Behind the Scenes With Yolanda Edwards, Founder and Editor of Yolo Journal
Most people have big dreams as a kid. Few people actually end up pursuing those dreams as an adult. Yolanda Edwards, founder of Yolo Journal and former creative director of Condé Nast Traveler, is one of the few.
For as long as she can remember, Edwards was obsessed with travel. “As a kid I had this deep sense of wanderlust,” she says. “I don’t know where it came from, but it’s always been there.”
Growing up on the West Coast, the only traveling Edwards did growing up involved road trips with her family to see relatives who also lived on the West Coast. But rather than shrink from a lack of exposure, her passion for travel grew year after year. She would spend hours at the library reading the travel section of New York Times, and eventually convinced her parents to get her a subscription. She would daydream about faraway destinations. In high school, when she made friends with kids whose parents traveled, Edwards recalls thinking, “These are my people.”
When she turned 16, Edwards finally made her daydreams a reality. Using her savings from babysitting, delivering newspapers, teaching piano, and other odd jobs over the course of several years, she travelled to Europe — alone. After that, she was completely hooked.
View this post on Instagram
After graduating from high school, Edwards participated in Ithaka, a year-long program that allowed her to live in Kalymnos, Greece, and learn the language. She continued her study of modern Greek as a comparative literature major at the University of California−Berkeley, not knowing at the time the role it would play in her future career path.
Post-college life found Edwards running a nightclub in California, curating events for the VIP room, followed by a string of jobs in the fashion industry: first as an accessories editor at Elle magazine in New York City, then at Guess Jeans in Los Angeles as a photo producer. In her mid-20s, a freelance photo editor position opened at Condé Nast Traveler. Even though she had a full-time job, Edwards decided to act on her enduring love of travel and take it. Fifteen years later, she was the publication’s creative director.
“I met truly great travelers working there,” Edwards says. “Not travel writers (although I met them, too), but great travelers — the kind of people who had that special intuition and knew a place so intimately that they could tell you about a great place to eat in an airport.”
Meeting those people and extensively traveling the world herself, Edwards began to envision a kind of travel publication that focused less on SEO algorithms and more on real stories shared by real people. She stayed at Traveler until her position was eliminated a couple years ago, and then decided to make her dream magazine a reality. Yolo Journal was born.
View this post on Instagram
Currently on its fifth issue, the magazine has accomplished all of that, plus stunning photography and insider insights into far-flung places. So far, its pages have included deep dives into Italy, the Swiss Alps, Greece, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan via a trip along the Silk Road, a first-person tell-all about a women-only Sahara desert race, and various delightful nooks and crannies in between.
With travel being largely off the table in 2020 due to the pandemic, Edwards says the stories being told in Yolo Journal are more crucial than ever to help people escape. Taking that one step further is the partnership between Yolo Journal and Malibu Beach Inn. The Yolo Journal Travel Series package offers guests a way travel without ever leaving Malibu. In September, the focus was Italy; in October, the Greek Islands; and in November, it’s the South of France.
To create an immersive experience, Edwards and the team at Malibu Beach Inn curated special food and drink menus, Spotify playlists, a cookbook gift for guests to recreate their journey at home, and more. The package also includes a one-year subscription to Yolo Journal.
“We came up with this idea together to help people break out of the darkness that this pandemic has brought on and have a travel experience, even though we can’t travel [internationally],” Edwards says. “Each element of the packages is intentionally chosen to make it feel like you’re in that place, even if just for a little while.”
Further enabling guests to escape is the Malibu setting itself. “I love California so much,” says Edwards. “As soon as I get to Malibu, my heart just opens. You can breathe deeper here.”
That ambiance, natural beauty, and overall sense of peace are always on offer in Malibu, a domestic locale with as much allure as any international destination.
Feature photo by Todd Ritondaro