Aaron is a veteran magazine editor and writer, with over 20 years experience in the business. He established his career with staff editorial positions, progressing through the following titles: PC Computing, MacWeekly, Wired, Rock & Ice, VeloNews, and Outside Magazine. In 2009, he left his full-time position at Outside to pursue a writing career. Since then, he has written and continues to write for Men’s Journal, National Geographic Adventure, Virtuoso Life, Departures, AAA, and DestinAsian, among others. He is also a salaried contributing editor at Outside Magazine.
What got you into travel writing?
I was born in Nigeria and, courtesy of a childhood bouncing between Africa, Europe, and the United States, I quickly realized I had a unique perspective on the world. I found myself entranced from an early age with writers documenting far-off lands, such as Paul Bowles and Bruce Chatwin. Halfway through high school, I decided that I wanted to combine my passions for the written word and distant places. I attended J-school, went straight into magazine work, and here we are.
What’s the most challenging part of being a travel journalist for you?
Boiling down an experience. Most magazine articles are just 3,000 to 4,000 words, and often much shorter these days. It’s tough when you go on an assignment and have a week or two of experiences and encounters that make deep impressions and then you have to cull so much of that background to fit it into the space and format. It always feels like I’m left with so much more to say. Articles are snapshot but don’t capture the totality.
What is one thing [equipment or personal item] you can’t go without on the road?
I try to travel as unencumbered as possible, so the only real thing I need is a couple Moleskine notebooks and a stack of pens. A few years ago, my wife talked me into buying an inflatable Sea To Summit travel pillow, which I thought was an extravagance of space and money, but now I can’t go anywhere without it.
What’s your most unusual and/or memorable travel experience?
It’s a challenge to pick just one, but I spent two weeks in Siberia a couple of years ago living with a troop of reindeer-herding nomads called the Nenets. I wore their furs to stave off the -40°F temperatures, slept shoulder-to-shoulder with them in their fur-lined teepees, and at almost exclusively frozen raw fish and raw reindeer meat for the duration. It was challenging in lots of ways, but one of the most difficult things was simply slowing down—when the Nenets aren’t toiling to tend the animals and move camps, it’s mostly quiet time in the teepees, and we ended up looking at each other a lot. I’ve written a couple of pieces about the experience, including Information Freeze for Outside Magazine.
How did you learn about NATJA and why did you join?
I heard about the organization from colleagues. Since I work for myself, largely on my own, I think it’s important to bounce ideas off of and interact with peers in my field, and NATJA has been a great way to connect with others and keep up on the industry.
What is the best piece of advice you could give to a rookie travel journalist?
Lose your inhibitions. Smile. Be nice. Talk to everyone you can. The best way to really get under the skin of a place is to make friends.