Cappella Sistina is Nice but Trekking Alps is Wonderful!

Stories. This is the most interesting part of my job. Stories of people, life and culture in the extraordinary nature of our territory.

It all began by chance. When a friend asked me to join her for a Naturalistic Guide Course organized by the Turin province, I was about to get finished with my communication engineering master’s degree. And I thought: why not? I’ve never been fully sure of my college choice, and I’ve always been ready to find any possible way out. I knew the office life wasn't for me. But when I was 18 years old I had to make some kind of decision about my future and I chose engineering, probably persuaded by the cultural legacy of a “guaranteed job”.

It’s a choice I never regretted. It gave me discipline and method and the opportunity to experience new lives and cultures: I lived in Chile for one year and a half during my master’s degree and in Thailand for almost two years during my PhD, which I never completed. These two opportunities were worth all my efforts and gave me competences that today are very useful for my job.

The Naturalistic Guide Course is not one of those educational paths that give you a secure job. You have to work to make a job out of it, to create a new market around it. I was lucky to have a webmaster brother-in-law, a real passion and a great curiosity towards people. These three elements made it possible: I created my own job!

It’s been two years since I left my job as an engineer and my activity as a guide is working out pretty well. The Trekking Alps website is very well indexed on Google and found a market niche that had not been explored much. I got there before others, not only in Italy but throughout Europe. People who want to trek in the Alps find my website and therefore decide to come to Italy. Many think the Alps are in Switzerland or in France and they remain stunned by the beauty of our mountains, where mass tourism has not arrived yet.
I have received so many nice comments that sometimes I have to hold back a little not to excite myself too much. “Best guide ever”, “My best experience ever”, “Cappella Sistina is nice but Trekking Alps is wonderful”. Every trek gives me new knowledge, experience and a few more friends around the world. And it’s always a good excuse to fill my luggage and leave towards an unknown place, like when I went to South Africa to visit a young couple, Alon and Kate.
After all, the beauty of nature is here, outside my home. I just saw it and introduced it to others. Walking in the mountains, best if for more than a day, was the thing I loved more in the world, my passion. Contrary to mountaineering, freeride skiing or ice climbing, trekking has the big advantage of being suitable for anyone who wants to challenge themselves. It’s not extreme, buy it still gives you very strong emotions. It’s hard, but it’s part of the experience, and the mountains are a non-protected environment where adventure is not sugarcoated, so everyone goes home with unforgettable sensations.

The most interesting part of my job are the stories of the people I guide. Stories that lead me to that international feeling that I was missing in my life in Turin. These people make me travel while I’m home, in the place I love the most: my Alps. Up to now I’ve guided people from more than 40 nations and seen very many strange things that go beyond imagination. I often think that my life is more interesting than many books I read. I had Palestinians and Israeli people in the same trekking; I spent four days with a Chinese guy who did not speak a word of English; I took 13 Saudi people to the mountains during Ramadan; I was there when a guy from NYC proposed to his girlfriend; I guided an Australian couple that I had met the day before at a friend’s wedding. And these are only a few of the stories I live on a weekly basis. Every day I have the chance to talk about American politics, about the life in London City, about what is friendship according to Americans, about how love and sports are perceived by Indians. I lived with strangers for days, while getting closer to humanity, while living intense experiences and enjoying nature together with people who I was enriching and by whom I was enriched, not only materially but also spiritually.

Stories. Stories of people, life and culture in the extraordinary nature of our territory. So savage and unique that it still surprises me every day. I’m extremely lucky to have a job that allows me to explore, meet people, travel and intensely live in a place so extraordinary like the Alps.

Roberto Calcagno is the founder of Trekking Alps. He was an engineer,
but decided to make a change and do what he loves: the naturalistic guide.