Billie Cohen: Executive Editor of AFAR

 

Angela Tuell: 0:05

Welcome to Media in Minutes. This is your host Angela Tuell. This podcast features in-depth interviews with those reports on the world around us. They share everything from their favorite stories to what happened behind the lens and give us a glimpse into their world. From our studio here at Communications Redefined, this is Media in Minutes. Today we are talking with AFAR executive editor Billie Cohen. Before AFAR she conceived and launched CondeNastTraveler.com, the travel advice startup WindyPerrin.com and served as deputy editor of Timeout in New York as well as founding editor of Timeout Singapore. Billie also spent three years as a digital nomad traveling the world. Her work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, AFAR, BBC Travel, the New York Times, National Geographic, Timeout, and much more. Billie covers all areas of travel, and as she says, has a soft spot for nerd travel, maps, intel, history, architecture, art design, people, desert, street art, and Oreo flavors around the world. Hi, Billie, welcome.

Billie Cohen: 1:19

Hi, Angela. Thank you so much. Good to be here.

Angela Tuell: 1:21

Yes, I’m looking forward to our discussion today. Although I’m not sure where to start. You have an amazing background in the travel industry, as we described in our intro. Could you walk us through your career and how you got to where you are today?

Billie Cohen: 1:37

Sure. So might have to think back – What did I do? So right now I work at AFAR travel magazine. We have a print magazine, we have a digital presence. We do podcasts, we do video, and obviously social media and newsletter. So that’s really fun. And I get to have my hands and all of that. And I love it. I started way back when at Timeout New York. I don’t know if you’re familiar with a Timeout magazines as an intern. I was like –

Angela Tuell: 2:04

Wow.

Billie Cohen: 2:05

Yeah, I thought I’d be like, I thought it’d be cool. And I get to go to some free concerts. But that was the extent of my…

Angela Tuell: 2:11

Not really thinking of the future, right? Oh really?

Billie Cohen: 2:13

…motivation. And, and I was an intern and I And, and I just fell in love with it. And I had Yeah.

Angela Tuell: 2:13

Okay. just fell in love with it. I think I interned for a couple of amazing mentors there. It was such a – it was a weekly print months. And then they hired me and I was there with that magazine. We were we also had a website, and we just everyone company on and off for a long time. That’s really where I learned everything. Like a great basis in journalism. I didn’t go to journalism school I was a political science major and history minor. did everything. So I got to learn with my hands. Like deep in everything. Cindy Stivers was our editor in chief. She’s an amazing mentor. And I still have friends and colleagues from from those years. And I just loved it. And I thought, Oh, I could do this, like this could be my career. Like wow – is this real?

Billie Cohen: 3:07

And it’s funny, because I had done like the high school newspaper and the college paper.

Angela Tuell: 3:11

Okay, okay.

Billie Cohen: 3:11

And I always loved that. But I really thought I was going to be a teacher. So that’s sort of where I was thinking, but I just fell in love with with it when I had that internship at Timeout. And it it morphed into a career. So I stayed with them. And worked my way up through that up to I stayed up through it, I was deputy editor, but I left a couple of times and did try some freelance stuff. Because, you know, in our, in our world, you can do that. So I would go back and forth. And then at a certain point, they asked me if I wanted to move to Singapore and launch the Timeout there. Yeah, I was like, Yeah, right. To that, right. How

Angela Tuell: 3:50

Wow. do you say no to that, but quick, let me just look up on a map where that is, because I like had my head down in New York for so many years at that point. And I, you know, if you need to know anything about New York in the early 2000s, I’m your girl. Now, I don’t know what’s going on. But so it was just it was such a cool opportunity. And the brand was so baked in my in my blood at that point. So I said yes, I moved to Singapore. I put together a team. I trained up a bunch of local staff, and the point was just for me to be there for about a year. Okay.

Billie Cohen: 4:31

And get it started and hand it off. That was the way that they did the franchise’s back then of Timeout. And and it was fantastic. As you can imagine, Singapore is such a great place and just put a little plug in for it because everyone thinks of it as a stopover destination. And it’s such such a fun place to be, great food. It’s beautiful. The architecture is really cool. Lots of arts and culture that’s coming up. So go to Singapore, everybody.

Angela Tuell: 4:58

Have you written an article about it? That we can link to?

Billie Cohen: 5:01

Oh my god. I mean, over the years I’ve written a lot about it. And again, one of my one of my colleagues at AFAR, Laura Danna Redman, she, when I left Timeout Singapore to come back to New York, she was just moving to Singapore from New York. So she worked at the magazine after me. And then we both ended up at AFAR. So we have made sure there’s a lot of Singapore content.

