Seeing the words “travel issue” on the cover of a glossy magazine generally fills me with dread. Most travel “journalism” – as you don’t need me to tell you – is no more than lightly rewritten press releases for luxury resorts that the editors have blagged for their family holidays.
With that in mind, for Esquire’s April issue – a travel special – we’ve tried to avoid travel journalism and commissioned travel writing, instead. There is a difference. We’re not tour operators. We don’t want to book your holiday for you. We haven’t a clue what your budget is, whether you prefer beach or city break, outdoorsy adventure or cultural tour, whether you’ll be flying solo or taking the kids and the in-laws and the dog.
So, rather than telling you how many beds the hotel we blagged has (presumably you’d only be sleeping in one of them?) or what to order from a far-flung resort buffet you’ll likely never queue for, we’ve asked some of our favourite writers to go to places that interest them and report back.
Tom “air miles” Parker Bowles, Esquire’s globetrotting gourmand, went farthest from home: to the northern coast of Queensland, to hunt mud crabs. Johnny “the cold never bothered me anyway” Davis, our deputy editor, climbed the sixth highest mountain in Britain with the Scottish avalanche patrol. Will “Howlin’ Wolf” Self, editor-at-large, took his family to the Mississippi Delta, home of the blues, and sold his son Ivan’s soul to the devil, at the famous crossroads.
Marc “where the sun don’t shine” Bennetts, our man in Russia, travelled to Murmansk to experience the unsettling phenomenon of the polar night. Tim “tapas” Lewis flew to Bilbao to explore the unique culture of the Basque Country. Henry “Nordic noir” Dimbleby crossed the North Sea to make the case for Norway. And boldest of all, Michael “cheap day-return” Smith trained it to Margate to see if what he’d heard could possibly be true: that the once benighted seaside towns of the Thames Estuary could be the latest frontier in the hipster-led gentrification of our gritty urban spaces?
I’m afraid the longest journey I made in service of the travel issue was to a boutique hotel round the corner from Esquire’s office, on a frigid day in January. Still, my arduous trek across slippery Soho cobblestones had its compensations: waiting at the end of it was the delightful Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Sometimes it’s more about the destination than the journey.
But it’s not just glamorous international travel this month. We also welcome back to the pages of Esquire one of Britain’s singular comic voices: Jon Ronson. Jon’s story in this issue is adapted from his new book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, a funny but also terrifying investigation into our culture of hysterical online indignation, fake outrage and fearful retribution. It’s a terrific book, but you should prepare to come away from it feeling somewhat despairing about contemporary culture. In fact, it’s almost enough to make you want to get the hell out of town on the first available flight.