Trisha Miller from Travel Writers Exchange recently wrote about the power of print and how, as travel writers, we should support the magazines we want to write for. While I agree with her completely, I can guarantee that I would be reading AFAR whether I was a travel writer or not.
When all other magazines were downsizing staff, shrinking budgets and closing doors, the founders of AFAR, Greg Sullivan and Joe Diaz, began publishing what is arguably one of the most genuine, readable magazines on the market today. It was an idea that went against all logic, but so does their magazine, which is why it’s such a great discovery.
AFAR Media sums up its mission succinctly:
Travel is changing. The world has grown smaller, more accessible, yet homogenized and less exotic. Today’s travelers want to get beyond the superficial, the mass-produced, the mass-consumed, and the mass-experienced. They look for the authentic in people, places, and things.
Nothing in AFAR’s pages is reminiscent of the tropical paradise, untapped gems-esque marketing copy found in mainstream travel magazines of yore. Rather, the magazine speaks to travelers who yearn for experiential travel. It provides readers with the tools they need not necessarily to escape the most popular sites, cities and countries around the globe, but to find a way to embrace these places on a more personal level.
Within every issue, readers find a list of upcoming events and festivals across the globe; profiles of people doing interesting and worldly things; information about authentic music, food and souvenirs; and highlights of unusual places to stay. Feature stories don’t mince words but rather tell it like it is. For example, a story in the December/January 2010 issue discussed the financial problems of Seychelles and how this affects both the islanders and travelers to the country. The same issue also contains a first-person narrative from a man who learns the hard way what happens when he tries to help a good friend he met on his travels by giving him money.
There are three parts of the magazine I am particularly fond of. First, I absolutely love the section called “Mix,” which is a gallery of photographs taken around the world that are all similarly themed. Houses, school lunches, uniforms … every country has them, but they all look different.
I also enjoy the section called “Local View,” which gives a local resident the opportunity to share his or her favorite things about living in that particular city. Sometimes this person emphasizes places to go and things to do, but more often than not, it’s a snapshot of everyday life that helps define the personality of a place.
Finally, I think the section called “Spin the Globe” is fascinating. In it, AFAR spins a globe and randomly selects a place to send a writer. That writer then creates a story based on his or her experience.
In truth, every issue of AFAR is packed, page by page, with not only helpful information but truly interesting insights and ideas that can’t be curated from the folds of a glossy brochure. If you are at all interested in taking your travel experiences to the next level, I highly recommend this magazine.