Angela Tuell: 5:20

That’s great. We’ll find some and posts to it definitely in our show notes.

Billie Cohen: 5:25

So I was there. And that was sort of, in addition to being the first time that I was like, running my own magazine, right. Like, I, it was really the first time that I thought about what I was doing as travel journalism. I really thought of the Time Out New York stuff very much as but what we used to call service journalism, right things to do, how to do them, problem solving. And it didn’t really occur to me until I was halfway around the world that oh, this is travel journalism. It’s a hyperlocal travel journalism, but that’s what it is. So when I got back after that, after that position ended, I was like, well, this, that’s what I’m doing. I want to switch into travel, because there’s a whole world out there. So I went to Conde Nast Traveler at the time was, didn’t really have a website. They were Yeah, it was near –

Angela Tuell: 6:18

You’re aging us, right?

Billie Cohen: 6:20

I’m aging myself.

Angela Tuell: 6:21

I knew – I was, I was involved in then too.

Billie Cohen: 6:23

The things that have come out of my mouth I’m like, Oh, I sound old. I sound experienced, we sound experienced Angela.

Angela Tuell: 6:31

That’s good. I like that, I like that. When I, when I mentioned to my kids that I was alive before computers, you know they’re like, oh, like before dirt, you know.

Billie Cohen: 6:40

Right. How did you survive? So yeah, so I went over to Conde Nast, they were trying to launch their site. And so I went over there to do that. And that was so much fun. Again, we were like this scrappy little team. You know, they had a lot of really talented longtime editors who had only worked on print, and we kind of came in, and like, hey, let’s do this. Let’s do this website thing. And we had a blast.

Angela Tuell: 7:05

And they were like who are all these young, like, what are they doing?

Billie Cohen: 7:10

Yeah, and so and that was just great. And I love a launch, you know, in Singapore was a launch. The Conde Nast thing was a launch, and then a couple others beyond that, but I love that energy. And that opportunity to like create something. And having to pull together all the disparate goals and ideas, and, you know, the needs, the business needs and things like that. So I love like looking at that big picture thing. So that was super fun. And once, once I did that, I was hooked. I like well, I’m staying in this travel thing.

Angela Tuell: 7:46

Yeah, that’s amazing that you started there and are still there. I mean, that’s pretty, you know, it’s unusual, I guess, I would say to start that. I also read that prior to the pandemic, you spent more than three years as a digital nomad, working remotely from places such as Cambodia, Mongolia, Canada, and Switzerland. We must know more about this.

Billie Cohen: 8:10

It was It came from the now I can’t remember if it was three or four years, but it came from my years of Conde Nast Traveler, where me and the team we were, we were just the people at headquarters. We didn’t get to travel anywhere. And I had put together this network of writers around the world to do the reporting and writing for us, but I never traveled. So when, when I, when I was ready to leave there, I thought, well, I’m going to travel. So my goal was to put together enough freelance work, both writing and editing and consulting to, to be able to do that from anywhere. And this was before, before –

Angela Tuell: 8:52

Everyone was doing, right?

Billie Cohen: 8:54

Before it was cool to work remote. So that’s what I did. And I ended up yeah, just being able to, to do the work from anywhere. So I took off and it was so great. Man, I love New York. And it’s it’s the best city in the world. But it’s, it’s also really wonderful to be able to see the rest of of the world. So I did that. And I hooked up with with Wendy Perrin, who had been an editor at Conde Nast Traveler for a very long time as well. And she left around the same time I did and together while I was remote, we launched her site, which is sort of it’s a journalism and travel recommendation site where we connected travelers to very meticulously vetted travel advisors and trip planners. And so we could use our journalism background to make sure that we were giving travelers all the intel that they needed, and to do due diligence on vetting the people we were recommending, but it was also really great to have that very direct connection to travelers. One of the things that’s frustrating about writing is you kind of don’t know who reads it. And maybe you can see the analytics, but you don’t know if they put down the –

Angela Tuell: 10:12

Right?

Billie Cohen: 10:12

They don’t know if they put down their phone and then went on a trip to Bali, right? You just don’t know.

Angela Tuell: 10:16

Yeah.

Billie Cohen: 10:17

So it was very satisfying to work with, with Wendy at WendyPerrin.com. That’s the name of her site, it’s simple, to make those connections, because then we knew people were traveling, and we’d hear back from them, they write reviews about, oh, we took your recommendation, and we went on this trip with this person. And it was fantastic.

Angela Tuell: 10:33

That’s cool.

