A Love Affair with Spain

Alex Chang '94 (BUS) (second from right) and his group finish walking the Camino de Santiago
Alex Chang ’94 (BUS) (second from right) and his group finish walking the Camino de Santiago

In 1999, when Alex Chang ’94 (BUS) was coming to the end of a three-year stint working in the Madrid office of an international market research company and preparing to move back to New York City, he decided to have one last Spanish adventure — hiking the famous Camino de Santiago. The trail, which leads to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, was one of the most famous pilgrimage routes of the Middle Ages and remains a favorite of backpackers worldwide.

Alex ended up hiking over 500 kilometers (316 miles) in 18 days, an experience that changed his life. So, instead of returning to New York, he began guiding tours for Americans on hiking and bicycling trips along the Camino. Four months later, when the tourist season ended, he reluctantly moved back to New York and accepted a job as the director of business development for an Internet startup. But his heart was still in Spain, so when he was laid off two years later in the midst of the dot-com crash, he secretly rejoiced. “It was the best news I’d ever gotten,” he said with a laugh.

In 2001, Alex returned to Spain, this time permanently, and founded Fresco Tours, which offers cultural walking tours along the Camino, the Basque Country, and Andalusia. The company has three full-time employees in its Bilbao office and 10 guides that work with them. In 2014, they led over 300 people on tours to Santiago. “My life is an accumulation of all my different experiences — it was my business background, my marketing background, my Internet background, and my experience living in Spain,” Alex said. “Fresco Tours bridges my two worlds: I can live in a place I love, and it lets me share this magical place with other Americans.”

Alex’s love affair with Spain dates back to his time as a UConn undergraduate when he did a two-month study abroad program during the summer between his junior and senior years. He became entranced by the laid-back European lifestyle and after graduation returned for a two-month backpacking trip. “The people have a saying that they work to live, they don’t live to work,” he said. “I think they have a good balance. I also think Spaniards just have a general love of life — the most important thing is getting together with your family and friends.”

Speaking of friends, Alex still has many from his years at UConn, keeping in touch mainly through Facebook. Recently, he noticed that someone had started a Facebook page for the late, lamented Ted’s Bar, which he remembers frequenting in the 1990s.

“It brought a smile to my face seeing all my old classmates and it brought back great memories of UConn,” he said.

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