#FBF: Followback Friday is our new interview series where we get real with some of our favorite travel influencers. We want to learn what makes them tick, their best tips and tricks, and share stories of (mis)adventures from the road.
You could say Ayngelina Brogan is a jack of all trades in the travel world. She’s lived as a nomad, has embarked on plenty of solo trips, and hasn’t been afraid to try outrageous foods along the way — and she’s not done yet. Together with her husband, Dave, Ayngelina shares travel tips, news, and the best eats on their blog, Bacon is Magic. She recently caught up with iExplore to tell us more about her favorite foodie destinations, why one of her top meals is still a bit of a mystery, and where she’s planning to go next.
Most of us see Bacon is Magic as a couples’ food and travel blog, but it actually began as a solo travel blog. Can you tell us a bit about why you decided to follow your dreams?
I was 32 and had been working in advertising for 10 years. I had a great career and they were training me for senior management, a boyfriend of five years and a fantastic apartment.
But I was only 95% happy. That would be fine for most people but all I felt was the 5% emptiness. Finally I decided to take a career break so I bought a one-way ticket to Mexico and traveled south overland to Argentina for the next 18 months. In that time I decided not to go back to my career and was nomadic for four years.
One day while writing about food in Charlottetown I met a chef and that changed my life. Now we live together in Toronto, run a restaurant and balance that life with travel blogging.
When did you realize you could get paid to travel and write about food?
At the one year mark I decided not to go back to my old life. I was in South America where I barely spent $400 a month to live and was offered a job as the South America expert for About.com. The fee covered my living expenses and more.
How would you describe your travel style? Has it changed much since you met Dave?I’m very laid back. I don’t need a schedule and I like to just show up and figure things out. When we travel I’m the planner. I’ve learned the hard way from a bad long-haul flight that we need more leg room and that we need to rent apartments from time to time as he loves – and needs to cook – it’s his release.
What’s your favorite thing about traveling? Do you have a least favorite part?
I love to learn. When you travel you meet people and places that challenge how you think and teach you to grow.
The least favorite has to be packing. I’m always a last minute packer and it’s a bit of a rush to throw things in a bag.
What are the biggest misconceptions about female solo travel?
That solo women are always in danger. When I was traveling through Latin America on my own people thought I was crazy.
For some reason there’s an unspoken fear that men in foreign countries are just out to rape women. However, I think I was more safe as a solo traveler, locals reached out to me, helped me navigate transit systems and gave advice on where to stay. If I had been with a man they would have just assumed I was fine.If anything, the time I was robbed in Saigon and robbed in Nicaragua I was with men both times.
We’re big foodies here and we can’t get enough of your Instagram pics. We understand it’s hard to pick just one so can you name the top three meals you’ve ever had?
On a train from Bangkok to Cambodia I ate an egg on rice with some kind of sauce. I have no idea what it was but I loved it.
Stuffed poblano tacos at the bus station in Cancun, Mexico.
The charcuterie plate at Dave’s restaurant the day I met him. I was wearing a shirt that said “Praise the Lard” and he saw me from the pass and decided that a girl wearing a shirt like that should get twice what everyone else gets.
How do you seek out the best local spots even if you don’t speak the same language?I‘ve been fortunate in that I ask where to go on social media and so many people are generous enough to offer to take me around. Dave and I spent five weeks in Italy and we had cooks all over the country offer to show us their home town – we went places we would have never found on our own.
What are your top five destinations for foodie travelers?
I couldn’t put them in order but I would pick: Mexico, Peru, Italy, and France. I haven’t been to Denmark yet but I can tell it would be top five for me as well.
Have you ever flat out refused to try any foods while you’re on the road? (We’re talking like grasshoppers or cow brains).
I’ve never refused anything, including balut in the Philippines which is a partially developed bird embryo and something I wouldn’t want to try again. I would refuse anything unsustainable like bluefin tuna or turtle eggs but as long as it’s safe to eat I could not insult someone by refusing food they are offering. I’ve had crickets in Mexico and they are delicious. I’ve never had cow brain but we have served lamb brain at Loka, our restaurant in Toronto – it’s super creamy and delicious.
Do you have any bucket list adventures you haven’t crossed off your list yet?
Dave and I would love to eat in so many places. Scandinavia is definitely on our list as is Japan. I’ve always wanted to visit Mongolia where 50% of the population is nomadic. I’m fascinated by food in Africa. But also in my home country I would love to go to the Yukon, which supposedly has amazing food.
What are some upcoming trips you’re super excited about?
In September we’re heading to Manitoba to visit canola fields and meet with farmers, in October we’re heading to Vancouver to participate in a food festival and we’re so excited for West Coast food. In January we’re closing the restaurant for two weeks to rent an apartment in France. I’m also hoping to plan a few solo trips in between as well.