Billie Cohen: 10:34

Yeah, it was a really nice next step in my career, right after doing all the creative content creation, to have that direct connection with the people that we were writing for. So that was awesome. And I could do it from anywhere in the world, which was the huge boom, so I just did it. And sometimes it was okay, I’m gonna go to Portugal, because maybe we want to interview a possible trip planner that we might add to our list. Or other times, it was like, I’m just going to Switzerland because I want to see the Reichenbach falls where Sherlock Holmes, you know, in the stories supposedly fell right to his death, and I would just go, it was great. I

Angela Tuell: 11:18

That is so cool. What were you surprised to learn loved it. living that way?

Billie Cohen: 11:22

Well, I was surprised that – I shouldn’t I was surprised, but the biggest lesson is that good shoes are everything.

Angela Tuell: 11:31

Oh.

Billie Cohen: 11:31

Everything. You have to have good shoes. And that like, if you have good shoes, a full belly and a good night’s sleep, you can pretty much face just about everything.

Angela Tuell: 11:43

Yeah.

Billie Cohen: 11:44

So I learned to always carry granola bars in my bag.

Angela Tuell: 11:49

Mmmm. Ok – that’s a good tip.

Billie Cohen: 11:50

And I think what surprised me was just how easy it was to meet people and make new friends. Another tip Google Translate is like great for making friends. I had an Airbnb in German, in the German area of Switzerland, a town called Chur. And the host, she didn’t speak a word of English. And I can say danke and that’s it. So I put, I put my phone on the table. It was a live Google Translate. And we have like an hour long conversation about architecture and her camping trip and her daughter and –

Angela Tuell: 12:24

Everything.

Billie Cohen: 12:24

Yeah, so it’s, it’s, it’s really good. I just love talking to people. And yeah, it can happen now with technology. So that’s really good.

Angela Tuell: 12:32

Thank goodness, I now I always try to learn as much as I can. For that I never I’m very bad at remembering it, doing it well, I guess.

Billie Cohen: 12:40

It’s so hard, it’s so hard.

Angela Tuell: 12:42

It is so hard.

Billie Cohen: 12:43

Please. Thank you. And you’re welcome will go a long way.

Angela Tuell: 12:46

Right?

Billie Cohen: 12:46

Just those little gestures.

Angela Tuell: 12:48

Yes.

Billie Cohen: 12:48

And then technology helps with the rest. But I think –

Angela Tuell: 12:51

Thank goodness.

Billie Cohen: 12:52

It was just really fun. And I, I didn’t move around fast. I think that wasn’t so much a surprise it was just something I learned along the way. Like if I was able to stay in a place for two weeks, at least, that that was a very different experience than just blowing through town and doing some of the major tourist attractions or whatnot. And because because I was working, I actually needed that kind of rhythm. And it opens up a place to you in a very different way. So I would, you know, arrive. And then I’d have to suss out like, Okay, where am I going to work, right? What coffee shops am I going to work out? Is there a public library, and I love public libraries. So they’re great places to work. And they’re, they can be really, really cool entry points into a community. So you find a place that you’re going to be and then you start to become a regular and maybe you talk to the guy who makes the coffee every morning or you see other people there. And so I think what I learned was that traveling slow, was it’s just a very different perspective on a place and a culture and an experience.

Angela Tuell: 13:57

That’s a great tip. And that’s wonderful. If you can do it. I feel like our trips are super quick. You know, we have one week and yeah, it’s like, see everything you get and cram it in. So I love, I love that.

Billie Cohen: 14:08

Yeah. And I will say I’m gonna, I’m very was a huge privilege to be able to do that. I know, everyone can’t travel that way. But it is something to think about if you have if you have time off. You know, if you say want to go to Turkey, do you maybe just spend the week in Istanbul, you know?

Angela Tuell: 14:25

Yeah, and not try to see three other towns.

Billie Cohen: 14:28

Yeah.

Angela Tuell: 14:30

Now that’s a really good point. So would you do it again?

Billie Cohen: 14:33

Oh, my God, I’d do it again. Absolutely. Absolutely. And I’m sure I will, you know, it’s just a matter of, of the timing and, you know, how, where I’m working and how to be connected. Like right now. It’s I have traveled and worked while I’m traveling during while I’ve been at AFAR, but but it’s a, it’s it’s a bigger team that I work with now. So I do kind of have to be available during basic, you know, usual hours. But absolutely, I would do it again in a second. And I’m sure I will. So stay tuned.

Angela Tuell: 15:09

Awesome. So going back to current days you just mentioned, can you tell us more about your role as executive editor at AFAR?

