Call him zany, call him crazy, call him an eccentric (he’ll have heard it all before), but Justin Jones embraces travel to his very core. A mover and shaker in the industry, Justin has been on the road seeking new adventure since he turned 19. With a successful blog and publishing experience under his belt, he made the next logical leap: a fully-fledged travel magazine. Aptly named World Travel Buzz, and brimming with hard-hitting authentic tales, this young and edgy site is a fantastic new addition to the online travel scene.
Justin, tell us what travel means to you…
There’s more to travel than just moving from one place to another. Anyone can take a flight from San Francisco to Paris but they would have the same amount of adventure as an airmail package, shipped along that route. Real travel should change you. It should lead to you to experience new things, and leave you feeling differently than before you started. Just to GO somewhere, doesn’t really mean anything. The trick is, to BE somewhere.
A meaningful travel experience should also be scary and amazing and full of smiles and tears and chaos and hopefully a bit of peace. It will make you climb mountains you never thought you could climb, and when you get to the top, you’ll shout expletives to the gods like a man who thinks he just conquered the world.
And if not, you’re doing it wrong.
What inspired you to set up Justin Was Here?
When blogging started to become popular, I realized that it was the perfect platform to share my travel stories and to stay in touch with friends and family back home. My first blog was called ‘King Among Runaways’ (a nod to a favorite Decemberists song), but that eventually became the narcissistically titled, JustinWasHere.com.
How did your make the leap from running a travel blog to a fully-fledged travel magazine?
When I graduated from UCLA, I came across an internship with a travel magazine called Student Traveler. I had tons of travel experience and writing experience, so the job was a natural fit. I quickly climbed the ladder and learnt the ropes of running a magazine. I worked there for a number of years as the Managing Editor, before emigrating to New Zealand to travel and blog full time. A few years later, I started World Travel Buzz.
Tell us a bit about World Travel Buzz…
World Travel Buzz is a travel magazine made by (and for) bloggers, backpackers, and real adventure-seeking travelers. On my travels, I met all these great writers with amazing stories to share. Many of them had their own blogs but to run a successful blog, you have to be your own marketing & PR person, editor, writer and (for some) an advertising salesperson. It’s exhausting. I wanted something that this community of like-minded travelers, writers, and bloggers could all contribute to. I knew that if we joined forces, we could do so much more, and reach a larger audience.
What makes it different to other travel magazines out there?
We are young, edgy and honest. The internet is full of thousands of travel stories peppered with clichés describing the vastness of the ocean or the colors of the sunset. We want to be better than that. We want to tell you stories of real adventure. We want to share stories about riding a motorcycle across Laos, about an American expat who started a non-profit music school for underprivileged children in Honduras, and about what it’s really like to travel in a post-Pablo Escobar Medellin.
What are the core principles of World Travel Buzz?
We take a lot of inspiration from Burning Man, the festival of art and culture that takes place in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada each year. Burning man is founded on 10 principals, a few of which really apply to what we’re doing. Most significantly, we’re interested in Radical Self-Expression. We want our writers, photographers and story tellers to express themselves in whatever way they see fit. We don’t want to be tied to convention. This is important to our editorial strategy, and something that we work at every day.
Who is the target audience?
We write for the people back home working minimum-wage jobs just to save money for a plane ticket. We write for the travelers on the road, scrubbing floors for under-the-table cash to buy a bus ticket to the next horizon. We write for people who really love life, and know how to live it.
And by that same reasoning, we write for all the people who aren’t living that lifestyle, but are interested in what it’s like on the other side of a one-way plane ticket.
What did you do to distinguish yourselves amongst the travel community?
I think our difference really just comes from who we are. I’m a bit eccentric – I’ve been called “zany” by polite company. I make business connections in dive bars, settling deals over cheersed bourbons. The people I attract and the people I like to work with are people who aren’t afraid to take chances in their lives; aren’t afraid to live outside the box. We’re all a bit weird, and that translates to the content we put out. If anything, we try to make it interesting.
How do you research for the site?
I travel. I’m on the road at least half of the year, staying in hostels and meeting other travelers and aspiring writers. If I find someone with a great story to tell, I ask them to tell it. I think that’s the only way to research content for a site like ours. You have to be there, on the frontlines with the other travelers.
We see you have a ‘Party’ section on your site; what is the best party you’ve ever been to?
One of the most unique parties I attended was a rave in the ancient Kalemegdan Citadel in Belgrade, Serbia. It was such a strange amalgam. There were DJ’s spinning ultra-modern electronic music and thousands of young Serbians going wild inside of this 2,000 year old fortress at the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers. THAT was a cool night.
If you could travel with 3 famous or iconic people, who would it be and why?
Ernest Hemingway, Hunter S Thompson, and Anthony Bourdain. I’m not sure any of us would survive the trip. These guys are rock and roll travelers whose lives seem rooted in excess and awesomeness. I try to walk in those footsteps myself.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of setting up their own travel magazine?
It’s not an easy thing to do, running a travel magazine. I’m still figuring it out as a go along, and I’ve worked in the industry for 6 years. My advice is: learn the ropes. I’ve done everything from research, writing, and editing to picking up pallets of magazines from the offset printing warehouse and hand-delivering them across the United States. I know this business inside and out. And that understanding of the industry has been a big help for me along the way.
Also – do it while you’re young and not afraid to take on your dreams; not afraid to fail. Parents are always telling their kids not to bite off more than they can chew. But I say, bite off as much as you can, while you’ve still got teeth to bite with. Worry about the chewing later.
A huge thank you to the charismatic Justin Jones! You can follow his personal misdemeanors on Twitter @JustinJones or @WorldTravelBuzz for an assortment of informative, exciting (and downright amusing) travel adventures.