Sarah Warwick, editor, N by Norwegian
For this latest in our series of holiday interviews we quiz travel writer and editor of N by Norwegian, Sarah Warwick.
Where are you today?
I’m at Ink’s offices in West Hampstead in London with my team. Our company specialises in travel media for clients and we work alongside other in-flight titles such as EasyJet Traveller, Atlas by Etihad, Oryx for Qatar, Hemispheres for United Airlines and many more. It's a fun place to work, and although mostly office-based we do get the opportunity to travel too.
What was the first magazine you remember enjoying?
I’d love to be able to say something sophisticated but, in my teens, I was obsessed with a girl’s magazine called Shout, which I bought from issue one. Aside from the tips on make-up and boys, of course, I loved the real-life stories. Later I got really into Afar, published by the US travel brand, for its focus on unusual stories and local voices rather than glossy trips.
Tell us about your first holiday.
There’s a windswept picture of my parents and me in front of a tiny plane in the UK when I was a few months old. I think it was one of the Channel Islands, maybe Guernsey. I still really enjoy those islands today - they're like the love children of Cornwall and France, with great beaches and fantastic food. Sark Island in particular is really unusual - only three miles long and no cars allowed.
Are you a beach holiday or city break person?
If I had to choose one of those, then I'd opt for a city break for the food and culture. But, in reality, I'm more of a jungle person - I love nothing more than going off grid and hiking in the tropical heat somewhere, probably Asia.
What has been your worst holiday experience?
When I was traveling in my late 20s, I cut my leg on a rock in Malaysia and it went septic, meaning three courses of antibiotics and a strange smelly poultice applied by a Thai healer called Moon.
What is your magazine’s approach to travel?
Our view is that travel is an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and closer to real people and places. We're always looking for the things that make a place unique or particularly out-there, with something for our readers to learn, whether they'll ever go to that place or not.
For example, in our next issue we've got Icelandic horse riding, a “death awareness” cafe in Bangkok, fine-dining in the Arctic and the thoughts of a modern Norwegian philosopher. Someone told me once they thought we were like a marriage between Wired and Conde Nast Traveller... I’ll definitely take that!
Which holiday/trip from your magazine would you most like to experience?
For our June 2018 issue we took the team to Argentina (above), one of Norwegian's latest destinations, and did a whole issue, with features on wine, craft, ecology, cowboys and 101 other amazing things about a huge and beautiful country. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever done for work and I’d go back in a heartbeat.
Which magazine(s) should people be taking away with them this summer?
California Sunday Magazine is my current fave (above), a recommendation from N's art director Sarah Barnett – its editorial and design are both great. I’m always partial to a bit of National Geographic, Wired and newspaper supplements (especially the New York Times Magazine), which I stockpile until I have time to read them.
The work done by indies like Suitcase, Smith Journal and Delayed Gratification is consistently good. Online mag The Pool deserves a mention. Plus, a copy of The Week as I find it hard to keep up with all the news, especially when we're on deadline. My carry on is usually rammed!
Unlike other in-flights, N by Norwegian cover stories avoid travel and celebrities in favour of broader issues and themes. What’s the thinking behind this?
The reason for this is three-fold. Firstly, our readership is broad, so we look to appeal to as many people as possible, and certain celebrities tend to appeal either more to a younger or older readership, depending on who they are; or women rather than men or vice versa.
Secondly, I'm not really interested in celebrities - I find real people more interesting, whether they be an 80-something Italian man who built his own theme park, a load of Bedouin meteorite hunters, or a woman who makes carpets inspired by Argentinian landscapes.
And thirdly, we love being able to convey a concept with our covers - it shows off our quirky and creative personality, introducing the reader to what N is like at first glance. It gives us the freedom to create new strange worlds and eye-catching images. My favourite N cover is probably still the taxidermy goat in an Aztec mask we did a couple of years ago for a cover story about a Swedish world-music band.
As editor of a relatively new inflight mag, what’s the role of such a magazine today?
N turned five this year so still a new kid on the block — a bit like our airline. All in-flight magazines are there to entertain, inspire and educate people about destinations.
For the airline, a magazine makes sense as a money maker and to share messages about itself and its network, without the hard sell. For the reader, they can be transported into stories that tell them about exotic places, wacky people and beautiful landscapes – to experience some of the best bits of travel without leaving their seat.
Where will you be taking a break this year?
I had a week in an Airbnb on the Italian Riviera in June which was gorgeous, but the big holiday this year will be Melbourne to see friends and family for Christmas. I’m looking forward to cuddling a koala and throwing a few snags on the barbie.