Publish a travel magazine? They said it couldn't be done. W H Smith laughed, and asked why would anyone buy a magazine when they could pick up a holiday brochure free of charge? Meanwhile, media folk pointed out that newspapers, such as The Independent on Sunday, covered travel each week so there was no need for a magazine. I sat in a travel-writing talk where the speaker announced he had heard of a new travel magazine launching – but it would only last a few months.
It was 1993, and my husband and I had the idea on a flight to South America. We were naive about publishing, and so the prospect of launching a magazine held no fear. And while we didn't know much about the travel business either, we did know there was a whole world out there away from the resorts and the package holidays. And that there must be people like us who would want to read about places, about cultures, about nature, about travel.
We had decided the magazine should be called Wanderlust because that was something we had in abundance. But we didn't appreciate that not everyone was familiar with the word. A policeman called round to see what sort of business we were. Newsagents didn't know where to stock us. And advertising agencies would assume the magazine was either in German, or pornographic, or possibly both.
Even when agencies and other media realised we were a travel magazine, they would presume that we were aimed at the young backpacker, travelling on a shoestring. It was hard work trying to explain that we were not for any particular demographic but about an attitude. There wasn't, and still isn't, a word for the type of travel that is all about discovery. The industry has since come up with terms such as "experiential" but that hardly trips off the tongue, does it?
At first, we would deliver the magazine around London in the back of my Renault Clio; the office was the spare bedroom, and neighbours and friends were our helpers. But gradually, the magazine grew organically, we moved into actual offices and recruited a team. Other travel magazines began to pop up around us.
And then the digital age arrived. On the one hand, it helped us reach even more people. On the other hand, we were being told that there was no future for travel magazines. Those – and brochures – would disappear like the Dodo.
Instead, the explosion of travel inspiration and information makes our role as a trusted source – and curator of good content – as relevant as ever. And when someone tells us how the magazine has struck a chord with them, or has even changed their life, it makes the 21 years of long hours and nurturing all worthwhile.
Twenty-one years is supposed to be a coming of age. Well, we might be mature in magazine terms, but we feel as if we are still learning and growing too. And, despite the challenges, it is the most exciting time yet to be in media. Here's to middle-age!
Lyn Hughes is editor-in-chief of 'Wanderlust' magazine (wanderlust.co.uk)Reuse content