Gavin Williams is a Nottingham local who moved down to London, travelled to many other places and has just published the first issue of his travel magazine, Beings. It's a pocket-sized, beautifully designed magazine packed with long-form stories, evocative photography and inspiring anecdotes. We caught up with Gavin to learn a little more about his adventure.
To kick off then, Gavin, what's your real job?
I work for a children's charity, doing different things, like writing content in order to encourage people to raise money for us, which I guess came from my enthusiasm for writing but also a background in digital marketing. Before that I studied media and modern literature at Goldsmith's in London and also dabbled in content jobs, writing here and there.
And you're from Notts, right?
Yeah, I actually used to write a little for LeftLion about ten years ago and my parents still live there.
So how did your magazine happen?
I think it was in October 2016; I left my job to go travelling and I guess the inspiration was the people I met and spoke to. They were the best thing about the trip, and the most interesting thing about the trip for me. For example, talking to a local family on a train in India was even better than going to the Taj Mahal or other tourist things that are kind of cool, but that everyone does and has the same Instagram photo of. It doesn't feel like you're doing anything real. Also when travelling, going from place to place, there's a lot of time spent on buses and trains where I was able to think about what I really wanted to be doing, and where my passions were. After putting those two things together, I realised I wanted to make a magazine.
Why did you quit the job to travel - sounds like a bold thing to do?
Kind of, I felt it was quite a big step, but when you do it you realise it isn't even a big deal. I'd been saving up for years as it was always something I wanted to do, so I took the plunge. It feels like a much bigger step than it is, but when you're there you realise it's great.
Have magazines always been of interest?
Pretty much. I'm not sure why but I've always loved print and magazines, even as a kid from reading things like The Beano and Match magazine, but more recently there's been a load of really good print magazines that have really inspired me. I think it's quite cool that, even though they are magazines, they are almost between a magazine and a book, and it has really changed how people think about magazines compared to fifteen years ago. It's something that I've been into for a while and the class of these newer magazines has been all the more inspiring.
Any in particular?
Like The Wind - a running magazine which is awesome. Lodestars is a really good travel magazine. Boneshaker is a cycling magazine that inspired me because it isn't just about the latest gear or nutrition or whatever; it's about the stories that come from cycling so the sense of adventure. It isn't about how fast you go, it's about the journey.
So the magazine is a documentation of the 'other' parts of travelling?
Yeah, and the unique experiences people have and the connections made. I didn't want it to be a guidebook or anything like that, it's more about timeless stories, chance encounters, that kind of thing.
As you're not in the publishing industry, how did it all come together?
It was a really fun process with a lot of learning. I worked with two friends of mine, Sophie and Fiona. We ran a crowdfunding campaign to get the first issue going and it was awesome to see many people on board with the idea. A lot of the contributors are friends or friends of friends and that kind of thing. Once I explained to people what we were trying to do there seemed to be a lot of excitement around it which was very encouraging.
How has the response been so far?
Really good. We successfully got it funded, sold a lot online and in a bunch of shops - Ideas on Paper and Rough Trade in Nottingham and also as far afield as Amsterdam. I'm really happy with it!
Nice! And within the magazine, there's a bunch of pop-culture quotes in there. What's that about?
Well, in a sort of boring way, we wanted to break up the magazine and the way its read; even though you wouldn't really read Beings from start to finish, the articles are quite long-form and we felt it would be a nice way to offer a sense of variety to the length of the pieces, having bits you can read at a glance. It's also our attempt to improve those cheesy travel, wanderlust quotes you often see on Instagram - I thought it'd be cool to reference that but hopefully in less of a lame way.
What's your favourite piece from a contributor?
There's a story called Train Family, by Natasha Hayman, where the writer was almost adopted by a family whilst sitting on the train. The way it's written, it's just so dreamy and you really get the sense of the warmth and uniqueness of the experience.
Giving how Beings is made, it's quite unique and the concept is almost endless. So what does the future hold for Beings?
I guess watch this space, I'd like to do more of it. Though, I want to do it right so we shall see!
And finally, why should our readers pick up issue one of Beings?
I think it'll inspire you to travel and to look out for those little human connections; to appreciate them more. I'd like to think it'll help people to see how even with different languages and ways of living, we're all Beings and we do have a connection.
Pop into Ideas on Paper or Rough Trade to pick up a copy of Beings for £7.