Exclusive Interview with Rawan Hadid, Founder of '[wherever]: an out of place journal'
Rawan Hadid is the "20-something" founder of [wherever]: an out of place journal, a new and unique travel magazine launching in April 2013. PolicyMic had the pleasure of sitting down with the print-publication innovator for an exclusive interview this week. Here's what she had to say:
What is [wherever]?
[wherever]: an out of place journal is a print magazine of travel literature, travel culture, and travel politics, launching in late April 2013. We assemble writing and artwork that is germane to movement, connections, transitions, and the general transience of people, places, and things of the world.
What inspired you to start [wherever]?
I got tired of looking at glossy travel magazines that showed me the inside of a resort or about some pre-planned trip that was comped so the writer had to shower praises.
Travel writing has morphed into a formulaic industry, so I started thinking about the origins of travel writing (which were also problematic) but were at least romantic in a very different way, and probably a lot more personal. I wanted to create a place where readers wouldn't get bored of being told about how things are in this part of the world or that part; tired of being told about this culture or that culture. [wherever] is designed to avoid the tropes and false hopes of 'insider knowledge' and promises of authenticity that inevitably disappoint.
Photo Credit: [wherever]
Why start your own travel magazine instead of just getting a job with, say, Travel+Leisure? Why (if at all) do you think it’s important that people of our generation be entrepreneurial?
As I mentioned in the previous question, travel writing has become formulaic, and that formula is not about to change … We don't only travel when we are on vacation: we need to move around for myriad reasons, and [wherever] is intended to speak to that mobility on a personal level and global scale.
As for entrepreneurship, it does seem to be the way forward for this generation. I think it's a combination of a disastrous economy and the upbringing of this generation: a group mentality that creates what they want to happen and has no qualms in trying something new and unconventional. The city helps, because it provides a sense of opportunity in many ways. New York is tech and fashion start-up central at the moment.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered trying to get [wherever] ready for launch in April?
Staying organized! Working with a lot of collaborators and writers all around the world and staying connected with all of them has been challenging but definitely manageable. Honestly, the work has been a pleasure, so it's tough to point at one thing and say "that was really tough."
Describe your process in deciding what content will be included.
There isn't a formula for my editorial process, but published essays need to be refreshing and compellingly written. We are interested in almost any subject matter, as long as the take on it is original and demonstrates movement, travel, and diaspora in some reflective way. The way I see [wherever], this is downtime reading, so it needs to be very enjoyable for the reader who is using their free time to browse our pages. So even though we do tackle some more serious topics, I try to keep the overall experience fun.
Photo Credit: [wherever]
What cultural products (books, films, people, other magazines) have influenced [wherever]’s style?
There are so many great independent magazines out there that I love and that have influenced me and the direction that [wherever] has taken. Apartamento, The Carton, The New Yorker are all publications I read regularly. I loved the film The Imperialists are Still Alive because it reflected a segment of the Arab world that I think goes oft-unrepresented in media. I read everything that comes from David Sedaris' keyboard.
Some might think launching an entirely print-based journal in this day and age is a bold (risky?) move. Why do you think it’s important to keep print alive?
Despite circumstantial evidence to the contrary, people have not fallen out of love with magazines. I honestly think American publishers have been the biggest problem for magazines on this side of the pond — they gave up too easily and too soon. No matter how good page turning simulations get on mobile apps, they cannot compare to the texture, smell, and feel of turning a printed page. People love magazines!
If there is content you can only get in a magazine, and someone wants it then they will find a way to get it. If publishers had kept that in mind then the industry wouldn't be struggling the way that it is.
Of course, launching a new print magazine is a risky move in this industry, but plenty of people continue to do it. In fact, more magazines are launched every year than the year before. I have a deep and unwavering commitment to the durability of the printed word. You can read your iPad on a long flight, but you don't take it to the beach, and more importantly, after a long day of staring at a screen it is really nice to be able to "switch off" and enjoy a beautifully printed publication. I think the tides are turning back towards print as more people realize that all their daytime media consumption is hurting their eyes and they just want to relax and turn some pages when it comes to the reading they do for pleasure.
Photo Credit: [wherever]
What’s you dream for [wherever]? What do you hope it accomplishes?
I hope that people enjoy reading it and learn something new in every issue. I’d like for the magazine to push people to ask questions about their place in the world and many of the things they take for granted.
Of course, I’d like to see the brand grow. I definitely have a few other projects I’d like to lend the [wherever] name to, but it's still very early.
When and where can readers buy the first issue?
Our website! If you really want to support us this is the best place to get the magazine. We will also be available globally at independent bookstores and magazine stands in large cities — New York, London, Berlin, and Beirut.