As a subscriber to National Geographic Traveler Magazine, I sometimes get offers from other travel magazines in the mail. Usually it's just a letter, which I usually ignore (I don't even have time to read the one travel magazine I already get). A couple weeks ago, however, I got a free sample of a magazine in the mail, called, "Country Discoveries." I was looking forward to checking it out.
The first page declares that this is a "different kind of travel magazine," in that they don't "gush breathlessly about expensive getaways in exotic locations, or rhapsodize about break-the-bank meals in five-star restaurants." Instead of travel writers, they rely on their readers to share their recommendations and warnings (about American locations only, it appears) with each other via the magazine.
In principle, I think the idea of everyone being a critic is a great one. The professionals can't be everywhere, certainly, and everyone has an opinion. Many of the articles in Country Discoveries look really interesting - they're about out-of-the-way destinations around the U.S., written by folks who (I assume) live around them and know them well. There are tons of photos, some of which I imagine were taken by the "average Joe" writers. All of this should make me really love this magazine. But I have to admit, I'm not as enthusiastic as I thought I'd be.
First of all, I already subscribe to one of those publications this one seems to dislike. And sure, I can't afford many of the destination vacations Traveler "rhapsodizes" about, but part of why I love that magazine is that it's fodder for travel dreams. And it does contain plenty of handy information about vacations normal people can - and do - take.
Second, I can't get past the idea that the whole concept of Country Discoveries - average travelers sharing their secrets directly with other average travelers - works much better on the Internet, without the "middle man" of a magazine which will charge a subscription rate and has a limited number of pages in which to contain stories and pictures. Of course, this feeling is due in large part to the way I gather information and the way I travel. I have no doubt that this magazine is useful for plenty of folks - including avid RVers who don't necessarily have Internet access on the road and who stay in the U.S. It just isn't as appealing to me in the way I thought it might be.
Third (and this is most insignificant of the reasons by a long shot), I can't take anything seriously that uses bad puns. The two articles that make me roll my eyes are entitled, "Grin and Bear It" (about Alaska's Katmai National Park) and "Czech Out Prague" (in the "Trip of a Lifetime" section, obviously not in the U.S.). Even from my limited experience writing the titles to blog entries, I know writing titles - hell, writing anything - isn't a cakewalk, but these titles just make me groan.
Having said all this, I still like Country Discoveries. It's separated by region, so you can focus solely on the area of the country you're going to be visiting, and it highlights local sights, eateries and festivals that most people wouldn't even know about. I know there are plenty of things in the town where I live that I love and treasure, but I'd never think of it as a tourist destination. Flipping through Country Discoveries has made me re-evaluate that feeling. Every place has its charms, and maybe this magazine will help more people see them. I probably still won't subscribe (even at the Low! Low! Introductory Rate!), but I now see the charms of the magazine as well.