You launched Transitions
Abroad more than a quarter a century ago. What was
the original purpose or vision of the magazine?
In March 1977 I announced that Transitions would be
'a new kind of travel publication. Its purpose is to provide
the non-touring traveler with up-to-date information that
is practical and usable on educational travel and study
abroad.' The title, I explained, was meant to suggest
the changes that occur as a result of immersion in a foreign
language and culture.
Travel that changes us, travel that is mind-expanding,
travel that involves learning has been the focus over
the last 26 years as the magazine has covered all the
opportunities to enrich one's life through travel.
Could you paint a picture of the travel publishing
scene in the '70s?
For the travel industry (which includes publishers),
travel, then and now, is either business or recreation.
Either way, it's expensive. That's the way it's sold.
Mass travel is cheapest -- booking blocks of seats and
blocks of hotel rooms. That's the way it's sold. Of course
lots of us know different. I certainly did, having lived
in Europe and traveled in Africa and Asia for years. Camping
is cheapest -- we did it from Morocco to India in the
early '60s and the length of the former USSR in the '70s.
And we did it with kids. The cost -- excluding the used
VW bus and gas -- was about $1 a day. Hotels in Europe
cost us maybe $3 a day. The same for meals. Again, we
always use our own transportation -- buying a car when
we get there and selling it back when we left.
Anyway, that's not how most people travel. Only Rick
Steves was doing a decent job of telling people how to
travel comfortably and cheaply in the '70s. And of course
Arthur Frommer, but he was still very middle of the road.
There were a few backpacker books -- Marcus Endicott's
Globetrotting was a classic. Lonely Planet was starting
up. But the revelation that you could travel cheaply on
your own was just starting to sink in.
Of course, TA was never just about cheap. You've heard
all my rhetoric about how travel enriches, so I won't
repeat it. In the '80s Arthur Frommer took up theme but
I've had few other imitators. To most travel is still
consumption, not education -- you don't go to the Mall
of the World to learn but to buy.
There are lots of ways that TA broke the mould, but I
suppose my insistence on responsible travel was most important.
My simple reasoning was that if we visit other countries
for our benefit in order to learn from them, it doesn't
make a lot of sense to mess up their culture and environment.
Anyway, there were publications on where to travel --
including magazines like Great Expeditions which became
Escape that paid some attention to green travel to "exotic"
destinations with pretty pictures -- but not many like
Guide to Mexico that were more concerned with how
to travel and why travel in the first place.
What type of travelers seek news about responsible travel?