Ayngelina Brogan is a Canadian travel blogger and frequent solo traveler who left it all behind to find inspiration in Latin America. Today she’s the South America Guide for About.com. and runs the popular blog Bacon is Magic, through which she inspires fellow foodies, photography lovers and passionate travelers.
It’s not everyone who can leave behind a great job, a boyfriend and all of their friends and head out to explore the world. Tell us about your decision to follow your travel dreams.
I don’t mention this very often but a lot of it had to do with my biological clock. I was 32 and still didn’t know if I wanted to have children yet or not but I knew that I was running out of time to have one last big adventure. Of course I was afraid, everyone who takes a career break or decides to go travel is petrified.
I wrote the post The Year I Walked Away From Love because people were writing me thinking I was unusually strong, brave or somehow special but I wasn’t. It was really difficult but deep down I knew I was doing the right thing.
It’s been over three years and I am still figuring it out. Along the way I have been able to write for other sites and am the About.com Guide for South America. I now have a base in Toronto and travel 6-8 months of the year and also consult in marketing and social media.
One thing I have learned is that it is not about making the right decision or picking the right path. It is about adapting and evolving. My life is never stagnant.
What are the first and second things you think fellow travelers notice and remember about you?
Definitely my height. I am only 5 feet tall. Many of my readers think I’m quite tall so they are shocked when they meet me. I haven’t quite figured out how to write about traveling short.
Secondarily people quickly learn that I will be making the decision on where we eat. For me food = culture and when I travel it is all about having that cultural experience. It doesn’t matter whether it is a Michelin star restaurant or my favourite stall at the market. I usually know ahead of time what food is traditional and where to get it. I’m not the kind of traveler who just wants pizza, unless of course we are in Italy.
You are a foodie extraordinaire. It’s probably like picking a favorite child, but what’s been your most memorable meal on your travel so far?
You are right it is so impossible to choose. But I was recently in Sao Paulo and went with a Brazilian food blogger to the market for lunch. It was definitely a highlight of the year for me.
As a solo female traveler, do you feel like you often have to overcome challenges male travelers do not?
I really hate solo female travel tips. I think they perpetuate that somehow women are more vulnerable than men when traveling. Women do have to watch out for certain things, but we also don’t have to worry about things men do – like other men wanting to pick fights with us for looking at their wife the wrong way.
What irks me even more is that for some reason people seem to think women are at a high risk of being raped in Latin America. I don’t know the worldwide statistics for rape but it can happen everywhere and despite traveling extensively throughout Latin America I have never had this issue or have been worried about it.
When I first landed in Mexico 3 years ago I spoke no Spanish. People in Mexico were incredibly kind to me as I tried to independently travel their country although I was barely able to order a meal. As I continued to travel south through Central America women saw that I was traveling alone and offered to help me, bus drivers would walk me to taxi stands to make sure I got a fair rate, strangers went out of their way to help me when I needed it. While my Spanish was considerably better in South America the kindness continued, as a solo female traveler people are very protective of me and I am likely more safe as a woman traveling alone than as a couple or with friends.
Connecting with local people is one of the most rewarding aspects of travel. What’s your most memorable moment connecting with locals?
The more I travel the more important it is to meet locals and it is why I really focus on improving my Spanish. When I was learning Spanish I lived with a family in Nicaragua for 5 weeks. I am a big Couchsurfing fan and have great experiences in Colombia and Peru. But most recently one of my favourite experiences was having lunch at a local’s house in Porvoo, Finnish people aren’t known to be the most friendly but I spent the afternoon with Kaisa and her friends and really understood Finland in a way I would have never been able to discover on my way. We spent the afternoon drinking wine and eating local food, sharing how our countries were different and then realizing they were so similar.
It’s great to travel and meet like-minded travelers at a hostel but connecting with locals is what travel is all about.
You get your hands on a time machine and can zap back once in time to give yourself advice before you leave your comfy life in Canada behind. What do you tell yourself?
Everything works out the way it should. It may not be the way I wanted or expected but it always works out.
What are your travel plans for the next 6 months?
Right now I am in Ecuador. I have been on the Galapagos for a month now and will spend another month on the mainland exploring. Then I head back to Toronto and plan to enjoy the summer there. This fall is still up in the air, I may head to Europe for a bit but I haven’t confirmed any plans yet. I have learned my life is best unplanned.