rē•Spinning the Way You Travel, From Safety to Mindset
It’s time to consider what travel is going to look like moving forward.
Wanderlust is a feeling that affects us all, sometimes coming up unexpectedly. Some simply feel the desire to uproot themselves and dive into one new destination after the other, soaking up the local culture and experiences for a lifetime of stories to tell…
Yolanda Edwards has been drawn to travel her whole life. Her passion began with fashion photography, finding an affinity toward the locations each look was shot at, and always wondering, “How do I get there?” When she spoke to people about trips they loved, she would file the destinations they spoke of into recipe book-like collections. Eventually, this pastime became her career.
Embracing Her Wanderlust
Edwards spent five years at the job of her dreams as the Creative Director at Condé Nast Traveler. In a curveball from the universe, both Edwards and her husband — who also worked for the magazine — lost their jobs in 2018, just before her 50th birthday. The unnerving experience drummed up a lot of emotions for Edwards as she and her husband adapted. After helping her husband start a men’s lifestyle magazine called WM Brown, it was Edwards’ turn to focus on her next career venture.
It all came back to her passion, travel — although, she notes that had it not been for her friend’s encouragement, even giving her a deadline, she might never have gotten started. She began working on her luxury travel magazine, Yolo Journal, guarding it closely in its infancy to avoid potential discouragement. With the opportunity to do it entirely her own way — no rules, no boss, no constraints, just her own vision — she filled its pages with large photos and light copy, reaching out to her network of friends to find travel’s hidden gems. “There are so many fantastic stories out there that are buried in people’s iPhones and hard drives,” Edwards tells rē•spin. “I want to give them a life in Yolo Journal.” Rather than a magazine full of sprawling articles and checklists of activities, Edwards created what is essentially a collective travel mood board of breathtaking images to inspire wanderlust. (If you want to hear her deeper musings, subscribe to her newsletter.)
Travel Tip: Notice the Unnoticed
There are countless destinations to travel to around the world. Through all forms of media (or, dare we say it, the algorithm), the same destinations tend to come up on repeat. Oftentimes they’re viewed through rose-colored lenses with a luxurious experience to top it off. Furthermore, the traditional format in travel journalism is for editors to be sent on assignments to specific destinations, coming up with a media-ready angle in this time.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, Edwards chose to do things differently. The destinations featured in Yolo are selected retrospectively, from those who have already taken the trips without a specific assignment in mind. She also believes that for most people, the purpose of travel is to open us up, rather than to experience the commercial offerings of the next exciting, luxury destination. “We’re not in our daily routines and we’re more curious,” she explains. “The moment you’re somewhere else, you notice everything, looking up at buildings — paying attention to the facades, the doors.” These are the things we’d often take for granted or breeze past at home, distracted by something more material; and these are the exact details that Edwards chooses to emphasize.
Unconsciously, Edwards has captured a common thread throughout her travels and work: beauty is everywhere. To find beauty, you don’t have to have a five-star, luxury hotel experience or to fly out to a specific photographic location. Beauty is here right beneath our noses if only we can see it — and Edwards is no stranger to this notion. She once found an unassuming old cupboard in an abandoned house in upstate New York and brought it home to use as a background for a photo of Greece. (It worked perfectly, in case you were wondering.) “That’s the sort of moment I’m always looking for…finding beauty in the strangest places—and if I can help other people learn to see it, that makes me incredibly happy,” she says.
As the founder and editor of a travel magazine, Edwards’ habits have been curbed over the last year-and-a-half. From March to September 2020, Edwards ditched her traditional travel routine and opted for nearby road trips to places like Block Island and the Finger Lakes in order to calm her travel pangs. Now, she’s back to consciously cautious traveling — next up is a trip to Scotland to drop her daughter off at college, followed by a visit to France to spend time at their home and finish up next summer’s issue of Yolo Journal, which is all about France.
Through the pandemic and the abrupt halt to traveling, Edwards thinks many people realized that they enjoy being closer to home. Rather than going all the way to Europe, many opted for lake-bound vacations or oceanside rentals in the Northeast. This enthusiasm for finding the hidden gems in your own country is something that’s been exciting for Edwards, as well, driving her to make this summer’s issue of the magazine focused on America.
The travel-related shifts haven’t stopped at the common destinations, either. With travel and time away not being an option, she notes that people have started taking longer trips and are becoming more intentional about their vacations. Rather than feeling like they are rushing through a checklist of things to do in a once-in-a-lifetime fashion, travelers are taking time for a pause, more likely to enjoy free time without an agenda.
Travel Safety Tips
As for safety, Edwards recommends adhering to the standard precautions that are set in place. Beyond that, she says to avoid crowded areas. This might seem obvious, but keep in mind that there are certain destinations with people partying in tight quarters, which would be best avoided for the sake of health and safety.
If you aren’t ready to plan your next trip yet, that’s okay. There are still ways you can curb your travel pangs from home. She recommends that old photos can be incredibly transporting, so to look through the memories you captured on old trips and even to create an album of the unforgettable moments. This allows you to recall and hold onto how you felt in those memories until you’re ready to head out and make more.
At its core, travel hits all of rē•spin’s core pillars. Through travel, you can connect with yourselves through solo travel or with friends old and new. You can nourish your bodies with local cuisine, awakening to the sense of adventure that new experiences bring. You can strengthen your mind and soul by opening up yourself to these new experiences, as well as the notion of global community. Through travel, you are giving yourself the ultimate gift of personal growth and self-care.
At the end of the day, Edwards says, travel is a state of mind. You can find things that transport you anywhere. All you need is a break in your daily routine to find those tiny moments that make life that much more exciting.