This week Meet the Travel Bloggers catches up with travel blogger,Ayngelina Brogan, of the intriguingly named blog, Bacon is Magic
When, why and how did you start Bacon is Magic?
January 2010 I started the site to document what I thought would be a one to two year career break. I have always kept a journal and this was a more formal way to share my story with friends and family. I also thought it would be good for my portfolio when I went back to work.
I was working for an advertising agency and had a ten-year career in marketing so I think I approached my site in a more aggressive way than others who start out. I knew I wanted to be self-hosted, looked for a good design and learned the basics of blogging before I left to travel so it would be less difficult on the road.
How did you get that name and what does the name mean to you?
It’s an inside joke amongst friends. I cook and have friends over a lot for dinner. People would ask me why my tomato sauce was so good or what was in my minestrone and ultimately the answer was always some kind of pork product. Bacon makes things taste better, it is magic.
But for me it also symbolizes something larger. People think they need to make sweeping changes to be happier in life but really it is very small steps that make a big difference. I took a giant leap and quit my job, broke up with my boyfriend and sold all my possessions but it was because I was stubborn. Everything I learned on the road I could have learned at home if I had been open to change.
What is the thing that keeps you the most jazzed about blogging?
I’m an information sponge and so blogging gives me the opportunity to travel, discover new cultures and learn more about people. It’s like a traveling school and I share what I learn with my readers.
How often do you travel?
My goal is to cut back and only travel 6 months of the year. I have to make an effort to say no to myself. I find it difficult to turn down opportunities to travel but I know of in the long run it will be better for me if I cut back on the amount of time I travel. For example, this summer I would really like to spend the summer in Toronto so I am keeping my schedule clear.
Do you have a day-job?
I no longer have a traditional day job and have no desire to go back to one. I make a living from advertising and sponsorship on my site, a bit of writing for other sites (although I have no desire to pursue a career in writing) and small contracts at advertising agencies when they fit my traveling schedule.
However, my future plans involve incorporating my previous experience in traditional marketing with my new expertise in social media. I have started consulting work and leading seminars in social media and helping others bridge the gap with “new media” and understanding how it fits into a larger marketing communications plan.
Are you a solo traveler?
I would say 99% of the time I travel solo, sometimes family or friends will join me. Although I would also say that just because I am solo does not mean I am alone. When you travel solo you are more approachable by others and often people will ask you to join them. Locals will also approach you more because they don’t hear you speaking English.
That said, I do love sharing travel with others and hope to do more of that as well.
You traveled solo in Central and South America. Where did you travel, how long were you gone and what was the best part of the trip?
I started out traveling 14 months in Latin America. I bought a one-way ticket to Mexico, travelled overland through Central America and then sailed from Panama to Colombia, spending 9 months in South America.
The best part of the trip was how Latin America changed me. I was always a guarded person and the culture really taught me it was okay to open up and show my emotions. In Latin America you always know how people feel about you whether they are screaming, crying or hugging you. I spent more time crying on buses than I care to admit but it changed me for the better. This past birthday I wrote 35 Things I Learned from Traveling Latin America and they were all about how I had grown from traveling in another culture..
What advice would you give to solo women travelers?
I am sure some people will be shocked by this but I don’t believe in giving solo female travel advice. It somehow indicates that as women we need to be protected or take extra precautions that men should not. Other than what to wear I have never read one single piece of advice for women that also wouldn’t be relevant for men. In fact I think I was safer as a woman traveling alone in Latin America because so many locals reached out to me to help.
My best advice for any solo traveler male or female is to listen to your gut and don’t be an idiot.
What excites you about travel?
I have gotten to the point where I rarely go to museums or the big attractions. I just want to go into the restaurants, cafes, bars, parks, markets and talk to people. For me it’s all about learning about other cultures and sharing a moment. I would far rather wander a food market and talk to a vendor than sit in an art gallery with other tourists.
What kind of traveler are you? I used to be a backpacker but I cannot do it anymore. I need my own room. My own space. I have lost patience for hostels and while I like that you can meet other people I have learned to do that in other places.
Today I’m a mix of luxury and bargain – although not backpacker, it really depends on where I go and what type of vacation I want to have.
On the road, do you seek out some experiences more than others?
For me food is the basis of a culture and it one of the few ways you can interact with strangers when you don’t know the language. I consider myself a food hunter and I love to learn about traditional food, how to cook it and how farming and agriculture has developed in an area. Food leads to many interesting conversations about the economy, globalization and the environment and I’m fascinated with it.
Is being in your comfort zone important to you?
Considering I landed in Mexico and didn’t know any Spanish and had no plans I would say that I am quite okay with being outside my comfort zone. That said, things like that don’t really bother me.
As I traveled I realized there were things I was doing because I felt like I should, not because I wanted to do them. I climbed a million volcanoes in Central America because that was what people did. Finally in Peru I decided to be honest with myself. I just don’t like hiking.
However, even though I don’t really enjoy adventure travel, every once and a while I push myself to do something and find it enjoyable. In Montana I went down a mountain on a bike and I would consider hiking for one to two hours in the future. This is all to say I think it is important to identify your comfort zone and then push it every once in a while.
What’s your most memorable travel experience or favorite trip ever and why?
This was many years ago but I was robbed in Saigon, Vietnam. I had just left the bus from Cambodia and my passport and all my money and credit cards were in a bag that was across my body. A scooter came by with two people on it and one of them cut the bag from my body with a knife.
It was so quick I had no idea what happened. But it turned out to be a beautiful story where locals helped me by taking me to the police station, insisting the police take a report and translating my English to Vietnamese. It also taught me that getting robbed wasn’t the worst thing in the world and it is possible to get a new passport on the road. If anything it prepared me for travels later on.
What’s your favorite place on earth?
Home. The more I travel the more I realize I am so lucky to live in Canada where it is safe, we have access to clean water and there is opportunity to advance if you work hard enough.
Where are you off to next?
I am on the road for two months, first returning to Maui. I spent a month there last year learning about the culture and it is so much more than a beach destination. Then I’m back down to South America, first in Brazil then back to Ecuador and the Galapagos and visiting some old friends I met my first time traveling there.
What’s the biggest fantasy on your bucket list and why?
Mongolia. 50% of the population is nomadic and I would love to spend a month there. I just haven’t been able to find the time.
Is there anything we haven’t asked that you feel you’d like to share about your travels or your blog?
I really believe on my site my story is about discovery and growth. Travel is the backdrop but I don’t share tips or tricks for people other than telling them where and what to eat. For me travel teaches people to discover who they are when there is no one and nothing around to define them. When I’m asked what my site is about, forgive my crass response, but I always say it’s really “WTF am I doing with my life.” I share that journey with people, it just happens to be coloured with beautiful meals, landscapes and people.
Ayngelina Brogan runs the website Bacon is Magic. In her mid-thirties, she left an amazing job, boyfriend, apartment and friends to find inspiration in Latin America. Find her on Facebook and Instagram.