New Zealander Carsten Coles has lived and worked across the world before settling in Sheffield, where he lectures in English and publishes travel mag Run Wild. The magazine was inspired by a course featuring talks by editors of Delayed Gratification and Cereal. ‘That was when I knew I really wanted to do my own magazine,’ he says. We hear from him as issue three of his mag arrives in shops, just in time to provide a vicarious alternative to real life travel as COVID-19 sets in.
Tell us about your typical Monday journey to your work
Mondays are always a strange day for me, either desperately rushing from the airport to get into work, bleary-eyed but on time, or watching people walk past my window on their way to work as I work from home. I lecture part-time at a university, having dropped some days to do the magazine – finding time for travel trips is tricky, as is making a living from magazine publishing.
Alex in La Biblioteka in Sheffield often gets me coming in on a Monday to look at independent magazines is his store and chat about publishing – currently there’s only a couple of independent magazines based in Yorkshire with mine the only one I know of in Sheffield. This week, it’ll be to drop off some copies of the new issue; the most exciting week for a publisher.
I walk everywhere and love people watching which helps keep me amused when I travel. I drink many cups of tea every day, with Monday being the most essential – I became vegan a few years ago so seek out good tea, now that I can’t disguise cheap builder’s tea with milk.
Describe your office/studio.
I have a desktop for the final stages of piecing the magazine together and a laptop for the main design; at the kitchen table or splayed out on the floor, even sometimes in cafes. I had my grandmother’s 100th birthday in New Zealand last month and finished designing this issue on the road. It’s not as pleasant as it sounds with patchy airport wifi and Adobe InDesign regularly going offline fraying my nerves as I wrote the final articles and tried to okay the final proofs for the printers.
I try to write articles about countries after I’ve returned as there’s always interesting stories to tell but it often takes some creative energy to tease them out – often on an adventure where you’re wild camping, you sleep when the sun goes down and have somewhere to get to the next day.
I have photos up on my walls of some of my favourite trips to remind me why I love travelling so much and I’m lucky to have a small garden with a mini-wood behind so it feels like I’m in the countryside even though it’s close to the centre of Sheffield.
What inspired you to launch Run Wild?
When I started, there were a few inspirational adventure and travel magazines but they didn’t really match how many of the people around me travelled. I wanted to translate that feeling of curiosity, adventure and exhilaration into a print magazine that also looks at our place in the world.
It’s given real purpose when I travel as I view my surroundings in a different way, looking for a cover photo opportunity, a story to tell or a theme for the next issue. I feel it also allows me to make a difference in my own small way to how we think about the environment around us.
Collaborating with other like-minded people can be a deeply rewarding experience and has led to stronger relationships with some of my friends. This and the joy of approaching new people to see if they will write an article or do an interview for the magazine really drives me – and can be so fun!
I did a crowdfunder drive to help fund the printing costs for the second issue – it’s the hardest to fund as you’re still waiting for the money to come in from the first issue sales and need to pay for the printing costs of the next issue. That was a nerve-racking experience but ultimately very rewarding. It’s my first magazine I’ve published and I have plans to publish two other magazines later this year – I think I’ve got the bug.
What was the first magazine to catch your attention?
I used to collect wildlife magazines when I was young which fuelled my dreams of visiting some of the places with these animals – squirrels in the local park didn’t seem to do it for me. A few years ago I finally made it to the Amazon Rainforest and felt like I could hear David Attenborough’s voice purring gently on the wind.
Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
I’m deeply in love with Bad to the Bone magazine – their Persian issue last year was one of the most beautiful and compelling magazines I’ve ever seen. It’d helped that I’d just returned from Iran, which instantly became my favourite country. It’s a Paris-based magazine (with English translation) that really brings a new view of youth culture in a stunning format – can’t wait to see what else they bring out.
Describe your magazine in three words.
Travel. Adventure. Environmentalism.
Issue three is published this week. What have you learned since issue one?
So much! I put together the magazine myself so had to learn all about the design and printing process – our first printer went bankrupt a few weeks after our first copy came out which was a close call. Since then, I’ve changed to a printer I’m really happy with and have paid a premium for post-consumer recycled paper from the second issue.
I think each issue has improved since the last – I think this is what drives lots of independent publishers; we’re never completely satisfied and try to bring something amazing to each issue. I’ve been lucky to have had some outstanding contributors that have been generous in giving their time to the ideas behind the magazine. This issue, we have an interactive article which has a soundtrack to listen to as you read – my good friend Iga has been busy finishing the sound editing over the last week so she can bring the sounds of French Alpinism to life.
Distribution is the hardest thing for every small magazine. I started off by contacting all my favourite magazine stores around the world to see if they’d stock the magazine and was lucky enough to be taken by many of them. There’s a limit to how many stores will take magazines direct and from this issue we’re going through a distributor to get in more stores – the money from sales this way is small but my main pull for starting the magazine was to get in these amazing stores. We’re now stocked as far away as Tokyo and Taiwan.
The stories celebrate your love of the wild; yet their international mix means lots of travel. How do you maintain an environmentally sound balance?
The new issue has a number of features on Namibia and Botswana – this was a conscious decision as the delicate environment and endangered animals in the national parks wouldn’t be there without the money that visitors bring to the communities in those areas. I travelled through six national parks, some of which had been decimated from the spill over of the Angolan civil war, just over a decade ago; all of which had seen a dramatic repopulation of wild animals since being protected.
I took all the photos there myself, mostly camped in the wilderness and more than that – it was one of my childhood dreams, so I would have gone there without the magazine. Reducing the amount you fly has to be done strategically – supporting communities and the environment in wilderness areas is far more ecological than visiting a beach or city and staying in hotels. For me, that can justify flying long distances, as long as you stay there for a number of weeks to reduce the amount of trips you do every year.
The new issue looks at our reactions to climate change including an amazing interview with a clinical psychologist discussing climate change anxiety; with lots of articles considering how we interact with our environment. I approached the other contributors in the issue to write about trips they’d already done or places they live close to, using their own photos. We use a great printer and post-consumer recycled paper to support the closed-loop idea. So, this might even be one of the most environmentally conscious travel magazines out there.
What is the one place/area you would love to visit but haven’t made it yet?
Bhutan is always at the back of my mind but Ethiopia has grabbed my attention over the last year and I find myself daydreaming about going there. I’ve only heard good things about the culture, mountainous areas and tribal regions.
What’s going to be the highlight of your coming week?
Being able to rest after the slightly manic week that always happens before the magazine comes out!
We have an adventure film festival in Sheffield this weekend (unless it gets postponed) to give me some ideas about future places to visit and a Finnish friend is hoping to visit, if flights are still leaving from Finland, to do some rock climbing – her photos of Lapland are in the new issue.
It’s going to be a strange week for all of us as we wonder whether our planned trips and events will go ahead or we’ll have to do them later in the year. It’s also a great time I think to get in contact with old friends and maybe even plan some local weekends away in England’s wilderness, where you only have to worry about the rain.
I’ll still be thinking about planning some adventures as you need dreams even more in uncertain times, plus I’ll be trying to spend my money in independent stores as much as possible to support them – Alex in La Biblioteka might well see me at some point today.
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