How Milena from Magali Viajante Discovered Clamato

Travel blogger Lokafy

Milena Duarte is the Brazilian blogger and food enthusiast who created Magali Viajante. Travelling the world, she writes about her experiences meeting new people, tasting unique dishes, and creating great memories. I had a chance to catch up with her in Toronto to get insight into what life is like for a travel blogger and hear about her favourite travel memories.

How did you get into blogging for a living? 

As a little kid we traveled a lot in my family, mostly in Brazil and by car.  So after I finished cooking school at the Institut Paul Bocuse in France, I decided to work in the tourism business; in hotels as well as travel agencies. Travelling became a passion of mine and I started travelling a lot. People used to always ask me about my experiences, where to eat, etc. That meant that most of the time I was having to send really long emails.

I have a friend who is a fashion blogger and lives in DC. Eventually she asked me for a place to have breakfast in Sao Paulo since she was coming to visit. After sending her a well-structured, well-written email, she then thanked me and replied asking why I didn’t share my travel tips with people. I had just gotten out of a job and so thought, why not do this in my free time?

food restaurant Toronto

My first post was about where to have breakfast in Sao Paulo. There were a lot of views for that blog which got me really excited. That was in December 2013. So after that, I decided to get more focused on developing a blog, and around the beginning of 2014, I started taking courses on writing, photography, producing videos and how to grow my view count; pretty much anything that would help me improve my blog. I had just gotten started with the blog but I had to return to my job, so I didn’t have enough time to write the blog. I went to work for a travel company that specialized in receiving people for the World Cup. I worked as a concierge for the company; it was really nice. We helped tourists who were arriving for the World Cup in Brazil. 

This experience made me realize how much I enjoyed providing travel tips to other people. So I saved up some money and decided to quit my job after the World Cup was over so that I could focus on my blog.  Since the end of 2014, I’ve been working on Magali Viajante full time. It’s been a really amazing experience so far. In the beginning, I had a bit trouble working by myself, and it was difficult not getting distracted talking to people all the time. Now it’s a full-time job and I honestly wouldn’t trade it for any other high-paying job.  Of course if I really needed the money I would but for now, I love the work I do.

So it seems like you made this incredible transition across these different areas. How did that come to be?

Well I don’t really think that they’re really separate areas for me. I’m writing about things that I’ve experienced and have knowledge about. I went to cooking school and I worked in the restaurant business for a long time so I fell that I’m able to talk about food with some expertise. I’m not someone who just likes eating and likes travelling. I worked in the tourism industry as well and gained a lot of knowledge from that.

Because I think that one of the problems in the blogging industry, especially food and travel, is that it’s very easy for anyone to do it. The thing that sets those who are good at it and those who are not, is those that actually have specialized knowledge on the subject. I do have a background in and knowledge of those areas so I do think I can produce valuable, original content. That isn’t to say of course that I think I’m the one with the wisdom and all I do is tell people what they think. Rather, I think that I have something unique to share with people, and I really enjoy connecting with them especially on these topics.

What are your favorite things to write about?           

St Lawrence market food Toronto

That’s a tough one. It’s a mix between what I like writing about, and what I need to write about. I write about the places I travel to, the attractions, the people I meet, and local businesses and restaurants I visit - most of them here in Sao Paulo. This usually involves going to a restaurant and writing a review about it and I enjoy doing it. But my actual experience of travelling is my favourite topic to write about. That’s because it’s not solely an opinion, but it’s more a process where I’m able to allow people to feel more connected to the place through my writing. I think mostly though it stands on the thin line between what you like to do, and what your audience expects you to do. I like writing about restaurants I visit, but if I had to choose between that and writing about travel, I would go with travel. I think I got to where I am today because I’m able to write about the things I love, and that’s what makes this job so special.

What it is about travel that you love the most?

When I travel, I connect with myself in a way that I never do when I’m involved in my daily routine. I think travelling has this unique property to bring out the best in certain people. Whenever I travel I’m more open, sociable, and want to discover more about people and places. I think travelling brings me freedom.  I love my life and the work that I do but I can’t have this freedom during my work week. Whenever I’m travelling I feel like I live in an ideal world, even if I have problems while travelling. 

Yesterday I attended a Travel Massive conference in Sao Paulo. There was this girl I met that works at Grabr. Grabr is an app that connects people from different countries to others who can buy and ship items to you that you wouldn’t be able to buy in your own country. So say I’m flying to Sao Paulo and I’ve just been in Toronto. That person will pay me to buy an item and bring it to them when I travel to Sao Paulo. So why I said that is because the girl from Grabr is a great example of this. The world is an oyster; it's so small with so much to offer. I can’t just sit idly by while there is still so many places to discover and people to meet. I just have to see it.

So it’s discovering this vastness in the world that excites you?

Yes, and no. I think more importantly, it’s understanding that when you travel, you have the opportunity to realize that your way of life is not the only one that exists. It helps you become a lot more tolerant of the world’s diversity. So it’s not just discovering, but truly understanding how each person’s opinions and way of life can affect yours.

And is there any particular city that is particularly memorable to you?

Toronto street art downtown

I actually just came back from Toronto and I’ve got to say that I’m obsessed with the city right now. I’ve never seen a society that is organized as well as Canada’s - it’s tolerant, people live well together, and anyone can be a Canadian. It’s really refreshing to see a society like that. Besides Toronto, I really enjoyed Hawaii. We went to Honolulu last year, and it’s a place where I can see myself living and having kids. It’s pretty hard to choose one place thoughJapan is also an amazing place to visit as a tourist, as is Brazil. We have beautiful beaches and the ocean. Sao Paulo is a great city. When you live in a city, you have a different relationship than when you’re a tourist visiting. Sao Paulo is not the funnest city in the world. We’re very work oriented but we have a great restaurant scene and nightlife. I’d say though that if you were to come to Brazil, there are nicer cities to see first than Sao Paulo.

