‘Return Trip’ issue two may have emerged in Spring of 2021, but having recently discovered the magazine it’s clear that no matter when you pick it up, there will be new takeaways and different perspectives which all add up to a timeless feel. Originating in Toronto, Canada and founded by Erin Pehlivan, ‘Return Trip’ is not your normal travel magazine, as noted by Erin within the opening editor’s letter. “It feels wrong to call ‘Return Trip’ a travel magazine,” Erin writes. “Rather, we aim to explore our emotional connection to place, which is often more complicated than it sounds.”
This theme is brought to life with 21 contributors from across the globe – including writers, illustrators, photographers and creatives. The magazine comes in at a generous 90 pages with 14 articles excluding the opening letter. Exploring our emotional connection with travel, the reader is taken on a journey through the streets of Hamburg, public transport in Guyana, to a pilgrimage through Japan’s Shikoku Island. These wide-reaching pieces invite you into the place, experience and the feelings the traveller felt during their time. They’re equal parts honest and magnetic, installing the reader into the location with the guidance to retrieve them from the pages.
Return Trip’s illustrations are a highlight when delving into a piece – its front cover has a hand drawn image which aligns with the first piece set in Hamburg. Illustrated by Carole Maillard, the duotone scene shows the protagonist from the story backpacking through a cobbled street, set within a medieval inner city landscape. The piece itself is named ‘You’re doing it wrong’ – written by Sarah Vardy. In Sarah’s prose we discover the backpack as a metaphor for the feelings that weighed on her; a shame of “feeling so uncomfortably lost” in the city. It’s a gritty, honest account of understanding that even though we may jet off to some far-away country from home, current “melodramas” in the form of anxiety remain. Sarah ultimately had to make a decision on whether to “embrace the opportunity to be uncomfortable” or “really be here” – a decision she noted as “an easy one”.
At the halfway point of the issue we see the work of photographer Leila Fatemi – a set of stunning shots featuring a single person wearing a full body veil across a range of harsh and smooth landscapes. Named “The Wandering Veil,” the series finds the reader transported into the scene with the veil wearer, maybe to discover more about this alien landscape. Encapsulated by the beauty of the scenery, there is a deeper feeling of isolation with Fatemi representing a sense of anonymity. Through these landscapes Fatemi “seeks to depict facets of existence beyond physical representation,” the magazine notes. “Rooted in spirituality and often sought through religion and nature.”
The magazine concludes with a fictional piece by Niamh Gordon with art by Tuan Nini. It describes running through Berlin – a whistlestop tour so to speak of a city drenched in history. We are taken on a journey of a novice seeking to discover what it takes to forge a route through the city via running, and what can be experienced through doing so. “She could run a scent-map of the city in her mind,” Niamh writes. “Trace the streets by merely remembering the smells. Coffee, sweat, beer. A familiar aftershave plucked out of a past moment, shaking her foundations as she passed it on the pavement.” This pragmatic journey through the streets of Berlin is punctuated with a series of almost-dystopian illustrations, deriving its power through multi-coloured backgrounds with a centralised figure of the runner as she seeks freedom.
Freedom is an alluring concept when travelling – even the name “travel” is almost synonymous with the idea of freedom. But sometimes it isn’t as clean cut as we thought, as some of the articles covered in ‘Return Trip’. The emotional attachment of travelling is felt across continents and if the traveller may have physical freedom it may be the opposite within them. It might be that they’re needing to run through the streets of their mind to escape – to find complete freedom. This is something we are all in pursuit of in some form or another, however ‘Return Trip’ seeks to emphasise that we can seek further attachment to a place through authentic memories, be transported again and ultimately return with a greater sense of being – a freedom in its own right.