I recently went to Thailand with Pencils for Kids, a nonprofit that gives school supplies, backpacks, and uniforms to children in need. It was a great trip. I met incredible kids and the remarkable people who care for them with so much love. It was a side of Thailand that appeared nowhere in the headlines. At the time, the news was dominated by the conflict in central Bangkok between demonstrators and the military.
In one sense, I was oblivious to the turmoil. I read about it and saw a few reports on television, but outside of downtown Bangkok, there was little indication of the unrest. Except that everywhere I went, I saw very few other travelers.
Shopkeepers, restaurant owners, and hotel workers all felt the effects. I spoke to an employee at the Shangri-La in Bangkok, where I was staying, and mentioned that I was with a U.S. travel magazine. He asked me to tell our readers that what they were seeing on CNN was not what Thailand was like, that this was a tragic aberration confined to a very small portion of the country for a limited period of time.
I replied that I didn’t think I needed to say anything to our readers. He looked confused. What I couldn’t explain, not on the spot, anyway, was that our readers travel extensively and are aware that bad things happen all over the world, including in their own backyards. I was sure there were members of the AFAR community traveling in Thailand at that very time, and that more were on their way. We choose not to live in fear. We are eager to encounter the world as it is.
That doesn’t mean we will go into a battle zone for no good reason. We love life too much to risk it senselessly. But we know that spectacular headlines are never the whole story. They don’t keep us from seeking out the things that make life worth living: food, music, the arts, nature, and connections with other people.
This issue marks the first anniversary of AFAR magazine. We are so proud of the audience that we have built. Our circulation started at zero and has grown to 75,000. We hope to get to 100,000 early next year. But it isn’t the numbers that we’re most excited about: It’s the relationship we’re building with you. You have sent us thoughtful letters and emails, given us fascinating survey responses, and shared your passions with us in applications to private.afar.com, our new website for connecting travelers and locals. You are well traveled, well educated, curious, open-minded, and insightful. It is humbling, and an honor, to be serving you.
Please continue to let us know what you think by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell us about the times you have traveled beyond the headlines. We really enjoy hearing from you, even if we can’t always respond to you personally. And please help us build our online community at private.afar.com. This is an incredible opportunity to communicate with fellow travelers and locals who can help you get beyond the headlines and decide where to go next.
Thank you very much for your support.
COFOUNDER & CEO
This appeared in the September/October 2010 issue.