Billie Cohen: 15:15

Sure. So I work on both print and digital. We do a print magazine four times a year. And, and I love that I get to do both because I have background in both. And I work with the editor in chief Julie, Julie Cosgrove and our editorial director, Sarika Bansal, and a whole host of like, talented people, that’s, like, the big reason I wanted to work there. And, and so I get to work on both. And it’s a lot of content creation, and editing, and strategizing, and thinking about what kind of stories we want to put out. And what we want to cover and how we want to all of that content to tell the story of what AFAR is about our mission, which is the other reason I really wanted to work there. It’s, it’s because they really do believe in travel as a force for good in the world. So and it’s not just a line, you know, like, we really look for stories about experiences and places and people and companies that support the communities that are visited, that are sensitive to the effects of, of travel on the planet, and that, like make lives better for travelers and for the places and people that they’re visiting. So that that DNA really runs through all of the content that we create. And it’s a big part of the conversations that we have every day. And I had freelanced for AFAR a couple of times over the years, when they needed kind of a fill in editor. So I had started to become familiar with that. And it was just one of the things that I found really attractive about and wanted to, to go back for just to travel is, it travel is hard on the environment.

Angela Tuell: 16:59

When all of that comes through in the articles, and in the magazines, and digital, so you all are doing a wonderful job at that.

Billie Cohen: 17:06

Oh, glad to hear that. Thanks. Thank you.

Angela Tuell: 17:09

How would you describe the fire reader?

Billie Cohen: 17:12

Hmm. Let’s see. They are. They’re experienced travelers. They’re conscientious travelers. They’re the people whose friends are always asking them for travel advice.

Angela Tuell: 17:25

Yeah, right.

Billie Cohen: 17:28

They travel a lot. I think, I think our media kits as they travel 17 times a year. They’re drawn to off the beaten path places. They are actively interested in keeping their environmental impact low. They asked for those kinds of things and products and experiences when they travel. But they also you know, they’re explorers, they’re adventurers, the whole the, the brand was our founders, Greg Sullivan, and Joe Diaz they, they met and traveled together when they were young. And were like, hey, let’s start a magazine. You know, and they are outdoorsy, adventure travelers and our our readers continue to, to feel that way. We do a couple of packages every year, we called Epic Trips, we call them Epic Trips. And they are about, you know, sort of these, throw yourself at the world kind of experiences.

Angela Tuell: 18:23

Yes.

Billie Cohen: 18:23

And so we, we we keep that in mind. And so I know I’ve said a lot of things that sound very spinachy. But like the main point of, of what we do, and I’m really what anyone in travel wants to do is share that joy of travel, and that curiosity. And we feel that back from our readers. And so we try and deliver that to them as well. So..

Angela Tuell: 18:44

And I think show that it’s attainable. I mean, yeah, that’s always really helpful. And a big part of why I love reading, travel, travel writers.

Billie Cohen: 18:54

Yeah, absolutely stuff that’s attainable. How to do it and do it in ways that maybe you didn’t think about doing it. Yeah, more places that you weren’t thinking about. Yeah. Yeah, I love it too. I mean that’s why I do what I do. Right. I want to read about travel, I want to breathe travel. I want to do it all the time.

Angela Tuell: 19:11

So what advice do you have, I have to ask about PR professionals. Now for PR professionals with a travel story idea for AFAR?

Billie Cohen: 19:20

I guess the first thing – and you know this firsthand – is like, please forgive me if I don’t respond to the email.

Angela Tuell: 19:27

Because you get hundreds a day, I’m assuming.

Billie Cohen: 19:30

So many. We get, and I’m not the only one. I know all of us editors, we get so many and it would be a full time job to respond. So I apologize to everyone who’s listening in advance. And I also like, I want to say thank you to like I’ve worked with a lot of amazing PR pros over the years and they get it and they are so smart and they’re like the best ones are like partners you know, they they understand what what you might be Interested in, what your brand is about. And they can help sort through the noise to track down what you need. And they have their eyes and ears open, you know, for connections that might be by might be helpful. And so they open a conversation. And I really appreciate that. So I want to say thank you. And I guess after that, my advice is kind of the same thing I say to, to freelance writers who are pitching me like, and it’s very basic, right? Read, read the print magazine, read the website, subscribe to our newsletters, listen to the podcast, you know get a sense of what we cover and why we cover it, I don’t want you to waste your time. Right. And, and I also want to, I don’t want to

Angela Tuell: 20:36

Right. annoy you if I’m not responding to things that aren’t like in my wheelhouse. So if they can try to hone in on what is in our lane that makes both of our lives easier. And I also and I also say this to writers, and this is a personal preference. I love a good headline. So you’re gonna pitch me something, like pull out what the, what’s the hook. You know, bold it, or put it on the top. That’s just me. And I how I that’s how I learned to write we had an editor at Timeout years ago. And he he would just have meetings, we come to the meeting with five headlines, you don’t have to have a story, you don’t even have to have to know how we’re going to do the story. It could be pie in the sky. But let’s start with headlines and see what happens. And we came up with so many great ideas and packages from that. So I still, I still use that. I love that. I always say we think in headlines. And I really, really tried to do that.

