Travel Magazines for Down-to-Earth Adventurers

These travel magazines focus on ethical travel, ecotourism, and authentic adventures

| September/October 1998

On the cover of a glossy travel magazine I see this lovely woman, Ray-Bans perched atop her hair and the faint shine of jewels on her earrings, running barefoot in a clingy dress across a white sand beach toward a seaplane. The plane's door is wide open, as if to say, Let's go upscale. This is a fantasy, of course, and travel writing has always been at least part fantasy literature. But what makes me feel I don't belong in this scene is the matter of her luggage. Where is her suitcase? I can identify with the dream of being whisked out of paradise in a roaring seaplane, but not with having someone else carry my bags.

Fortunately, there's a different class of travel magazines for people who want to experience other cultures around the globe more profoundly than just tipping a helpful porter. These magazines emphasize authenticity, not luxury. They offer tales from the road, not just lists of hot spots. Their purpose is to give you a window on the world, not a primer on cosmopolitan consumption.

Escape magazine, filled with lush photographs and real-life tales from exotic locales, can trace its origins back to editor and publisher Joe Robinson's first backpack tour of Europe while he was a student at Cal State–Northridge. "I had just landed and was lost in the German city of Koblenz, with my map spread out on the sidewalk, trying to find the local hostel," he recalls. "A group of German students came up and asked if I needed a place to stay. I stayed with them for the next three days, had a great time, and learned a lot about Germany. I didn't often see that kind of travel written up in a magazine."

Robinson, now 47, kept traveling light—to the South Pacific, to Asia—in between working in journalism and the music business. The idea and name for a new kind of travel magazine leapt into his head one night while he was reading novelist Graham Greene's autobiography. Greene, a lifelong global wanderer, coined a term for his own travel writing: escapes. Robinson spent six years launching the magazine, writing a book on entrepreneurship at the same time to help him learn the nuts and bolts of business.

Since its first issue, in 1994, Escape has grown to a substantial 100-plus page quarterly with a circulation of 70,000 and ads from, to name a few, outdoor gear companies, record labels, and South American airlines. Articles focus primarily on out-of-the-way places, mixing adventure narratives with reports of far-flung ecological and political developments. There's substantial coverage of world music and departments that fill you in on practical matters like staying healthy and finding cheap plane tickets. Robinson writes an intriguing column, The Inner Journey, on the personal dimension of travel.

"The established travel magazines still see travel as sightseeing," he explains. "We see it as something you are in the thick of—participant travel. Travel, in a sense, is a quest; it's a spiritual ride. Out on the road, away from the clutter of home, you find out things about who you are and come back with a different perspective."

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