Beings magazine explores the human side of travel
August means holiday season here in the UK, but for many people travel doesn’t necessarily mean lying horizontally on a beach. For those who find the days of inertness a little boring or futile, seeking new encounters and establishing meaningful human connections are often the purpose of their journey.
Beings is a magazine about the human side of travel, and it believes that meeting people can be the best and most interesting part of a trip. The launch issue of the pocket-sized title packs in honest and personal stories on house-hopping through Nepal, trekking in Granada, and picking up a sneaky hitchhiker in Cuba. There are moments of self discovery, but also anecdotes of pain and loneliness — hoping to find out more about this affecting read, I got in touch with editor Gavin Williams to ask him a few questions…
What do you always bring with you on a trip?
A notepad to write down the epiphanies I have on long bus rides, or sketches of the conversations I have with people. Much later I’ll look back and at least half of what I’ve written down doesn’t make much sense — not only because being on busses made my handwriting wonky.
Where did you go while making issue one?
Personally, I wrote about living in a rural Cambodian village for a month and seeing the lasting impact of the Khmer Rouge on people, even today. I also wrote about being in a bar in Japan, drinking whiskey with a foul-mouthed bartender while a small earthquake shook the room. The first issue of Beings features writing, photography, illustration and design from lots of different people who have travelled in lots of different places. We tried to feature a range of stories — from serious to lighthearted and quirky.
Describe a moment you experienced while on the road that captures what Beings is about.
Beings is about how meeting people can be the best — or most interesting — part of travel. I was in India for one new year’s eve and found myself in the desert near the border with Pakistan. A big group who had travelled from Delhi for a long weekend took me under their wing (it took about 20 hours on the train, which, in India, is weekend getaway stuff). We partied in the desert all night, with them teaching me Indian dance moves until we fell asleep by the dying bonfire under the open sky. I later met up with a few of them in Delhi. They welcomed me into their group and showed me a side to India that would have been hard for me to see otherwise. That’s what Beings is celebrating — the human side of travel.
Why did you want to make Beings?
I love travel, writing and magazines. Travel blogs are an amazing resource — you can quickly find a great place to eat when you’re in a new city, for example. But I also think something is lost — people don’t read websites in the same way as print. When I’m on my phone, I’m flitting between different apps without giving anything my full attention. But when I’m reading a magazine or book, I take it in and enjoy it much more. I enjoy the look, feel and even smell of print magazines and thought it was the format for in-depth, thoughtful stories about human connection.
I wanted to create the magazine I wanted to read, and I didn’t want to read a travel guide or a top 10 things to do list. I wanted to read well-written, longform stories about how there’s something very different about people around the world, yet there’s also something that unites us.
Many people travel to discover themselves, but I like how some pieces in Beings eschew that picture-perfectness, like the lying hitchhiker in Cuba. Is this important to you?
That’s true. Beings radiates a lot of positivity and faith in humanity. But there are also reflections on loneliness, being lied to, poverty and even death. Life (and travel) isn’t always perfect. But we often present our lives on social media in an idealised, filtered way — especially when it comes to travel. Yes, sometimes travel is amazing — you make new friends, have an amazing day exploring a new place and end it watching a perfect sunset from a hillside. But other times you’re on your own on a suffocatingly hot bus with food poisoning so bad you think you might be dying and every fibre of your being is concentrating on making sure you don’t crap yourself. This literally happened to me. It’s more honest and funny to explore different sides to travel, not just the best or most Instagrammable bits.
What’s a magazine you read recently on a trip?
There are some great travel magazines out there like Lodestar and Suitcase. I also love Boneshaker, Like the Wind, The Idler and Consented.
Any teasers for issue two?
We’ll have to see, but I’m going on a trip to hike through Turkey for eight days soon, so maybe that will lead to some stories. Having said that, I think you need to keep your eyes open, and not go looking for things to write about.