Experiential Travel with AFAR

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

We've recently found the coolest site - that explores experiential travel. AFAR: Where Travel Can Take You explores experiential travel in a variety of ways - through a website, a new (and gorgeous) print magazine, and more. Experiential travel includes intercultural and educational experiences, adventure travel, and geo-tourism - "experiences that connect you with the essence of a place and its people. AFAR understands that simply seeing the sights is no longer enough. Experiential travelers want to venture beyond the beaten tourist paths and dive deeper into authentic, local culture, connecting with people from other cultures in ways that enrich their lives and create lasting memories."

AFAR's mission? To inspire and guide those who travel the world seeking to connect with its people, experience their culture, and understand their experiences.

AFAR magazine will take readers inside incredible, fascinating cultures. Through first-person accounts, departments such as “Resident,” “Nomad,” “Spin the Globe,” and “Where Travel Takes Me” will put readers at the kitchen table with its subjects.  “Good Trips” will provide readers tools to follow a personal interest and find transforming encounters; while service sections such as “Stay,” “Stuff,” “Grub,” “Arts and Culture,” and “Logistics,” will offer suggestions for finding deep and unusual access into a culture. Features will explore small slices of life, follow a character’s passions, and illuminate complex global issues through individuals’ stories, providing readers with literal as well as metaphoric roadmaps for their own adventures. An AFAR online network will premiere in 2010.

"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. Introducing AFAR Media: for a different kind of travel."

One thing you know, from meeting so many global travelers, is that although there are a plethora of world travelers, those that are true interculturalists are a bit more rare. Those few that think of the places and people they visit as something to learn about (and not just see, from the tourist margins); those that want to give back while they are staying in a place. Immersing yourself in a language and culture brings intercultural understanding that is unparalleled as a learning - and life-changing - experience.

AFAR - Tokyo

We were lucky enough to sit down with Joe Diaz, Co-Founder of AFAR. He also wears several other hats with AFAR - Vice President, Brand Development, and Director of the AFAR Exchange. A seasoned world traveler, Joe spent his early years growing up in a bi-cultural family, with one foot in Spain and the other in California. That early exposure to the global village propelled Joe toward what he now considers his “calling”—learning about this fascinating and quirky world we live in through travel.

After graduating from Duke University, Joe spent three years working with Teach for America in Phoenix, Arizona, before getting his masters degree and launching a successful real estate investment firm in Arizona. His travels have taken him extensively to four of the seven continents, with a goal to visit all seven.

We chatted with Joe about AFAR, travel, giving back, and more.  Here's what he had to say...

WE: Please tell us about AFAR…

JD: AFAR is a media company dedicated to experiential travel…It's about traveling as a way to get beneath the surface of place and immerse yourself in the people and cultures of the world. With that said, I really see AFAR as more than a media company. It's really about a movement of curious, globally aware citzens who are consistently searching for authenticity, connection and understanding in their lives. 

WE: What was the genesis of AFAR?

JD:  AFAR is a project that started 30 months ago. Greg and I conceived of AFAR at a beach bar in Goa, India. Sitting there drinking Kingfisher beer and reflecting on the incredible 5 week adventure we had embarked upon, we realized that there was no one in media talking about travel in a way that was meaningful to us as travelers and global citizens. We weren't interested in the top 39 best beach resorts. What we wanted was to talk about travel as a way to transform yourself and the people around you. We desired to share in experiences that were from the inside looking out and not the opposite. Long story short...there was a need that wasn't being met so AFAR is trying to fill the hole.

WE: Your team is incredible! Can you please share who is working on AFAR?

JD: I'm really impressed with our team. It's an incredible group of intelligent people who have a long history in media. Susan West is our Editor in Chief. John Sheehy is our President and Publisher. Laura Simkins is our Audience Development Director. Our Creative Director is Jane Palecek. These are people who are seasoned industry pros who've been involved in the launching of other successful publications, including Dwell Magazine. They are "out of the box" thinkers who strive everyday to set the bar higher for all of us.

WE:  You will have both print and online offerings - can you please delineate what readers can expect to find, in AFAR?

JD: First off, AFAR Magazine and afar.com won't be very much alike. They both will embody the values of AFAR, but these values will manifest in different ways. Whereas the magazine will be the voice of experiential travel, inspiring readers, afar.com will be the community where people will come to act on those inspirations. This will be the place where people from around the world will connect with each other, to share information that will help us all get beneath the surface and off of the beaten tourist track. The magazine is launching in the middle of August and we can expect to see afar.com in the 1st quarter of 2010. We actually just shipped the magazine to the printer this week and we're all really excited! This doesn't look or feel like your typical travel magazine.

In terms of what you'll find in AFAR…well I think it's time to for me to pitch the Premier Issue. Just go to afar.com and sign up for a free trial :)

WE:  How can travelers seek out the truly authentic experiences, people, and places?

JD: It really is all about the mindset. AFAR readers are curious and open minded individuals. They yearn to see things as they really are and refuse to get caught up in the froth. Sit across the kitchen table from someone who, just minutes before was a complete stranger, and immerse yourself in their world. Put yourself in their shoes and see the world from their vantage point. Eat the food they offer you. Study the photos they share with you of their family. Approach every day with this mindset and you're bound to be immersed in the experiences AFAR writes about.

AFAR- Baker

WE:  We are always trying to give back, when we travel. Do you have some tips for readers, on how to do just that?

JD: We have a section in AFAR named "Good Trips." This is about traveling to improve yourself and the world. In our Premier Issue, we focus on marine conservation and trips you can take that benefit this cause. I feel like AFAR does a good job giving back when we travel. Travel should always be fun, but in order for it to be meaningful we need to apply purpose and intention to what we do. If you keep this in mind, I think the causes you are passionate about will be given the attention they deserve. When I travel, I always try to think of small ways I can give back on a daily basis. Being a former teacher, education is an issue that is important to me. Spending time at local schools and learning alongside the students is where I like to spend my time when giving back.

WE: Is there anything else you'd like to share? 

JD: We've also started the AFAR Foundation, a non-profit whose purpose is to help high school students who would otherwise not be able to afford it to travel internationally and experience other cultures.  We've set up a pilot program with Global Explorers to send students from the New York and San Francisco areas to Costa Rica in the spring of 2010.  The trip is actually a part of a year-long curiculum in which the students study the ecology and culture of Costa Rica, as well as about leadership and service.  We are really excited about this program.


WE: Thanks so much, Joe! We can't wait for our first issue of AFAR to arrive, and I have enjoyed learning the backstory to this extraordinary new intercultural venture.

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Photos courtesy and copyright of:

Feature photo: Morocco: Candace Feit

Tokyo: Daniele Mattioli 

Baker: Brian Doben