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Afar: The Travel Mag. that Brings it Home.

February 20, 2010

Not that I didn’t buy my share of travel mags before, but the existence of Vamoos has provided yours truly with the semblance of an excuse to go hog-wild in the Barnes & Noble magazine aisle.  As per usual with glossies, my rate of consumption far outstrips my rate of digestion, and the stack on my bedside table has been growing unabated for some time now.

my current nightstand stash

Thanks to a lack of Olympic figure skating, last night I finally tucked into the premier issue of Afar magazine.  And then another.  And another. This magazine has enough entertainment to give even Johnny Weir a run for his money. Finally a magazine that is not about celebrating the Ian Schrager-ization of the world: the hippest this, the latest that. In a video clip on Afar‘s website, founder Greg Sullivan commented:

Travel media, in particular magazines, look at travel as escapist. Or they often look at travel as sightseeing: you’re behind the camera, checking off the boxes of where you’ve been. It’s not about going out and touching and feeling and making connections.

Afar, in contrast, focuses on experiential travel (a ‘live it, don’t look at it’ approach), with the goal of getting beyond the mass-produced, the mass-consumed and the mass-experienced.  Afar‘s far-reaching plans include designs for tv, radio, events, books- even a foundation that will sponsor immersion travel for students who otherwise couldn’t afford venture far afield.

What makes Afar magazine close to my heart:

  • Great visuals:  Great photos and layouts (see monthly feature Mix; a two-page spread of themes collaged photos from around the world. Themes thus far have included official uniforms, homes (yurts to castles) and footwear). Afar also takes a page from GOOD magazine in its creative use of infographics to diagram issues.  Recent issues have looked at global production and consumption of flowers, chocolate and cigarettes.
  • Cool features: Enough with the luxury hotels, celebrity playgrounds and designer golf courses, here are some of Afar’s refreshing takes:
  1. Spin the Globe: Celebrating serendipity and spontaneity, a dispatch from a writer sent to a randomly chosen location.
  2. Feast: A local dish and its connection to its culture, plus selected spices, beverages, street markets, and kitchen tools.Plus, recommendations for good eating in other countries from well-known American chefs.
  3. Where Travel Takes Me: Some of the best travel writers in the biz. share their transformative travel moments.
  4. Finds: Stuff with a Story feature.  Bestill my d.crit (design criticism) heart.
  5. Resident: A local shows us around his or her neighborhood. (Hello Lost & Found!!!! My inspiration gets legs.)
  • Minimal Ads. Minimal annoyance.

While the ‘pop star on ice’, Johnny Weir may be winding down after his 6th place Olympic finish, Afar is just warming up.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s got gold in its future.

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