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Vagabond Explorer Magazine is Born

I want to publish secrets. I want to put stories of prostitutes next to digressions on religion. I want the world as it is, not a fairytale. I believe in a 100% straight forward vision of truth. But I also know that there are six billion different and equal visions of this truth on the [...]

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I want to publish secrets. I want to put stories of prostitutes next to digressions on religion. I want the world as it is, not a fairytale.

I believe in a 100% straight forward vision of truth. But I also know that there are six billion different and equal visions of this truth on the planet. I want to have my world view confronted, that is one of the reasons why I travel. This is a large part of the journey.

Two quotes from Publishing a PDF Magazine, a travelogue entry from December 2008. In April of 2011, my intent has not change in the least.

BANGOR, Maine, USA- When I was ten years old I started the Fifth Grade Gazette — a magazine for the fifth grade of my school written by the fifth grade. I rounded up my friends and got them to submit articles to me — no easy task when writing is just about the most uncool thing a fifth grader can do. I was excited, I had finally become a magazine editor, and I watched my first paper go up in smoke before the first issue could even come out.

Apparently, the lee side of the “Who’s hot and who’s not” list did some complaining. I was censured, tied up in officialism, nearly in trouble, and my glorious ideas of running a magazine went kaput.

Though the seed had been planted — I would become a magazine editor, I told myself. But other life pursuits (shit like becoming an archaeologist, an English teacher etc . . .) intervened up until my final years of university. It was then that I realized that I did not have it in me to sit in some village studying some minuscule part of some minuscule culture for years on end just to stuff my collar and talk shop with the uni crowd. So in my senior year I angled my anthropology studies towards journalism, made up my own major, Ethnographic Journalism (I am still unsure if there really is such a thing), and began writing for the presses. I had returned full circle to the original dream of my grade school years:

I would become a magazine editor, I told myself, yet again.

But conflict soon rose its head as my academic advisor turned to me one day and asked innocently, “So you want to be a journalist, what publications do you read?”

My cool disintegrated instantly, I fumbled for words until I just spat out: “I don’t read any. Most are not very good.”

My advisor found my answer novel enough to laugh at me but could not convince me to like any magazine or newspaper enough to read it regularly. It became apparent that I liked the potential of journalism more than its current rendition.

But I began copy editing a magazine nonetheless, exerting more influence upon its production than was probably warranted to me. I began seeing the potential of starting up a magazine once again.

Upon graduation I even half-assed my way into the journalism trade. Peddled some stories, was interviewed by some newspapers for formal work, just to realize that being a word peddling peon was not for me: I wanted to be the editor, the guy in charge, the Man, I wanted to make a magazine that I would want to read myself. It became apparent that I would need to start my own publication.

I stumbled on the back edges of confidence for a couple of years, brought the magazine idea up to some friends, put it off, but never forgot about it. VagabondJourney.com was in full swing by that point, but was not nearly close to being something I could base a magazine off of. I stashed away the project for a time yet to come.

Upon leaving Mexico this year it became apparent that I would need to try something new to make enough money to continue traveling with my family. I thought about silversmithing, I considered international trade, I pondered upon making guides for prospective expats, but did not find any teeth in any idea, I moved towards them with flabby resistance — I knew that I would not really enjoy any of it very much, and I could not stand the thought of starting up a new project from scratch. I wrote about my need to make more money at Vagabonds Must Diversify Income and received a mass of responses and many excellent ideas on how to make money. Again, I had trouble getting my wheels turning on a new project.

I have been working on Vagabond Journey Travel for a number of years now, to abandon it for another path would leave it all for waste. I needed a project to emphasize VJT, not detract from it.


My goals have not changed too much in the intervening 20 years since I tried to start the Fifth Grade Gazette. At nearly 30 I am still rounding up my friends and coercing them to write articles for me. This time the magazine is called Vagabond Explorer, which takes the theme, “What is out there and how to get there.” Think National Geographic written by travelers. It is to be an exploration of global culture, current events, opinion, and philosophy spoken from the apex of experience.

