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Two thirds of a travel magazine
Member Name: fizzywizzy
Advantages: High quality of writing and photogrpahy
Disadvantages: High propportion of adverts; confusion of magazine's focus
(Stage direction -place tongue firmly in cheek)
I know, I know. You're all asking "Fiona, how is it you know just which really cool part of the world to visit next, without breaking the bank?" Well, if I told you that secret I wouldn't want to travel again; I don't want to spend my hard-earned holidays surrounded by deadbeat 'tourists' (whereas I am a 'traveller') calling the waiters "Rocky" (or some such), walking around looking like lobsters and bemoaning the lack of English breakfasts.
(Stage direction - remove tongue from cheek)
"Wanderlust", a bi-monthly travel magazine which has the tagline "Real travel for real travellers", focuses on the independent, but by no means the budget, traveller; priced at £3.80, a quick calculation works out that a really thrifty traveller could probably bag himself a budget flight to somewhere interesting for the price of a years worth of reading. Of course, the average Wanderlust reader would probably baulk at the environmental damage cause by such a frivolous action. That being the case, just why does the queen of the budget flight (that's me!, keep up) spend her money on this every two months?
Basically, Wanderlust manages to do what many of the monthly magazines fail to achieve. It keeps up with develops in the world of travel and passes this news on the its readership along with a good number of interesting and eye-opening articles about destinations as diverse as Vietnam, Lake Superior and Belize (using the October 2005 issue as an example). Not bad considering it has two months worth of news to keep up with!
Wanderlust is divided into three main sections.
This section comprises fairly short sections which appear each week. There is a world diary which outlines three or four events or festivals taking place somewhere in the world during the forthcoming months; a 'new air routes' section does exactly what you'd think and includes long haul and budget flights from the UK, as well as flights between other nations which may be of interest to travellers further afield; accompanying this is 'airline news' which tells readers who is expanding, who has special offers on and who is merging with whom.
A news section provides information on such diverse topics as where the British consulate in Nairobi has moved to or the news that the Simplon Tunnel will be closed for essential repairs next Tuesday and Wednesday (this is just an example, if you do intend to travel through the Simplon Tunnel next week, check beforehand). There is a small section on health issues for travellers (with a bigger section later on) and an article about independent travel companies who have new brochures coming out. Finally in this section is "Travel experience", a monthly piece in which Wanderlust readers describe their own experiences of doing voluntary work overseas.
The middle section of Wanderlust is the main travel section with longer articles, usually at least three pages, on specific destinations. In October 2005 these included an extensive article directed at climbers on the various possible routes to ascend Kilimanjaro, written by Sarah Baxter, a climbing novice. There were also articles on Vietnam, Belize and southern China. Travel articles always include a section on practicalities with such information as the currency that destination uses, type of accommodation available, vaccinations required (where appropriate) and more. Most helpfully, they always include a small bibliography and list websites useful for people wishing to know more.
Each month features a "Quick Fix" destination, here it was Lille. Wanderlust offer the quirky option of seeing the city's sites on a Segway and manage to suggest a weekends itinerary for only £141.80 per person (based on two sharing) including hotel, Segway hire, meals and museum admission.
The final section of the magazine proper agains features a series of items which appear each month; the fascinating (oh dear my tongue crept back) readers' tips (Debbie of Hereford recommends ' Get rid of bedbugs by skimming your bed/sheet/mattress with a tacky bar of soap'); health 'Questions and Answers' and a more general article on 'Ten travel lifesavers'. There's an interesting question and answer style interview with television presenter Nicholas Crane (presenter of 'Coast' and 'The Map Man'). There's an article on how to become an travel writer (I here you all stampede to get a back issue from October!), a job shop oage advertising all kinds of jobs in the travel industry and 'Connections' where travellers can find themselves travelling comapnions for forthcoming adventures.
A books section is devoted to reviewing either new guidebooks or books with a travel theme and an article called "A beginner's Guide to Music" this month featuers the music of Argentina. Water bottles and carry-on cases face consumer tests and 'Tat or Treasure' seeks out the tackiest souvenirs money can buy - this month a mosque shaped alarm clock from Amman. Finally there is a diary of festivals and events to do with travel (trade fairs, exhibitions, etc), lectures and meetings of travel clubs around the UK along with television and radio listings for travel programmes.
Judging from the destinations covered and looking at the advertisers featured in Wanderlust, the magazine is directed at more than just your aveage backpacker despite the emphasis on independent travel and living like the locals you get from the advice sections and shorter articles. The longer artcles seem to me to heavily promote organised group travel (for the further away destinations) and the classified ads section at the back of the magazine does tend to focus most heavily on this kind of travel. In addition, there is quite a heavy leaning towards more active pursuits - especially ones which require a degree of training and/or specialist equipment. One has to question whether Wanderlust's claims to be a magazine for "real travellers" has much substance.
However, Wanderlust does feature some rather good writing and the depth of knowledge demonstrated by its journalists is consistently good. In an article on "Isle Royale" (a national park in the middle of Lake Superior) Piers Pickard writes "and it was wonderful. Tom and Laura set off on one trail, I walked into the forest on another. I soon realised that there was no Brysonesque monotony to the forests here. The woods had different personalities that made them a joy to hike in. One minute I'd be crunching along through dapple-lighted, peely-barked paper birch forest. The next I was padding, silent as a wolf, on a bed of pine-needles, under thick boughs that blocked out all sunlight. Or I'd come to a planked walkway over a vermillion swamp, sunlight reflecting off the still water. With every step I took, civilisation got further away".
Placed alongside quality photography, the result is a rather attractive magazine though it is one which can't quite decide whether it wants to embrace the whole cheap and cheerful weekend thing (with its regular updates on the new Easyjet and Ryannair routes) or just be more aloof and tell us about some of the more remote corners of the world which have been barely touched by tourists. I would say that this is a matter that the Wanderlust editiorial team really must decide on. Yes, the two could sit comfortably in one publication (as with the Sunday Times Travel Magazine) but here they don't.
I believe that this is down to the advertising featured in the magazine. Of one hundred and sixty pages, forty-eight are given over to advertising and promotion of the magazine's subscription offer. That's an incredible one third of the magazine given over to advertising! Oh yes, you can save 25% by subscribing, but you still lose a third of your pages to the ads. What's more the adverts have this magazine firmly tied to the organised group travel side of the industry, belying claims that this publication is for "real travellers". Wouldn't real travellers just cut out the middleman and do it themselves?
For quality of writing and photography Wanderlust stands out from other publications but it does not warrant its price tag. It needs to give equal coverage to different kinds of independent travel or improve its article to advertising ratio if it wishes to continue in an increasingly competitive market. Recommended for the serious traveller looking to research destinations or the armchair traveller who wants to read quality writing on any destination but not for the budget traveller or the average backpacker looking to do Europe, Australia or Indonesia on the cheap.
Summary: Glossy, good-looking and articulate - a good travelling companion