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Founder’s Note: The Real Experience of Travel

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People used to just want stuff. The more, the better. And not only more stuff, but fancier stuff. Many of us took the same approach in our travels. We went to the most glamorous places, stayed in the trendiest spots. We took pictures so we could show that we had “acquired” these places just as we had acquired stuff along the way. We came, we saw, we acquired.

But something has changed.

Many of us have realized that life is about more than how much we consume. Instead, we now search for meaning wherever we can find it.

So when we travel, we go beneath the surface of a place and look for experiences that enrich and stretch us. We try to connect with people. We embrace what makes each culture distinct, even as we recognize that we have more in common with our world neighbors than we may have thought. We discover insights about others—and ourselves.

My business partner, Joe Diaz, and I have traveled this way for years. Sometimes we have a specific purpose in mind: I’ve volunteered in Johannesburg and Borneo; Joe has returned to his roots in Spain. Sometimes we’re more spontaneous—we decide where to start a trip and where to end it, but we let chance determine what happens in between and whom we meet.

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We have learned that it is not the physical surroundings or the iconic sights that give a place meaning. Rather, the people and their stories are what make a trip memorable: the heated political debate in an Irish pub, the conversation with an Argentine about communicating with his teenage daughter, the breakfast with a swami at his academy near Mumbai. As Joe says, “I may forget what I ate and where I stayed. But I’ll remember those experiences all my life.”

In January 2007, Joe and I took a spur-of-the-moment trip to India. Sitting on a beach in Goa, we realized there are many people who travel with this mindset but few resources to guide and inspire them. That’s why we decided to start Afar.

Afar is for readers who are curious about everything the planet and its people have to offer. That’s what the magazine delivers: fascinating individuals, intriguing neighborhoods, cultural discoveries, unusual and local places to stay and eat, and reports on the world’s arts, languages, products, and music. And for every issue, we send a writer off on one of those unplanned, spontaneous journeys that Joe and I like to take.

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The magazine is only the beginning. In early 2010, we’ll launch a Web site that will connect you with like-minded global citizens. We hope to create partnerships in television and on radio to bring you the sights and sounds of the world’s cultures. We are planning a series of books and events. And because we strongly believe that travel benefits both the individual and society, we have created the Afar Foundation, which will sponsor cultural education and immersion travel for students who cannot otherwise afford to experience another part of the world.

Joe and I invite you to take part in any or all of these endeavors. We have met many travelers like you on our journeys, and we believe you share both our passion and our values. Tell us what you think of Afar and our plans for the company. And be sure to tell us where travel takes you.

Greg Sullivan
Founder & CEO

This appeared in the premier issue, 2009. 

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