When embarking on the journey of creating this passion project as a personal creative outlet in 2015, I had certain ideas about how things could evolve over time. I saw potential in the idea of a collaborative, quality-first, and when-ready publication. I still do, obviously. At some point I caught myself daydreaming about publishing this magazine two or four times a year and actually making a living from it. With advertisers, partnerships, and subscription models to help me pay the bills.

I soon realized that by setting that as my goal, I would lose track of what this publication stands for and mainly create it to make a livable wage. By focusing on making money, my intention of creating a curiosity-driven and inspiring publication got overlooked.

When I first started with this project, Let’s Explore was mostly attributed to literal exploration, hence the amount of actual travel-related content in the first two issues, Crossroads and Perseverance. But Let’s Explore also stands for a metaphorical way of discovering. It stands for exploring different interpretations of the same theme. It stands for both the positive and negative experiences that come with a certain events in life. It stands for a diversity of storytellers. It stands for the inclusion of as many different voices as possible. And ultimately, it stands for showing a sincere interest in and learning from all of these stories, in order to be able to move forward with new and inspiring knowledge.

While making the Perseverance issue, I started to notice a shift in editorial content that was presenting itself and showed me a different kind of potential alongside the inspirational focus. I got introduced to stories that were more oriented on human interest, social awareness, and (personal) impact. In many cases, still linked to creative projects and travel-related insight but a seed was planted in my mind that would grow slowly but surely in the years that followed.

The when-ready concept comes firstly from the fact the I don’t want time to be a limiting factor in creating a high-quality publication. This also means that contributors have a lot of time to craft their stories. The soon-to-launch issue is already 10 months in the making but we’re close.

Another reason for this concept is a practical one; I’m making it at the same time as my full-time job and, well, something of a personal life. Which in this particular case resulted in the large gap between the Perseverance and upcoming Empowerment-issue — some 30 months. Right at that moment when I was thinking about starting with a new issue, I decided to go to Lesvos as a volunteer to work in the refugee camps located on the Greek island. Besides the day-to-day work for the NGO I had joined, I initiated a storytelling and photography project with residents of the camps.

This project, among the other experiences, would have a profound influence on how the upcoming issue came to be.

I realize that this journey comes from a place of privilege. The question is: “what to do with this privilege?”

I experienced the power of meaningful and purpose-driven storytelling (excuse me for the buzzword-like use) firsthand, as I saw how the project impacted the people who saw it when I came home, as well as how working on the project impacted the residents themselves. Especially after receiving their personal zine which I had created and gave them upon returning two months after leaving.

Upon returning home, I decided to postpone the new LEM issue and do some more soul-searching. I went back to school to learn more about communication, storytelling, and narratives that influence power structures. I became more of a thinker and explorer of narrative theory and finding ways to design those narratives with the same intention as I was creating this magazine: with curiosity, open-mindedness, inspired and aimed to inspire.

I started to embrace my own curiosity again. I quit freelancing besides my full-time job to “make money”, which enabled me to pay for the production of Let’s Explore Magazine. I started working with organisations and initiatives I felt an intrinsic connection with, and which could benefit from my way of thinking and creating. This didn’t enrich me financially in any way. But it did give me a sense of purpose that made so much more sense to invest my time in. It widened my scope of where I found inspiration and it increased my network-bubble with new ideas, insights, projects, and different kinds of creative endeavors.

This project, among the other experiences, would have a profound influence on how the upcoming issue came to be.

I realize that this journey comes from a place of privilege. The question is: “what to do with this privilege?”. At this point, so much time had passed, that calling it a day with the publication could have been a viable decision. But the magazine started as a manifestation of my own creative exploration and it still is. Keeping with the spirit of the magazine, I decided to just go for it and try something new. I redefined what Let’s Explore means to me and wrote down my vision for how this would translate to my magazine. I had a vague idea of what the next theme could be, based on my experiences of the past years. Speaking about it with others helped me to further craft the theme as well as the idea for Let’s Explore Magazine 2.0.

This process provided me with new energy to create and collaborate, which felt invigorating and informed the new theme: Empowerment.

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Simultaneously with launching the theme (so that people could submit their story ideas), I started to re-design the publication. With the editorial shift, I wanted to offer more opportunities for the reader to become inspired by the stories in the magazine. I asked the contributors to share their inspiration for their story and to provide further reading material if possible. This way, the reader can decide to venture out of the magazine and explore a subject in more depth.

Besides that, the idea of providing more context resulted in design choices that also provides the reader with larger margins to scribble notes in and more room between lines of text to leave room to underline sections without unintentionally crossing out lines of text. Last but not least, this issue includes a custom notebook (hidden in the back cover of the magazine) that can be used to write down more elaborate thoughts on a story. The design of the notebook ensures that there are ways to easily link the thoughts to certain pages in the magazine.

As the design started to take shape, the weekly brainstorm sessions with the international contributors started to result in a rich collection of stories that will fill the 176 pages and had me picking up my jaw from the floor. Even though the stories are linked with each other through the overarching theme of Empowerment, they are incredibly diverse. Discovering that in some cases the stories interconnect with each other on sub-themes as well, was an added bonus and provides the issue with a lot of re-read value and the potential to discover new links over time.

Providing a concise glimpse of the content would be the hardest thing to do, as there is so much to say about each contribution, that I’m afraid to not do justice to the stories. In order to provide some insight, below are a few highlights:

  • The master’s grip; Slavery in Mauritania
  • New York state of mind; prints from a forgotten roll of film get a second life
  • Ocean’s beauty in mythical waves
  • 200+ lifeboat stations and their heroes on wet collodion
  • The only way is through; self-acceptance after trauma
  • Portraits for Mayan families
  • The power of language, culture, protocol and fight for the Right to Self-Determination for West Papua
  • India’s forgotten elders
  • Death clapped: walking the length of the UK
  • Humanitarian Power Play
  • Traveling heavy; from carrying ones burden to communitas
  • Females kicking ass inside and outside the ring
  • Authenticity Inc.: thoughts on commodification of history, culture and the indigenous image

Pre-Order

The pre-order page is online. On this page you can easily reserve your copy of the Empowerment-issue as it has a limited print-run. Besides that, the page provides additional information and perks regarding the upcoming issue, such as:

Friend of LEM

As with the previous issues, I am offering package deals with up to 3 magazines, Limited Edition A5 Postcards, your name and URL of choice on the Friends page in the magazine, up to FREE Worldwide shipping and optional gift wrapping for Xmas with a personalized message.

Conscious Publishing

An additional perk is that with every pre-ordered copy, I am going to plant a tree (certificates will be provided) through an organization based here in the Netherlands. This offer is limited to the pre-orders as it will be deducted from my profit margin.

Next to that, I’m investing in, through QR-code, traceable CO2-compensation for the entire production process. This means from raw material to distribution to my doorstep.

Thank you for reading!

~ Kilian

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