This is the new major project of Vagabond Journey Travel. This is something I have been dreaming about since the fifth grade. With the help of some good friends — Craig, MRP, Steve-O, Jasmine, Gretchen, Dave, Sam, Ani, and others, the project has been given life and is getting off ground.

We are shooting at quarterly production, and the first issue should come out next month. From looking at the amount of copy that is already accumulating, each issue is looking as though it could be a book. I suppose “volume” rather than issue would be a more appropriate term.

The magazine will be released as a pdf document that can be easily printed out at the push of a button, read on a screen, Kindle, or some other fancy device.

[adsense]I considered doing a print magazine, but going this route — although seeming more professional — would require far more resources than keeping it fully digital. Paper, hiring a printing company, and distribution through mail alone would need would leave me with a $10,000+ bill from doing one issue in print.

It is the content of a magazine that should matter, not the medium of publication.

There are also no limits to digital distribution: getting 100,000 copies in front of people will cost the same as 10. You do the math here, with so many magazines and newspapers biting the dust, what do you think the future of journalism holds?

Technology has the sad fate of being able to change faster than social convention, but it also has the power to eventually change a culture’s material use conventions. We are use to reading magazines in print — I, too, am programed to show more regard to a print publication than a digital one. But this is fast changing: magazines and other media are now being sent around the world as quickly and easily as an email and the devices to read them on are becoming ever more usable. Any fool knows that print publishing will soon become an archaic novelty.

Format of Vagabond Explorer

The main impetus behind Vagabond Explorer is to produce a magazine that I would like to read. This is the sole guiding principle. Basically, I am going to take almost everything that my journalism studies have taught me and do the exact opposite. We are looking to publish long, thorough articles, book length serial pieces, expressing many contradictory political/ social/ cultural agendas and opinions concurrently, not censuring anything, allowing open discussions of taboo subjects, creating a stage where political correctness and polite self-repression have no business being, and basically running a publication with little overhead bounds which takes as its theme “the world, what is in it, and how to get there.”

Basically, I want this magazine to be as close to world travel as you can get from an armchair — or, more poignantly, to be a source which provides the impetus to leave the armchair behind. If you can travel the world without being challenged by a multitude of contrary opinions you must either be moving around in a bubble, locking yourself up into a particular social group,.or talking so much that nobody else can get a word in edgewise.

The value of travel is not found on pristine beaches drinking little cocktails with umbrellas in them, it happens when your own world view crashes directly up against another: when you must evaluate your position on the planet and come to terms with the fact that the way you have programed yourself to think things are may not be so. This is called learning.


Most publications have an agenda, they preach to the choir, they are too frightened to challenge their readership, they provide safe havens for a little club who already sees their world through a particular lens. As I have written many times before, journalism must both obey and reinforce the status-quo of a particular audience. It is not polite business in journalism to make a particular audience challenge themselves with outside influence.

Though running VJT for a number of years have been lead to believe that there is a particular audience out there that is more idealistically flexible and mentally agile than this.

Vagabond Explorer is for this audience. This magazine, like this website, is designed to have a shattered lens — to be a kaleidoscope of expression, opinion, and experience. It is meant to stimulate and to be an occasionally difficult read. It is meant to enthrall, excite, and to share parts and pieces of a world “as is” — a world that you can experience too. If someone sits down to relax with this magazine with a glass of wine by a fireplace than I have not done my job. I want your wheels turning, your teeth gritting, your face laughing. I want you yelling at the words printed on the screen, I want you feeling, becoming excited, and pacing around the room and out the door into a world whose arms are open and welcoming.

I have talked a big game here. Let’s see if we pull it off.


If anyone has been wondering what I have been doing instead of blogging this past week this magazine project has been it. I have also been thickening up the core of Vagabond Journey Travel as well — when this magazine comes out I want the site to be at its peak.

Filed under: Journalism, Vagabond Journey Updates

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3703 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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