Billie Cohen: 21:33

You really do. And I think that’s really helpful to me also when hearing from PR professionals, because kind of helps me think about what what the story might be or what they think is important about what they’re sharing.

Angela Tuell: 21:48

Right. And to help you just scan everything you’re getting quickly. Yeah. Something I should you know, dig into deeper or look at further. Yeah.

Billie Cohen: 21:57

Exactly. And it’s not that I want the that. Like I’m not saying hey, write the story for me come here, every idea, but it helps pinpoint what the important thing is the piece of the, of the story that you think is important for us to understand.

Angela Tuell: 22:10

Right.

Billie Cohen: 22:11

And that’s a great starting point.

Angela Tuell: 22:12

And then you can see if it fits with what you do.

Billie Cohen: 22:14

Yeah, yeah.

Angela Tuell: 22:16

You just mentioned podcasts. So I do have to say that you’re not a newbie to podcasts. You’ve been on AFAR’s podcast Unpacked, talking about maps and how they are more important than ever. And maybe you’ve done other episodes, but I know that’s a recent one. I’d love to hear more on the podcast and on this topic that is such fascinating insight.

Billie Cohen: 22:36

I’m laughing. I’m so glad that you pulled it out. Because I’m like fascinated with maps. And I’ve been pitching everyone at AFAR who will listen to me. I’m like, let me do just a podcast all about maps. I’m sure there’s an audience for it,

Angela Tuell: 22:47

And they’re like, What? right? Come one.

Billie Cohen: 22:48

Yeah, and they’re like, mmm, maybe not. But Aislyn Greene is our podcast director. And she very graciously allowed me to get super nerdy and do an episode on our podcast called Unpacked. And the it’s, the theme of Unpacked is kind of where we untangle complex topics of travel. And sometimes they’re very intel focused, like travel insurance. But sometimes they’re more more complicated cultural conversations like, like the movement to return national park land to Native Americans. So we she covers so many different things. And it’s, it’s a really interesting podcast, and we have a lot of great voices on it. And she, let me talk about maps. And I just love them. Like, they’re the thing that got me into travel as a kid. There’s a thing that I think hooked me about travel. And, you know, it was from, it was from like, the Lord of the Rings, books, you know, like, theyl have these beautiful maps in them. And it just fired my imagination. And I grew up in New Jersey, we weren’t going anywhere. Okay, traveling as a kid. We went to like Hershey Park in Pennsylvania and Disney World once and, but I saw these maps, and I was like, wow,

Angela Tuell: 24:03

Yeah. they’re, they’re, you know, these other worlds on a page. And they also they aren’t just drawings, they’re stories. And like, as I got older, I kind of realized, kind of what went into making them and who’s drawing them and what story are they trying to tell, what information are they are they communicating? So I pitched that to Aislyn and she said, Sure. And so I got to talk to the most interesting people and I just had a blast. I talked to these two women who are mapping historical black towns across the country. And I talked to a guy who just won a national National Geographic Explorer award because he’s working in digital mapping, and examining how he can bring racial justice and social awareness to how maps are made. It was just like so cool to go beyond what we see on Google Maps and think about about that. And I’m on Google Maps like 100 times. I love that we will definitely link to that episode so everyone listening can listen to that as well. And you know, we must be similar in age because I remember I didn’t travel a lot either, but a little bit and I remember planning our trip to Washington DC as maybe a middle schooler. And having these maps, and planning them out based on the map, you know, on paper and just being so excited about that, because…

Billie Cohen: 25:32

They were so cool. Like you would like highlight your, your path and yeah, I still, I still love it so much. So yeah, if anyone out there wants to, you know, I should crowdfund they want to support my dream to have an all maps, podcast, all maps all the time.

Angela Tuell: 25:47

I love it. I also have to ask about nerd travel.

Billie Cohen: 25:53

No, yeah.

Angela Tuell: 25:54

Your bio is the first place that I’ve heard that term. And maybe it’s been used more, but that was, that was interesting to me. So tell me more.