Is there a particular aspect of Sao Paulo that you think makes it not the top choice for visiting in Brazil?

Yes, i think though that these issues apply to nationwide problems that the country is facing - safety, violence, traffic, etc. I think a good comparison is that between Toronto and Vancouver. When I was in Toronto people were always asking me why I was spending my holidays there because supposedly Toronto is just a huge city with nothing much to do. They said that I should've visited Vancouver instead. If you were to ask whether you should go to Sao Paulo or Rio, of course I would say go to Rio because the city is so alive and vibrant, whereas Sao Paulo is simply a big city where people work and then go home everyday. Either way, there is a lot to do in Sao Paulo, but its less visible in the everyday life or as a touristAll of this however may be biased since I live in the city and see all of these issues firsthand on a daily basis.

Are there any memorable people that you’ve encountered during your travels that particularly stand out?

Yes of course, that’s one of the great things about my job. I absolutely love Laura (a Lokafyer in Toronto). I think that she’s the type of person that you can hang out with at any time of the day. She’s just so bubbly and easy-going. I also only became friends with her recently but it feels like I’ve known her forever. She’s just so natural, un-scripted, and you can be yourself around her.

Paris streets

There’s this time when I used to live in France as a student, and I lived in a residence with other international students. I was travelling in France with a large group of students. We were on a train that was stopping at lots of small towns and villages. We could only speak a bit of French and were feeling kind of lost and unsure about where the train was going to stop. This man then came over to us and offered to help. It turns out that he actually lived in the town that we were getting off at and reassured us that he would see us onto the platform. So we get off the train and thank him for helping us, and stand around a bit talking. 

The man then comes back a few minutes later with his family and says he has nothing to do that day and offers to show us around Meximieux (the town we visited). We were thrilled and despite being a large group of students he showed us around. He then invited us to come back to his house for lunch and obviously, we were slightly skeptical. But we were a large group and there was little chance of any danger. We get to his house where his mom organized a banquet of French food for us, and we spent the rest of the afternoon with him and his family. 

He then visited us a couple of times in the residence of the town that we were living in as students, and it was a lot of fun. That was 2009 and we’ve been friends ever since. It’s funny because people are always saying that the French are unwelcoming but I have to wholeheartedly disagree; my experience was incredible. Now I can only say good things about the French.

It’s strange that in most societies nowadays we question people’s good intentions. In reality, most of the time if someone is being nice, it is simply because they are nice people. Would you agree?

Absolutely. Because I live in a fairly dangerous city and country, the majority of people are cautious and wary of each other’s intentions. When someone stops you on the streets in Sao Paulo, immediately your mind jumps to bad conclusions. I think it depends of course where you travel, but when I travel I try to have my guard down and be open to people. When I was travelling in Toronto and trying to find my way around, standing on the street corner with a map, people were coming up to me asking if I needed help. And that made me feel so safe and welcome. It’s because of that that I was open to talk to people and really enjoy the city. 

Most of the time, however, I think that as a Brazilian, the majority of countries we visit aren’t as dangerous and so we can relax and really get to know the place. I think that if I hadn’t accepted his offer to go to this man’s place in France, I wouldn't have had one of the best memories that I’ve ever experienced while travelling.

How is it that you go about meeting locals in these places you visit. Is there a particular approach you have?

I think I was lucky in the sense that while I was studying in France, I had the chance to become friends with people from all around the world. If I visit a country where I have a friend, I always go and visit them first. Not simply because this person is my friend, but because I know I will have the best experience with this person since she’s the one who knows the country and the city.

Food restaurant

When I went to Buenos Aires last year, and I didn’t know anyone there. Inevitably I had to trust what I read on the Internet, which is why I think I lost out a bit on the experience. People say that when you stay in hostels you can meet new people because the majority of them are travelling alone. Somehow I never had that experience. But I think that whenever you’re open to new people and friendships, you’ll automatically gravitate to others, regardless of the place. 

You could be in a restaurant and start talking to someone at the other table and there you go, you’ve met someone new. Sometimes though it’s not that easy to meet people, and that’s what I think is great about Lokafy. I have 3 friends in Canada - one is in Vancouver, and the other two are in Mississauga. They didn’t really have time to spend with us since they lived in other cities, so it was great to have Laura with us to show us around. She even took us to eat Vietnamese eggs which we found really funny because we actually have a part of our YouTube channel which is about bizarre foods.

It seems that while you were in Toronto, you really got the chance to be immersed in the city because of meeting locals. Would you say that’s true?

Yes, and I think that’s what makes my job truly special. That’s what makes the things that I write about more interesting. Because whenever I meet a local, I’m able to get tips that nobody else has. For example, one of the things that Laura showed me was the Caesar (cocktail). If I had just read Caesar on the menu by myself, I would have thought that it's just another Bloody Mary, and I wouldn’t have tried it.

Toronto Lokafy

It was pretty funny. Yesterday when we were at the Travel Massive, one of the girls from Grabr asked someone in the audience, “If you could have one thing right nowthat isn’t from here, what would it be?” And this girl raised her hand and said “Well I’m Canadian, so I would have to go with Clamato juice”. And the Brazilians in the room were like “what is Clamato juice?”. They really didn’t know what it was. So she offered to bring a few of the tins that she had brought from Canada. Laura was the person who introduced me to Clamato juice; something I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. I think that’s what’s so amazing about Lokafy, and the work that you’re doing.