From Argentina and Brazil to Chile and Mexico City, Drea Vidler and Cait Breslin have called Latin America home for the past year. In July 2015, they launched their travel tech company, LocalAventura. LocalAventura is a marketplace platform that connects adventurous travelers with passionate local guides throughout the region. However, a unique aspect of their company is that the team vets all of their tours and guides before adding them to our site. This way, Drea and Cait get to go on tours and meet talented guides from wine experts to champion sailors in various parts of Latin America.
What inspired you to move abroad?
Drea: I was born in Chile and raised in the United States. Growing up in a multicultural home and speaking both Spanish and English has always made me feel connected to my various cultures and identify as an international citizen. After earning my MBA from Wharton and realizing there was a demand for a resource like LocalAventura that would make traveling to Latin America more accessible for English-speaking travelers, I decided to pack up and move to Santiago, Chile, to pursue my dream of being an entrepreneur.
Cait: I spent my entire childhood in Philadelphia and did not ride in my first airplane until I was a student at the University of Pennsylvania. My first flight was actually one of the longest you can book - to Singapore.
Once I had experienced the world outside of Philadelphia, I was eager to explore more, motivating me to do an internship in India and study abroad in Buenos Aires. After falling in love with Buenos Aires while studying abroad, I dropped my plans of going to medical school, met Drea, joined LocalAventura, and moved back to Argentina to launch the business there.
What do you love about your independent lifestyles and devoting your careers to travel?
Drea: One of the best parts of my job and living in different cities throughout Latin America is developing relationships with locals. I’ve been lucky to meet so many incredible local guides, and I love hearing the unique and interesting stories they each have to share.
For example, professional photographer, Cat, who leads a photography tour in Santiago told me she was practically raised with a camera in her hand and has traveled to over 60 countries to take photos. I also loved meeting Diego, a world champion sailor who leads a sailing trip through the Bellestas Islands off the coast of Peru. After working in the corporate world for a few years he realized he wanted to pursue his passion for sailing by starting his own tours business.
Meeting such passionate local guides from different traditions and hear their perspectives, really reminds me why I do what I do. I devote myself to this project because I think that my fellow travelers deserve to hear them as well!
Cait: I’ve always thought that travel is a type of education for which there is no substitution. It gives you an appreciation of the world and the diversity of cultures that exist. It has been an incredible experience to see how people chose to live their lives differently and identify the distinct values that drive each community.
How have you enjoyed your independent lifestyle and jumping around Latin America this past year?
Drea: Between the two of us, we have been to seven countries in the past nine months to launch our business across Latin America. I have spent the past year living and working in Chile, Argentina, Mexico and Costa Rica, and Cait in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.
It has been a whirlwind of a year, but we have loved every moment of it. I love living abroad and moving around, and I plan on doing it for the rest of my life. I just love the surprises, exploring and getting to know new cities, and meeting people with different cultural, economic, and political perspectives.
One of my favorite experiences was when I traveled to India a few years ago to attend a friend’s cousin’s wedding and somehow ended up in the bridal party. While at first I was nervous because Indian culture was completely foreign to me, I loved learning the steps to traditional Indian dances and wearing a beautiful saree. The experience certainly took me outside my comfort zone, but I loved the personal growth this vulnerability inspired in me.
Cait: The constant thrill of traveling, the personal and professional challenges each day brings, and the motivation to make an impact in Latin America, have made my life incredibly rewarding. For example, a few weeks ago I thought I was going on a leisurely hike through the Andes with a local guide, but instead, upon arriving and being handed a harness and helmet, I realized I had actually entered a rock climbing tour. I have been afraid of heights since childhood so at first I wanted to turn around and leave, but I decided to overcome my fear and ultimately hiked/climbed my way to the peak. It is experiences like these that make me realize how special this opportunity is.
What have you learned from living abroad?
Drea: In the past year, I have learned so much professionally and personally, especially from our local guides.. Each of our guides is an entrepreneur, whether they realize it or not. They work arduously with small budgets and little support, but they do it because they love what they do and want to share it with others. This passion inspires me in my own life and motivates me to provide a service that can give them the support and the network they deserve.
As an entrepreneur it challenges me to find our niche in the Latin American market and build something that will meet a fundamental need for both local guides who seek customers and travelers who want off-the-beaten-track experiences.
Cait: I have learned how important it is to push yourself outside of your comfort zone because it is in those moments when real memories are made and personal growth occurs. If you make yourself a little uncomfortable in a new location by, for example, trying to speak the local language despite having minimal training or taking a cooking class with an expert chef when you only have experience making easy mac and cheese, you will have the opportunity to meet awesome people, see places you may have otherwise have missed, and learn a lot about yourself.
Any advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs or Latin American travelers/expatriates?
Cait and Drea: First of all, write all your ideas and aspirations down and figure out how to make them reality. Talk to people, explain these ideas to them, think about which ones you feel the most excitement explaining, and do your research. Then, create a plan for taking the leap and fulfilling them.
If it’s an entrepreneurial idea, reach out to expert advisors with aligned interests and research competitors, potential clients, and the market you want to enter. It is important that you build up your research and your network early on and so that you can evaluate and refine your idea.
If it’s a travel idea, connect with adventurous friends, or decide whether or not you are ready for a solo adventure! Research fun activities to do and sites to see through trusted resources online or in books/magazines, talk to people you know who have traveled there before, and familiarize yourself with basic health and safety information for that area. It is important that you are prepared with basic necessities and knowledge before you leave so that you can take the most advantage of your time there.
For spending time in Latin America, specifically, our advice is to take advantage of every moment you are there to meet locals, immerse yourself in the local cuisine (empanadas anyone?!), and go on the many diverse adventures the region has to offer. If you are living for an extended period of time in a certain city, take time to travel around the country and really get to know it. For example, most people are familiar with Machu Picchu when thinking about travel experiences in Peru. However, you can also visit the bustling cities of Cuzco and Lima or sail to the Palomino Islands off the country’s west coast.
If you have the opportunity, you can also travel to other destinations in the region that interest you. The region offers such a diversity of cities, geography, and climates that it is certainly worth your while to do research and find adventures that interest you. If you challenge yourself, take risks, and explore during your time abroad, you will have transformative and memorable experiences.