It’s so small, I can store it in my bedroom! Otherwise I would have to keep it in our living room. Not quite sure the other guys would enjoy!” This was Miguel’s first comment after one or two days riding a demo bike for our “A Brompton Week” experience.
Miguel is a 24 years old from Coimbra, that arrived in Porto few years ago to study Science. Actually he’s living in Santa Catarina, probably the most central street in Central Porto. He was still studying when started working at Mafalda’s, a relaxed diner serving healthy meals here at the Matosinhos Fish Market.
“I still need to spend some time in an internship, but I only got proposals for unpaid gigs in faraway places. That’s the reason I decided to wait and work in some other projects”.
When one sees Miguel working, always looking sharp, but in an understated and very professional manner, probably wouldn’t imagine that he’s running a very successful Instagram project with almost 45k followers, this one here.
“When I accepted Inês and Mafalda’s invitation, I thought that it would be difficult to find all the time necessary to keep everything rolling smoothly, with University, the Instagram project and other stuff I’m doing. But I quickly learned that the busiest we are, the better we manage our time. This is true if you love your work so much as I do. Here at Mafalda’s we are all close friends. We were best mates before, but we manage to keep a distance and a healthy level of professionalism in our relationship. Day by day we are building a great team here!”
Miguel started publishing on Instagram three years ago. He wanted to show the World some of his travelling memories. He became more and more interested and the positive reaction from his followers was very encouraging. Soon after creating the account, Miguel started meeting and getting along with some people “in the business” and upgraded his photography gear. The account got better and better and one day he was recommended by Instagram itself. The account experienced a boom, growing more than 2k followers a day. GQ Portugal noticed this success and had him on the printed pages of the magazine. It was a sort of a peak, Miguel says.
“This is an account about travelling. I know one day I will live in Paris. It’s the place where I like to come back over and over. People already make this connection between the city and my Instagram. Some brands also realized this and started investing. When I first got a contact I was very very surprised – wow! This is getting serious now!” Some hotels in Porto and Paris and even the Azores Tourism board invested in Miguel’s potential. “I’m a simple person and still think all this is a bit odd. But you know, this is not a futile or superficial job and there’s a lot of commitment and investment. Someone following folks like me can think that this is our life and things are exactly as in the pictures, but almost everything on Instagram is more virtual than real and one needs to put a lot of effort in creating all these wonderful images. Instagramers can be a great opportunity to companies willing to invest. This is a very focused and loyal community and promotion costs can be really small considering the results achieved. As an user, Instagram is one of my favourite tools – before traveling I always do my research within the community, avoiding all the mainstream mass market suggestions provided by Google. Portuguese companies are still very conservative and doesn’t consider instagramers the great channel to reach an audience that we actually are. Meanwhile, big global companies are getting amazing results with all these talented professionals. Thinking about the future, well, I know that everything has to have an end. That’s why almost everyone is starting side projects and creating an alternative and more independent presence in other platforms where brands can get to know their work.
Miguel’s experience with bikes in the city is fundamentally related with travelling.
“There are good places to ride a bicycle and there are bad places to ride a bicycle. If in the one hand we have “car cities” like Porto or Coimbra, in the other hand we have cities that try very hard to be more friendly to those willing to commute in a more sustainable and healthy manner. Pedaling in Paris or London is a totally different experience than riding a bicycle in Central Porto. Here everything is about cars. It was this way when I first arrived and nothing has changed meanwhile. Did you hear about this project for the traffic lights? It will work wonderfully for cars. And how will that work for all of us that walk or cycle?
Miguel’s Brompton week was one of contrasts.
“Okay, I confess. I normally walk, because walking is great for photography. Cycling in Porto can be a stressful experience, with all the traffic and packed streets, but everything is different here in Matosinhos, where things are calmer and more organized.” Maybe a bit surprising, he feels more comfortable riding in not highly infrastructured cities. “I think riding a bike in Amsterdam is much more difficult than one could imagine. Too many bikes riding along the pedestrians and many unwritten rules to attend to. Ghent in Belgium, with a smaller scale, is a completely different thing. I also enjoyed the Paris bike sharing system. It’s very convenient for everyone, specially those using the public transports. We should have a proper bike sharing system here, where a tourist pays a small fortune to ride in a city where nobody cares about bicycles. It must be a good business, though, everywhere you go in the city you find tourists riding bikes. I notice when riding “my” Brompton a bigger openness and curiosity from foreigners. In Portugal you are nobody without a car, but that will change. Everything changes. One day the Portuguese companies will be much more open towards different ways of managing their communication and the way my fellow citizens commute will evolve too.”
The Brompton Week is an experience we are making with some of our customers and friends. They are spending a few days with one of these iconic bikes and will tell our readers how it was. Simple, fun and certainly life-changing.