I was born in 1956 in Malacca in what was Malaya: a British colony at that time. My father was working for the Dunlop rubber company as a research chemist. We travelled back and forth to England by boat three times before I was 7 years old: something that installed my love for travel.
I went to school and university in England but then spent much of my time travelling and working around Europe. I had a bar in northern Israel, worked in Greece and Turkey before travelling overland to New Zealand in 1980. I loved the country so much I became a citizen.
I went travelling again in 1984. Highlights were hitchhiking across the Sahara desert and cycling coast to coast across India by local bicycle. When I returned to NZ I set up Integrity Tours which specialised in small group travel to India; where I based myself for the next six years guiding tours and designing trips.
I moved to Melbourne in Australia in 1998 to join Intrepid Travel,one of the world’s best small group tour companies, to set up their Indian program. I moved on to be their Global Operations manager in charge of trips throughout the world. I spent a year based in Quito in Ecuador and then Lima in Peru setting up Intrepid’s South American programs before leaving to come to live in Galicia and to start my own company; Faisca Turismo Consulting.
It was while I was researching a Cairo to Istanbul trip for Intrepid that I met Chao on the night train to Istanbul, an event that changed my life and brought me to where I am today.
For me travel can be about the monuments and the landscapes but more importantly it is about the people you meet, their lives, their traditions and customs, their music and of course the food– those are the memories that will remain with me forever.
Actually my name is Rosario but I never knew this was my name until my first day at school as I have always been called Chao. I was born in 1960 in Ourense, but that was just a coincidence as I was meant to have been born in my grandmother’s house in Allariz.
I studied at the university In Santiago de Compostela where I was one of the last students to study in one of Spain’s oldest university buildings, the Fonseca. I then spent 7 years in Madrid, before returning to Galicia to work in Vilar de Santos as an agent for rural development. It may seem a contradiction, but this small village was my true gateway to the world, because thanks to my work there I was able to participate in different European projects that gave me the opportunity to travel throughout Europe where I made many friends.
In 2006 I decided to create my own consulting company for development. In addition to our regular work in the city councils of Galicia, we were involved in international cooperation projects in Africa, especially in Namibia and Mozambique.
I now knew Europe, America and Africa; the next challenge was to explore Asia, so I decided to start with Turkey. I could not imagine that on a night train to Istanbul, I would find Stephen, an expert on Asia, with whom I would travel around the world and then marry.
At present Stephen and I, along with other colleagues, have created the Agora group, specializing in bringing back to life traditional indoor markets. These are places that have always fascinated me and I make a point of visiting them in whichever country I am travelling. Besides liking the food, I am completely convinced that a country would lose its identity if they lost their local products.