Billie Cohen: 26:02

I want to make it a thing of like nerd travel, it should be a thing. Maybe I maybe that’s what my podcast should be. But like, I, I will travel for, like, the smallest or most narrowly specific reason, right? Like I went to Switzerland, because the Reichenbach Falls were there. And I would love Sherlock Holmes as a kid and read all the stories and I was like, Oh, I can go there. And you can see this little waterfall. And then I found out that the CERN the, the nuclear research laboratory facility outside Geneva, where they will, they’ve done a lot of cool science stuff there. But like they, they discovered the what they call the God particle. And they invented the internet. And they’ve done a lot of a lot of smart stuff. But it’s open to the public.

Angela Tuell: 26:47

Wow.

Billie Cohen: 26:48

You can go for free! Right? And I was like, Oh, well, I’m going that’s

Angela Tuell: 26:49

That’s really cool. And then do you explore other areas, I’m assuming, you once the other thing I’m doing. So like, these very, like, specific, nerdy kind of reasons to go somewhere I will travel for, like I said, I love libraries, I will travel for a you’re there? cool library. So I just love that idea of of not needing a Absolutely. Absolutely. I spent. I spent a month in Switzerland. big reason to go somewhere just like one way in that really catches your own personal quirk, you know. And it was wonderful and saw so much else. And then oh, that’s where I met the Airbnb woman who only spoke German. Oh yes. Yes.

Billie Cohen: 27:30

And we use the Google Translate. But yeah, absolutely. It’s just a way in. And I know a lot of people have that, have that kind of lens through which they maybe see travel. A writer I know who’s very into gardens, and he thinks Right.

Angela Tuell: 27:41

You’ve never been? about that when he wants to travel. Where are the, where is there a beautiful garden? It’s just sort of a way to kind of

Billie Cohen: 27:47

I’ve never been and I read about – narrow down the world and then once you’re there it’s a way in

Angela Tuell: 27:52

Oh it’s so great.

Billie Cohen: 27:53

Did you see the fireflies? to, to the rest of the place. So I’ll do that. Like I really want

Angela Tuell: 27:55

Oh, I don’t know if I – no. to go to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennesee.

Billie Cohen: 28:08

So apparently once a year, the fireflies in one part of the park. They blink in synchronicity.

Angela Tuell: 28:16

No, I have not seen that.

Billie Cohen: 28:18

How cool is that?

Angela Tuell: 28:19

That’s pretty cool.

Billie Cohen: 28:20

Right? Nature is amazing. So I could talk about that.

Angela Tuell: 28:24

It is. Yeah, so I can talk to you all about it because they know the area very well.

Billie Cohen: 28:26

Oh that’s great. I’ll meet you there. Well go this spring.

Angela Tuell: 28:29

Sounds great. I love all these I don’t want to say quirky but super interesting things about you. So another one is that you have a soft spot for Oreo flavors around the world. You must tell us more. What’s the most interesting flavor you’ve had? And what about the worst?

Billie Cohen: 28:48

They might be the same thing. It started it started when I was digital nomadic and I was in in Bali in new booth and I went into a grocery store and I saw a package of blueberry ice cream Oreos.

Angela Tuell: 29:03

What?

Billie Cohen: 29:03

Yeah. Right. And so they were they were the the chocolate colored cookie. And but the the cream inside was like light purple.

Angela Tuell: 29:11

Okay.

Billie Cohen: 29:12

And when I took a bite it had, the cream had something in it that made your mouth feel cold kind of the way peppermint would. To mimic the feeling of ice cream. And it was-

Angela Tuell: 29:25

Oh.

Billie Cohen: 29:25

Yeah. So it was – and then the blueberry flavor was like super chemically not anything for me. So it was like a very strange, not delicious experience. But it was so it was just so cool. And I thought well, I bet there are I’m gonna keep my eyes open. I love grocery stores to begin with when I travel.

Angela Tuell: 29:46

Oh, yes. Yeah.

Billie Cohen: 29:47

You like that?

Angela Tuell: 29:47

Yeah.

Billie Cohen: 29:48

It’s just so fun to see what’s different. So I was in them anyway. And so I started to keep an eye out and I kept finding flavors that weren’t available in America and I know now like Oreos does a lot of flavors, and it’s part of their marketing shtick, but, but it wasn’t so much, so much like 10 years ago. So yeah.

Angela Tuell: 30:07

I didn’t know they were around the world. I leared something new at that point. Yeah.

Billie Cohen: 30:11

All over. And I’m sure other thing, there are a lot of so many foods that, that bring everybody together, right? I guess I guess you could bond over Oreos. Though I didn’t make anybody taste those blueberry ice cream ones. They were weird.

