I would be hard pressed to pinpoint exactly how and when the idea for Young Pioneers first made its way into my head, and then eventually onto professionally printed paper and out into the world. That’s probably because the best ideas never seem to simply appear out of thin air. That is to say, they don’t often come into being as a single, inspired pop of brilliance, but rather as a long series of halfway decent ideas that gestate for weeks or months at a time, or maybe even years, before morphing into something that a human can actually create with two hands, or a machine.
And that’s more or less how the idea for Young Pioneers came to me: In a very long, very drawn-out series of ideas that I slowly mulled over for the better part of a decade. Some of the ideas were relatively brilliant. Others were dull and uninspired. And to be perfectly honest, that’s all I really remember about the process. After all, when the premiere issue of Young Pioneers finally hit the streets, I had been dreaming about launching my own magazine for probably five or six years. That’s a lot of anxiety to keep track of! Not that any of that matters now. Today, I’m a happy person, relatively speaking.
Anyway, when the first issue of Young Pioneers was eventually published, it was the spring of 2004. The theme of the issue was Independent Travel Icons, and the idea was to document about a dozen travel professionals — people who were considered celebrities in the independent travel universe, and who had been clever enough to figure out ways to make international travel a part of their everyday lives. I hired the wife of a friend to design a website for the magazine, and one of the pages she built featured the YP Mission Statement. This is what it said:
Welcome to Young Pioneers, a unique documentation of people whose lives revolve around the art of travel.
Young Pioneers is a documentation of uncommon travellers who are living extraordinary lives and accomplishing incredible things. We’re especially interested in those people who’ve managed to discover clever ways to make travel a part of their everyday lives.
What exactly do we mean? Here are a few of the unusual people you’ll meet in our premiere issue, as well as in upcoming issues:
- Florida police office Jeff Morris, who made US$100,000 a year as a United Nations Peacekeeper in Kosovo.
- Former photojournalist Dan Price, who now lives in an underground hut and self-publishes an inspirational travel journal.
- Holly Morris, a former book editor who was bored to death by her day job. She now hosts the Emmy-winning PBS travel program Adventure Divas.
- Also, a number of students, teachers, and other people who decided to change their lives forever by living and working in a foreign country.
The truth is that Young Pioneers isn’t really a travel magazine — it’s a blueprint for living. It’s a guidebook to making your dreams come true. It’s a how-to manual for creating a life worth living. True, we mostly feature folks who’ve done incredible things in foreign places, but that’s only because we believe that planning and executing an amazing travel experience takes more guts, effort and energy than just about any other goal-oriented activity out there. Because of the challenges and stresses inherent in world travel, people who backpack successfully on the cheap usually go on to lead very successful lives, no matter what their chosen path or occupation. Like Kurt Vonnegut once said, “Strange travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.”
At Young Pioneers, we believe in working hard to get what you want. We hope that by visiting our website and exploring our magazine, you’ll be able to find at least one or two tips on doing just that. Good luck, and thanks for visiting.
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After that first issue was published, YP was nominated for a 2004 Independent Press Award by the Utne Reader. The nominating category was Best New Title, which caught me completely by surprise because, after all, we had literally published only one issue. We did not win the award, however. If I’m not mistaken, that honor went to The Walrus, an incredibly well-produced magazine from Toronto that is often rightly described as the New Yorker of Canada. And even though a dummy copy of the second issue of Young Pioneers is sitting on my desk as I write this, we never actually published another issue. This was entirely my fault, of course. I decided that in order to produce future issues of the magazine with professional-level production values, as opposed to the cheap newsprint I went with in issue one, I would need to start setting aside serious amounts of cash. The problem was, I was making my living as a freelance journalist at the time, and I was only making enough for just the basics: rent, bills, groceries. I knew that if I wanted to do things right — if I wanted to be pulling the strings of a high-quality publication that wouldn’t look out of place on the newsstand of a mainstream bookstore, I’d have to first get a day job and start building up a savings account.
My initial plan was to get two jobs: One at a gym, so I could use the equipment without having to pay for a membership. And another at a catering company, so I could bring home free food, but wouldn’t have to deal with the public in the same way restaurant servers do. Thankfully, this plan never came to fruition. I had probably only filled out two or three job applications when one of my editors — the music editor of the Pittsburgh City Paper, in fact — asked me to meet him for drinks. I had been doing quite a lot of work for the music section of the City Paper at that time, and as a result I had become rather friendly with the section’s editor. He had been at this particular paper for seven years, and as he told me that afternoon, he was planning on resigning soon and becoming a freelancer himself. He suggested I should seriously consider applying for the job; apparently I was something of a treasured freelancer among the paper’s staff, and I got the sense that if I applied, the position would more or less be mine.
After giving it a few weeks of serious thought, I did apply. And then a few weeks later I was interviewed, and then offered the position. That was the end of my publishing career for quite some time, although I did achieve my ultimate financial goal: I stayed on for 14 months, and by the time I resigned I had more than enough money in my bank account to start the kind of publishing business I’d had in mind all along.
This is the first time I’ve bothered to write down this particular story, and it now occurs to me that the idea I’ve dreamt up for the relaunched version of Young Pioneers actually makes quite a good bit of sense. Currently, I’m in the process of producing a magazine about creative entrepreneurs, unusual small businesses, and the new self-employed Free Agent Nation, and that magazine will also be known as Young Pioneers.
The big difference this time around is that I’m working with a partner, an incredibly talented woman by the name of Carrie Ann. Admittedly, Carrie has very little print publishing experience to speak of, although she is a graphic designer by trade. What’s more, she has an incredibly savvy business mind. Carrie studied in the art department at Carnegie Mellon, and perhaps not surprisingly, her many and varied design abilities are absolutely breathtaking. But probably the most rare and unusual skill Carrie brings to YP Media is her aptitude for being both left-brained and right-brained at the exact same time. In the very brief period during which we’ve been working together, I would estimate that she has come up with at least three-quarters of the money-making ideas we plan to implement as the company goes forward. So instrumental has Carrie been in the development of our organization, in fact, that I’m planning to continue sharing editorial duties with her after I relocate to Philadelphia this October.
In the meantime, simply stay tuned, as I’ll be posting information on a regular basis about the upcoming YP launch. And whenever other products are released underneath the YP Media umbrella, there’s a good chance the readers of this blog will be the first to know. And if all that still isn’t enough, keep your eyes on the right-hand column of this blog’s homepage, where I’ll soon be posting instructional information about how to sign up for a free subscription to the Young Pioneers Media newsletter, which will probably be known as The Monthly Briefing. The newsletter will be distributed via email and will exist in both HTML and plain-text formats; it’ll also be one of the very first communiques in which breaking YP Media news will be distributed.
And as always, thanks for reading.