New travel inspiration: AFAR magazine

Greg Sullivan and Joseph Diaz, the founders of AFAR magazine, saw a need for a magazine that focused on “experiential travel that helps people experience every destination as local residents do.” So they started their new travel magazine to fill that niche.

When major glossies are closing down at an alarming rate, starting up a new magazine – with an online community, tv partnerships, and books in the works – is a bold move. But, if the first issue of AFAR is any indication of what’s to come, it’s one that will enrich the travel community as the company grows.

The goal of AFAR is to encourage authentic travel that avoids superficial, mass-consumed, beaten path tourism and digs deeper into a local cuture in all aspects of the trip, from where you stay to what you eat to how you can make a difference in a local community. AFAR hits that middle ground between offering details that you can use (a calendar section lists events around the world and each feature has the typical “if you go” logistical info), facts that educate (a piece on the culture of maid cafes in Japan was fascinating) and stories that inspire (a feature on Berber culture in Morocco only fueled my desire to go there).

The premier issue also contained an interview with a long-term traveler, information on ocean-cleanup vacations, a profile of the rock music scene in China, and a closing essay by Tim Cahill. The editors also promise to continue this issue’s “Spin the Globe” section, in which they send one writer on a spontaneous journey. This issue’s destination was Caracas, and while the article didn’t offer much in the way of “where to stay, what to do” information, it did offer a very intriguing, honest portrait of the city. For foodies, there was also a feature detailing how one writer learned to make bread from a French master baker.

The writing is solid, the photos are beautiful, and in keeping with the editors’ statement that “life is about more than how much we consume”, the magazine isn’t cluttered with ads (though, ironically, many of the ads are for luxury products). At $19.95 for 6 issues (the magazine will be published bi-monthly), I recommend subscribing. You can get a taste of what you’re in for if you do, or just satiate your thirst for travel inspiration in between issues, on the AFAR blog.

The Devil’s Highway – Journey Along the U.S. Mexico Border

CabezaWalking the Arizona desert in 100 degree heat is no joke. I’ve done it before. During my travels I wasn’t out there alone and I had plenty of water to get me to my final stop. I was beyond well-prepared for the occasion, but it didn’t take away from the brutal heat, sun exposure and vast silent nothingness the desert so often revealed. On the flip side there are secrets only the wind carries, the skull of animal or worse – a human and border patrol know. My 20-mile stretch nothing in comparison to the journey made by hundreds of thousands Mexican migrants each day.

National Geographic Adventure Magazine has a spectacular story and photo gallery on the plight of the illegal migrant. Photographer John Annerino and contributing editor Tim Cahill spent nine days in the Sonora Desert borderlands of southwestern Arizona’s Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge discovering what goes down in one of America’s most troubled wilderness areas. One word – chaos. Imagine migrant groups battling it out with border bandits, vigilantes, Mexican coyotes and dehydration. If that isn’t enough already throw drug smugglers and the U.S. border patrol and what we have is a very ugly reality of one of the hardest types of travel known to man. The hunt for opportunity and better living in the land of the free could very well be in the hands of many migrants so long as they can make it in, through and well-out of the Devil’s Highway.

The story is truly phenomenal and the gallery just the same. If you’ve got the time I suggest you head over for a read. Makes you think.