Angela Tuell: 30:22

That was nice of you. And um, yeah, I’m sure you only ate one or part of one.

Billie Cohen: 30:25

I did. I did, but I schlepped them around for a while so that I could I could see if anybody else wanted to try them. But I’ve just like, they’re just they’re fun. So I take pictures of them everywhere I go and look for them. I found a lemon pie flavor in Mexico City. There was a cool mint one in Bucharest.

Angela Tuell: 30:45

Okay.

Billie Cohen: 30:46

It looks normal, but it was minty. And then I was, this was sort of scandalous, I thought. The Lady Gaga made made Oreos a couple of years ago. Remember and they were bright pink cookies with green cream? I might be. I think I don’t remember that. And so they would look amazing and very Lady Gaga ish. But, like in France, they were just regular brown and white Oreos but the packaging was different.

Angela Tuell: 31:14

Probably because you can’t use the coloring there.

Billie Cohen: 31:17

Oh. Oh my god, you just solved it. That’s probably why.

Angela Tuell: 31:20

I’m assuming, you know, they have better food regulations.

Billie Cohen: 31:24

They might, yeah.

Angela Tuell: 31:25

Maybe.

Billie Cohen: 31:26

It’s just I don’t know, it just became this fun thing to keep track of, of like, well, what flavors are going to be interesting to a community and in a different part of the world?

Angela Tuell: 31:34

Yeah.

Billie Cohen: 31:34

Right. And, and then also Yeah, like little little things, quirky things about, about a food regulation.

Angela Tuell: 31:43

So now I’m going to watch for Oreos.

Billie Cohen: 31:45

You have to. You have to. In fact, it’s funny, when I started AFAR we use, we use Slack. And I had like, you know, everyone has a different icon for their, for their avatar, and mine is the Oreo cookie.

Angela Tuell: 31:58

I mentioned before we started recording, but this episode should publish right before the new year. So we would love to talk a little bit about 2024. You recently wrote an article about nine ways we’re going to travel differently in 2024 to make the world better. I love that idea. We’ll link to it in our show notes. But tell us a little bit maybe the Cliff’s Notes version.

Billie Cohen: 32:18

I was thinking about a way that we could make New Year’s travel resolutions as a, you know, at the editors on staff and do something a little different. And you know, it’s fun to lift the curtain and kind of talk about how we think about travel. And I also I wanted to show like we we try and walk the walk, right? We don’t just talk about about AFAR being a place where we publish content about sustainable and good for the planet travel. But like we actually do think about it ourselves. So I I asked, I asked the crew, and I got some really great answers. I learned a lot. I learned from one of our deputy editors, Tim Chester, he, he’s super educated in sustainability practices in the travel industry. And he runs, we have a section of the site called Travel for Good content, he runs that. But so he turned me on to an organization called Tomorrow’s Air which, which you can donate to and it funds technology that works on capturing carbon, so you can donate.

Angela Tuell: 33:18

Oh yes.

Billie Cohen: 33:19

Right. Like I didn’t know about that.

Angela Tuell: 33:21

Yeah, I heard about it very recently, when we’re talking with the UN you know about the climate change

Billie Cohen: 33:25

Oh, awesome. Yeah. So it was like it was maybe self things, so. serving. I learned a lot from editing the story. And then our senior commerce editor, Lindsay Matthews, she’s had a travel resolution, she’s going to go to a zero waste restaurant in Sweden. I mean, she’s also going to Sweden to see the Eurovision finals. So we’re not, we’re not serious all the time. We love…

Angela Tuell: 33:52

You’re not perfect.

Billie Cohen: 33:54

I mean, maybe. I don’t know, going to Sweden for the Eurovision finals is kind of perfect.

Angela Tuell: 33:59

True, ok, that’s a good point.

Billie Cohen: 34:02

But like that’s interesting that this, this restaurants called Spill. It’s in Malmo that that exists, you know, is really interesting to learn about so it was just really cool to get get those kinds of ideas from from the team and and hear what what was bubbling up in their mind and sticking with them for the new year. That was fun.

Angela Tuell: 34:22

Any certain places that our listeners should have on their lists for 2024?

Billie Cohen: 34:26

Well, I’m so glad you asked. We also just published our where to go in 2024 list. It’s online now and the print issue will be out like the first week of January. And it’s so pretty. I know some people get their stuff digitally these days but the this issue of the magazine is so gorgeous. It’s one of my favorite covers ever.

Angela Tuell: 34:48

I love the print. I love the print magazines.

