Over the last 11 years, Wildsam has published more than 50 books for American travelers. In January, we launch a first-of-its-kind magazine dedicated to the open road, and editors Zach Dundas and Jennifer Justus sat down with Wildsam founder Taylor Bruce to talk about the magazine and the moment.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE THIS NEW MAGAZINE?
Wildsam Magazine is a fresh take on the great American road trip. It’s a travel and culture magazine. It’s an outdoors magazine. All of it will be filtered through the lens of the iconic experience of taking to the open road–something people in the United States have been doing for well over 100 years.
Over the last decade, America has seen a renaissance of the road trip. That translates in a new interest in recreational vehicles, a hunger for outdoor adventure, and a curiosity about places that might be lesser known. Some people are heading out long-term, living out of their vehicle and working on the road. Other folks might rent a cool rig for a long weekend in the mountains.
As we’ve covered the country over the last decade-plus, we’ve seen cultural and economic revival in small towns and smaller cities. We’ve seen a whole host of creative brands come to life, aimed at new generations of travelers and outdoor explorers.
We have a strong sense that we’re living through a distinct moment in travel and culture, and this magazine is intended to meet that moment.
WHO IS THIS MAGAZINE FOR?
Anyone interested in taking a road trip. Maybe they’re on their third Airstream. Maybe they’ve never even driven a Sprinter Van, much less rented one. One interesting thing we’ve learned is that just in the last few years, the average age of a new RV owner has dropped from 53 to 33. That signals that there’s an emerging traveler, and this magazine is for them.
WHAT SORTS OF STORIES WILL THIS MAGAZINE RUN?
In a broad sense, this magazine is about four big subject areas: road trips, the outdoors, culture and vehicles.
The first feature in the first issue is about Route 66. We sent a writer and a photographer to follow the tracks of the original road that kicked off America's fascination with the road trip almost 100 years ago.
There’s a profile interview of Jason Isbell, the songwriter. And of course, he has things to say about how the road influences his art and his lifestyle.
We have a big feature called “A Century on the Road” that traces major historical moments in the American road trip. It’s so varied. It starts with the original Rand McNally Atlas, published in 1924, runs through the Merry Pranksters’ adventure in the ‘60s, right up into the EV age of today.
In food, we're only going to cover restaurants that are far-flung–they’re in small towns, down back roads.
We’re also excited to explore vehicles and gear. That could mean a teardrop trailer or a pop-up tent. We’re out test-driving rigs. We’re talking about power packs. It’s new for Wildsam, and it’s really fun.
HAVE YOU FIGURED OUT WHAT MAKES A GREAT ROAD TRIP YET?
Don’t plan more than one day ahead. Get snacks at least twice a day. If you find yourself at gas station that carries Twin Bings, get the Twin Bings.
WHY DO YOU THINK THE ROAD TRIP IS HAVING A MOMENT RIGHT NOW?
We’re hard-wired to want our lives to have meaning. And there's something about taking a road trip, having an adventure, that's a bit unpredictable. It's a natural recipe for an experience that is one of a kind, original. And it creates a lasting memory. That adds up to meaning. I think there's something to that.
There’s something so simple and good about taking a road trip. It’s very uncomplicated. It’s the simplicity of, “Hey, let's jump in the van and take a drive.” Road trips don't have to be weeks. They can be as short as an afternoon.
HOW DOES THIS MAGAZINE RELATE TO EVERYTHING WILDSAM HAS BEEN FOR ALMOST 12 YEARS?
All of our books, and we have nearly 60, are about places in America, whether it’s national parks or cities or iconic destinations. When we make a Wildsam field guide, the secret to that book is really connecting with people who know and love the place that we’re writing about. When you open a book, you'll see a dozen or more people that have spoken into those pages. The book feels like it's come from Yosemite or Memphis, because those people are intimately involved.
That mentality will continue for sure in the magazine: connecting deeply with people across America. Whether we’re doing a story about the Florida Keys or a small restaurant on the Oregon coast, we’re going to really get to know the people that know those places.
From a tone of voice and a point of view, Wildsam is consistent. We’re optimistic, we’re curious.
Out in the real world, off our screens, people are pretty dang friendly. No matter where you go, there are people ready to open the door to their town, or their barbecue joint, or point you to the swimming hole. It’s a breath of fresh air to just get out in the real world and meet people and be reminded that we have way more in common than we do the opposite.