravan, here for the tree house cabin, and here for the cottage!