Billie Cohen: 34:50

Feel so nice. And it also like this one has stories about

Angela Tuell: 34:52

Yeah. cherry blossom season in Japan and a cool design movement in the Netherlands. So I I’d recommend you know all of you get the magazine. But you could also go online and look at the list and we picked 25 places that we’re super excited about. And they’re – what I love about the list at AFAR because I know everybody does these lists – and I love all of them like I just eat them up. But at AFAR we covered places that our writers either live in or had spent time in so they’re really they have this sort of knowledge and context which was so made it so fun to edit and read. So I’m very excited about a place in Czechnia called Brno. You’re supposed to, I think, roll the”r” but I genetically Okay. I was almost going to try to say it, but…

Billie Cohen: 35:38

But I can’t do that. But so it it’s a muse, a city of music. The UNESCO City of Music, and they kind of there’s music everywhere. And almost every building in the city is used for music in some way. And so they have festivals throughout the year. They have a festival in August that’s called the Music Marathon. And like, it’s all free shows. And they have been, like in courtyards, and public squares and markets. And it just sounds so cool. And of course it has all the charm of the European city, right? So it’s, it just sounds amazing. So don’t just go to Prague go to go to Brno.

Angela Tuell: 36:17

Make sure you go there. Yes.

Billie Cohen: 36:19

And then there is another place, um – well we did it, we kind of called out a couple of the cities that are going to be capitals of culture, or the green capitals for 2024. And two that I was really excited about. Were one is in Norway called Boto. It’s the first I’m also probably pronouncing that wrong. I apologize. It’s an – I love an out of the way place – and it is the first European Capital of Culture that’s in the Arctic circle, above the artic circle.

Angela Tuell: 36:48

Oh, wow.

Billie Cohen: 36:49

So yeah, so they’re gonna do throughout the year, they’re gonna have various cultural events, like an opera about Stockfish, which is their main, their main fish business. And, and it just it you know, it’s beautiful is one of these cute Norwegian towns on water and, you know, colorful buildings, and it looks gorgeous. And it just would be a really cool way to experience a place that maybe you wouldn’t have thought to go to.

Angela Tuell: 37:16

Yes, I want to go to all these places.

Billie Cohen: 37:19

I know.

Angela Tuell: 37:19

Keep talking.

Billie Cohen: 37:21

I’m happy to. And then the other one that is a capital of culture that I was excited about is Tartu in Estonia, and it’s also the second largest city in Estonia. Tallinn, I think is what most people are probably familiar with, because it it’s where a lot of the Baltic cruises stop. And it the, the old city of Tallinn is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s all like 14th century castles and beautiful old, old walls and it’s gorgeous. But I went I was just so lucky. I went at the end of the summer, and got to see the whole country or a lot of the country and I just fell in love with it. And Tartu is the second largest city, it’s sort of in the southern region of the country. And that’s going to be a Capital of Culture. And the city feels like, feels like you’re in the south of France. That’s just the way like there’s a central plaza that’s, like cobblestone that has sculpture, and there’s a million open air cafes. Just has this very, very southern European feel. And they’re going to they’re doing a lot of cool cultural stuff there. So those were two that I was really excited about.

Angela Tuell: 38:26

Oh, that’s amazing. Everyone gets your January issue of AFAR as soon as it comes out.

Billie Cohen: 38:33

Yes, a lot of good stuff in there. I I’m excited to go everywhere.

Angela Tuell: 38:37

Yeah. Yes. That’s the hard part is the wonderlust. So how can our listeners connect with you online?

Billie Cohen: 38:43

Yeah, well, obviously, you can find all of our work at AFAR.com and and we’re on social media for media. For me, you can follow me on Instagram. It’s BillyTravels. B-I-L-L-I-E travels and LinkedIn. Those are honestly the two that I use the most. So that’s those are good places to follow me.

Angela Tuell: 39:04

Thank you so much. This has been so much fun and interesting.

Billie Cohen: 39:08

It’s been so much fun. I mean, thank you for letting me talk about myself and all my quirks and work. Thank you, Angela.

Angela Tuell: 39:18

That’s all for this episode of Media in Minutes, a podcast by Communications Redefined. Please take a moment to rate, review and subscribe to our show. We’d love to hear what you think. You can find more at CommunicationsRedefined.com/podcast. I’m your host, Angela Tuell. Talk to you next time.

Billie takes us on a journey today through humble beginnings, life as a digital nomad, trying unique Oreo flavors worldwide, and finding her stride working alongside other curious travelers dedicated to sustainable travel. Listen to learn more about local culture and embrace the realities of worldwide travel.

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