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When you’re an expat who has been based in Colombia for a while, you generally get used to the place; well, as much as a westerner can in these parts. In fact, you can even start to take it for granted, especially in terms of its natural beauty.
It is only when you return to your old home ‘comforts’ that you are reminded about what are still the standard opinions of Colombia from those in the ‘developed’ world. Those are, simply put, that the place is wild and dangerous, drug-ridden and best to be avoided. As Colombians are well aware, it takes a long time to change a negative image.
But things are changing, if ever so slowly. One way that can be measured is in the increase of foreign tourists coming here and with it, an increase in travel companies focusing on the country.
One of the newest on the scene is Boogaloo Travel; the baby of a petite-sized but larger than life, travel/adventure junky Colombiana, Laura Vega. Wrong Way caught up with her to find out what’s unique about what Boogaloo has to offer the adventure-seeking traveller.
You describe Boogaloo as a ‘trip company’ rather than a ‘tour company’. Why are you so keen to `make that distinction?
«Because our aim is to create a new way of travel where we meet like-minded people who like and want to be active, who know that having a healthy, adventurous life will have a positive impact on not only themselves but also the planet we live on. We don’t organise tours, because it’s not about a group of people following someone and getting told what to do; we offer trips for enthusiastic people full of energy and ideas and who wish to share them with others.”
So Boogaloo Travel is only for people who like adventure and lots of activities when they travel ..?
«Yes, but also for curious people who feel motivated to understand the world we live in by travelling to other cultures, actively engaging with them and becoming part of their development. Yet, we offer several different trips with varying styles and costs»
So those who take on the Boogaloo challenge, what can they expect? What gems of Colombia will they get to see?
«The main activities we offer are cycling (which you can enjoy in four destinations), hiking, rafting, paragliding, quad-biking, windsurfing, dancing lessons and kayaking.
From my perspective, the most outstanding places we visit (although every place has something special!) are:
Salento, where we hike to the tallest palm trees in the world; San Agustín, where we explore one of the most important archaeological sites in Colombia, with stunning green mountains providing a wonderful backdrop; Tatacoa, where the desert offers a perfect setting for landscape pictures by day, while you can expect to be treated to a celestial show of meteor showers by night; Villa de Leyva, a simply beautiful Colombian colonial town; Guatapé, where after climbing 649 steps, we have a gorgeous view of a man-made lake that covers the entire surrounding area; Tayrona, home to virgin Caribbean beaches; La Guajira, the northernmost part of South America where the desert runs majestically into the sea; and Cartagena, the romantic city famous for its beautiful colonial architecture full of colourful, flower-filled balconies and unforgettable sunsets.
I could go on, but you get the idea — this is a beautiful country after all! For a full itinerary, just check out our web site!»*
Mentioning your (impressive) web site, which is in English, is it correct to say your focus is on attracting English-speaking tourists?
«Anyone from anywhere in the world is welcome on our trips, but I’d like to point out that the trip leader will give all the information in English.”
By the way, the name ‘Boogaloo’, where does that come from?
«Boogaloo is the name of a Latin music style that started during the 1960s. It’s a mix of Afro-Cuban and soul rhythms. I have always loved to dance and there are several Boogaloo songs that I have danced to since I was a child! Of course in our trips we will teach people some Boogaloo moves.»
Well that’s Boogaloo, but tell us a little bit about yourself. Have you always been the travelling/adventurous type?
«Since my first ever travel as a kid I felt very passionate about knowing “what is on the other side”. Getting to know and learning about other cultures is something that has always made me curious. I wanted to travel the world making documentaries and in so doing get a better understanding of it. So I decided to move to Argentina to study film production.
When I finished my studies I backpacked from Argentina to Colombia on my own. While I was in Cusco, Peru, I had the misfortune of having my wallet stolen, on Christmas Day of all days. But this unfortunate situation led to a big change in my life. As I had no money I had to look for a job.
Luckily, I found one, at The Point Hostel. There, I met travellers from all over the world, heard their stories, got to know a bit of their own cultures, and in return I was able to help them learn more about South America. This sounded very much like what I wanted to keep on doing; you could say that this experience made me find another part of me.
Ever since, I’ve been working in the tourism industry, advising and showing people how inspiring travel can be and leading groups through Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia.
Sport has also been very important to me. At high school I was a cheerleader; from a very young age I’ve been doing swimming, rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking and many other sports. All these are activities that I look forward to doing wherever I go.»
So it definitely seems that Boogaloo is very much Laura Vega and Laura Vega is Boogaloo. You might say you’re fulfilling your destiny …
«Yes! I put my heart into this project and I will do my best to make this an unforgettable and unique experience for everyone who joins. I also have the fortune to work with a great enthusiastic team full of creativity and ideas to make Boogaloo Travel a project that will transcend time!»
*If you’re interested in finding out more about Boogaloo, the trips offered and the activities involved, visit the web site at www.boogalootravel.com.
Note: This blog wishes to make no secret of the fact that it has helped Boogaloo in terms of its web site content (as listed on the site itself), and will continue to assist the company if and when required — but Wrong Way is not on the Boogaloo payroll! It is, nonetheless, a project that I endorse and wish it the best of success.
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