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The Essential Travel Interview: Lyn Hughes, editor-in-chief of Wanderlust magazine.

Lyn is the co-founder and editor in chief of the lively travel magazine Wanderlust (, which was launched just over twenty years ago, from the spare bedroom of Lyn and her late husband, Paul Morrison. Lyn has twice been Highly Commended as Publisher of the Year. The Times has also lauded Lyn as one of the “50 Most Influential People in Travel.” In 2012, Lyn was awarded an Outstanding Contribution Award at the Travel Press Awards. Essential Travel caught up with Lyn to get some insider knowledge on the world of travel publishing.

How did Wanderlust actually start? Were you already travel writers?

Not at all. Well, Paul had had a couple of articles published, but at that point we were merely keen travellers. We were very much in the corporate world and all that entailed. We had managed to get a couple of months off for a trip to South America and believe it or not, Wanderlust started because we were bored. It was a daytime flight so we couldn’t sleep and I remember we just started picking apart the inflight magazine, talking about what we’d like to see in a magazine instead. We got so carried away we had to ask the stewardess for a pen and made copious notes on a sick bag.

And when we got to South America we upgraded to a notebook! Our enthusiasm for the idea just kept on growing throughout the trip. At the beginning when people asked what we did for a living, we told them about our corporate work, but by the end we always talked about the magazine.

And when you got back...what happened then?

“Ignorance is bliss” is a lovely phrase but in this case it was so true. We had no idea about how hard it should have been to set up a magazine, which meant that instead of worrying we just went and did it. There had been a few travel mags that had gone under in recent years so we tracked down the people behind them to quiz them on what went wrong. We found that many of them had had large print runs and concentrated on getting in the newsagents, so we did the opposite. We went for a small print run of 5000 and, although we did distribute to some travel bookshops, we concentrated on getting subscribers. We had a list of subscribers from past magazines, used fliers, forums: whatever we could. Eventually we had 2000 subscribers which covered the cost of the print run.

How much travel do you manage to do now?

Paul died of cancer 7 years ago now, so I very much have to run the business, which of course means being in the office. But I do try to get in several trips a year if I can. I have to identify with the readers for a start, and of course, I love travel, this is the reason why I do the job I do. I even love that time at the airport. The excitement starts there and I try to absorb myself in it totally from the moment I leave. I put my watch onto local time as soon as we take off, partly to help with jet lag, but also to get myself into the mental space for somewhere new.

Many of our customers are backpackers and gap year students. What would your essential travel advice be for a young person setting off on an adventure for the first time?

Don’t try to cram too much in. Everyone does this but you just end up racing along, getting tired and only skimming the surface. Make sure you have time in your schedule to be flexible. You may find somewhere you would like to stay longer, or, equally, you may arrive somewhere you’ve been excited about, and planning to spend a while, only to find it doesn't live up to your expectations.

Travel light too. I took far too much on my first expeditions, totally forgetting that there are many shops to buy nice things along the way.

And what about someone travelling solo for the first time?

I speak about this on a panel at the Destination show and this subject is always very popular. I’d say that you don’t always have to think about using a specifically “solo tour company”. Most of the adventure orientated tour companies run trips that tend to be made up of at least 50% people on their own. The other alternative is to find a special interest - horse-riding or cooking, which is very big at the moment, and share your passion with others. You’ll be with like minded people and sure to get along with some of them.

Lyn, what is most your essential travel Item or gadget?

A scarf. It is such a light item but also so useful in so many ways. You can obviously wear it as a scarf, or over your shoulders to protect from cold, or sun. It’s handy if you want to go to visit a mosque or a church in very catholic countries, but you can also use it if you are asked to the house of a religious family and want to cover up . You can also wrap your camera or phone in it in dusty places which I have done many time!

And your essential gadget or item for work?

A pen! Even with all the technology we have, a pen is still something special. It leads to spontaneity with ideas and of course, people ask if they can borrow it: They’ll never speak to you if you are tapping away at your emails. In my 20 years of travelling I have to say that a pen has been a big ice-breaker. Others include a pack of cards, and, my smoker friends assure me, a lighter.

Essential Website or Guidebook?

Well, I would say Wanderlust for this one, but with over 20 years of material put together by both the magazine and its readers, who are an intrepid bunch, practically every destination is covered. For unusual destinations I would look to Bradt which are usually very good for out of the way places.

Any essential advice for someone who wants to combine travelling with writing (and getting paid for it!)?

Travelling and writing is not easy but if someone wants to do it it can be done. Think about what other people want to read, not necessarily what you have to say about your recent trip. It’s not all about you and your experiences, but your readers. What will help them?

And essential advice for breaking into travel publishing?

A work experience placement or internship is the way to go. We take people for both and some of our people have gone onto national newspapers and magazines. It’s a good way to see if you have what you need for the job, but also a good way to see if it suits you. We have had people who have decided it’s not for them.

Essential tips for saving money booking your trip?

Flying midweek is often cheaper, as of course is off peak. In fact, you may even find that the best time to visit your destination is in the quieter months anyway, it all comes down to research. So, if you see that a certain time is Monsoon season then what does that mean? It could mean that the weather is atrocious and you certainly wouldn't want to go then, but it could equally mean that it rains for a couple of hours in the afternoon and you could always work around that.

Essential Tips for saving money on your trip?

Eating out can gobble up your money very quickly. I know it is part of the full experience of travelling but to save your budget do try to have one meal a day as a picnic, buying food locally and supporting the local shops and markets - this can be exciting anyway! Also, look out for menus of the day. These tend to be in the local rather than tourist restaurants, and they can be very good value, especially at lunchtime.

Any essential tips to make travelling easier?

I like using Airport Lounges. They give me chance to relax, leave my bags in a safe place, and just chill. And they are vital if I have a big delay, such as when I’m in transit.

Lyn is a panelist at the Destinations Show which is on 17-20 January in Manchester and 31st Jan to 3rd Feb in London.

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