You may have heard that "retail is dead". Or similarly, that "publishing is dead". The truth is, neither are. But what is sure is that changes are afoot. And when that happens, you embrace it. You take the old and make it new, and in the process, you make it better.
That’s exactly what Yolanda Edwards bravely decided to do when her long career in magazine publishing ended. After years editing the crown jewel of travel magazines in the prestigious Condé Nast roster – Condé Nast Traveler – she knew she could re-invent herself.
She'll tell you that when it comes to travel recommendations, time and time again, people would come to her and her peers for their personal tips and itineraries across a myriad of destinations. Travelers crave the intimate, "been down that path" advice. And that's exactly it. Yolanda has traveled. And she has enjoyed living all the while traveling. Getting lost in those streets, observing people while sitting at the local corner cafe, and spent just that little touch longer than most, which has earned her those stripes. She would have the best travel notes.
And so YOLO Journal was born. First and foremost, it is a gorgeous print magazine. A juicy, photo-heavy, luxury travel magazine. But what is most fascinating about Yolanda is that she gets how to seesaw between the analog and the digital. She is crystal clear about the role social media plays in how we travel and our seemingly insatiable desire for beautiful, inspiring content.
Read on as we explored with her what is left of our analog world while traveling. Oh and by the way, you can't walk down the street with Yolanda without being stopped at least once by someone gushing and praising her online presence. So there you have it, inspire – she has!
What void were you looking to fill when you started YOLO?
I wanted to create a magazine that would be easy for the reader to get lost into... to dream... to get inspired. I didn't want to fill the pages with lots of information, which, while helpful, is better served on digital. I wanted to show images that were from personal trips, that were more emotional, and definitely not commercial.
Your thoughts on soaking the local culture while traveling?
Build in time to do nothing. Or at the very least, super long lunches. Don't always have every minute planned and mapped out, because the moments when you're just wandering aimlessly are the times you're most open. When you're rushing to get to a museum or a store, you're not really looking and absorbing. Sitting in a park or a cafe, and not looking at your phone, and maybe sketching what you see, is a a good way to make sure you get out of your at-home mode, and into more of a receiving mode.
Are you seeing any major shifts in the way people travel?
I think Instagram has definitely changed the way we all travel. I love seeing people seeking beautiful places and moments and sharing them. Sure, there's a downside of us not just being in the moment – but the upside is I think we are all seeking beauty more than ever before. Also, I think so many people are aware of places they never would have paid attention to because of seeing the beauty on their feed. Separately from social media, I think people are interested in coming back from a trip with really great stories, and I love that so many people are traveling solo and doing workshops.
How much travel romanticism do you think we've lost? What do you think we've gained. Any advice for blocking some of that noise – so one can still discover on their own while traveling?
For me, Google Maps has made it so I actually have more time to look out the window rather than try to figure out the physical map. I still think the good old fashioned recommendation from a friend, or someone on a street corner, will always win over a "coffee shop near me" search. I think that we all come to each trip with a different need. Sometimes you have two days to squeeze as much as you possibly can, and don't have the luxury of figuring things out in a more "wait and see, we'll ask someone when we get there" kind of way.
It seems you travel by car a lot. Best anecdote while on the road internationally?
This summer we did a road trip from Lago di Garda in Italy to our house in the Medoc region of France, in a vintage Fiat Panda that my husband had bought. It had no air conditioning, no radio, and no charger. It turned out to have a faulty fuel line, and on the first day it started to sputter on the highway about five minutes form our hotel. I googled "Fiat mechanic Alassio" and we managed to make it to the mechanic, who was the most charming handsome Italian, who wouldn't take any money for fixing the car.
We read that you've lived abroad. How would you say that has changed your perspective on traveling?
I lived in Greece for a semester, pre college. It was a tiny little island with no tourism, and I worked at a bakery with locals who spoke no English. My days were very simple, and I loved getting to see the ways in which we were completely different, and the same. Much more the same than anything. That's what's so beautiful about travel – we get to see the way other people live – and how we are really all the same.
We are fellow curators when it comes to summer essentials. How important do you think editing is when traveling?
Once a friend of mine said something to the effect of "we have less than 50 summers left", which at the time seemed very gloomy to me. Not to let it be a scary thing, but more like a YOLO thing. Make each summer count. So to that end, I think that editing is super important – you want to think about how you move through each summer – and mark them in a way.