About two years ago, my husband and I started Boat Magazine. We run a studio in London that does branding and content creation for different companies and we began Boat Magazine as a project we could work on when things slow down in the studio. It is a biannual nomadic publication that focuses on a different city for each issue -- we choose cities with big stories to tell and we pick up and move there for a few weeks, working with locals to put each issue together. So far we've covered Sarajevo, Detroit, London and right now we're working on the next issue -- Athens, Greece.
We call ourselves 'an antidote to lazy journalism' because our goal and the reason we started the magazine in the first place is to tell the stories of a city that normally don't get told. We know it's an ambitious statement and that we'll probably work our whole careers trying to fulfill it. Nevertheless we keep it on the cover as a reminder of what we want the pages inside to be filled with -- real people, real issues, ideas, discoveries, images and commentary on cities that have a complicated relationship with the rest of the world, or that have become known for one thing, or who have been stuck in the pages of history books rather than talked about as they are now.
The downside to wanting to tell these kinds of stories is the time and energy it takes to find them. In a world where people are used to broadcasting everything over various social media loudspeakers, you end up hearing a lot of the same answers, summed up in very similar ways; a collective idea of the way a city should be put forward. To get through that takes more than a couple interviews and a bus tour. It takes a real desire to get to the heart of a place, it takes a decent amount of time, and it takes a lot of listening and observing, something Americans aren't known to be very good at. But in my opinion, it's worth it, if not absolutely necessary for our future.
I believe one of the biggest threats to the western world, particularly my home country, America, is the lack of experience we have of different cultures. This creates a whole different type of ignorance -- not a lack of intellect, Americans are smart people and with the constant connectedness we have, anyone can know what's going on in the world. I'm talking about an ignorance that makes it difficult for people to believe that fundamentally we are all pretty similar. When you've experienced a culture first hand, especially one that feels, smells and sounds extremely foreign to you, something significant happens.
When you've watched a woman cook the local food with all the knowledge of her mother and grandmother at work in her hands, making a recipe that has never been written down on paper and yet has lasted decades, you look at your own traditions and you begin to value the people around you who do things differently. Suddenly you notice them, and you want to know more about them, and then something happens between you both that changes things.
When you've heard the call to prayer broadcast over loudspeakers in an Islamic city, when you stop what you're doing and listen to it, the comfort in knowing it happens at the same times day in and day out, a call for people across the city to stop and reflect, it will soften your views or judgments of that faith. I believe this doesn't detract from your own possibly different system of beliefs; on the contrary it will enrich them.
When you sit with a family in their home and you hear about how everything every member does is working towards a common, basic goal which is to provide for each other, you realize that fundamentally, all across the globe, we are all quite similar.
And then you go home, and you see things differently -- your life, your neighbors, your government, the immigrants in your town, the children and elderly people around you, other countries thousands of miles away from you. It's impossible not to.
I realize the idea that everyone should travel more is more than rudimentary. It has negative implications with the carbon conscious life we should be living and most importantly, for lots of people, financially it is quite difficult, if not impossible. I know that the answer to us understanding a bit more about the world and its many different cultures simply can't be that we all go and see every place in the world. I just can't stress enough, after living abroad in Istanbul and now going on four years in London, the importance of Americans experiencing these cultures and places that we are otherwise forced to learn about entirely through mainstream media. At the very least I believe we need to make more conscious and educated decisions about the media we choose to consume. I really believe that our future depends on us getting a stronger grasp and a deeper understanding of other places in the world. America is my home and I am so proud of it, but there is much more we can learn, yes even from other countries that operate very differently from us, and I believe that when we stop believing that we will stop moving forward.
That's where we hope Boat Magazine steps in. It's is our effort, a very small one, to bring a bit more of the world to you. It is a different, more human look at life in places that you might not know about or where you tend to only think of one thing. It's a start to understanding these places a bit more and we hope it begins a conversation between cultures that might not otherwise happen. As the Romanian proverb goes, "Only the foolish learn from experience -- the wise learn from the experience of others."