• Interview: Editor Nikki Vargas

    Nikki Vargas is the editor for Unearth Women, a multi-media travel company for women, run by women. This includes Unearth Magazine which is the first female travel magazine with global distribution in an international market.

    Unearth Women was founded in 2018 and at its foundation it is a network of adventure and exploration which also includes, travel journalism featuring the stories of women all over the globe.

    The Travel Addict got the chance to catch up with Vargas who talks about her role as editor of a travel magazine, her most memorable travels and how her culture and family influence her spirit for adventure. Check out the Travel Addict’s interview with Nikki Vargas below:

    What does the title of the magazine Unearth Women mean to you?

    The name Unearth Women is a nod to our mission to both unearth women’s stories that have been largely overlooked, as well as unearth women’s incredible contributions to industries and cities around-the-globe. 

    What is the most challenging and the most gratifying part of being an editor of a magazine?

    By far the most challenging part of both being an editor for a magazine and launching a media start-up is to create a print publication in the digital age. We live in a time where publications are vying for the reader’s attention, struggling to meet their bottom lines, and where instant access to information is valued over long-form print journalism.

    Regardless of these challenges, our team perseveres as we truly believe a publication like Unearth Women needs to exist and, what’s more, that a travel magazine that speaks to women is long overdue.

    As an editor, my job is to identify stories that not only represent the Unearth Women brand, but that also encourage people to want to go out and buy the issue. I am constantly on the lookout for incredible stories, women to profile, travel trends to address, and destinations to feature in the magazine.

    How do you decide on topics for story ideas for the magazine? 

    Each issue of Unearth Women centers around a unifying theme. Our first issue focused on resilience, our second issue focused on consent, our third issue focused on power, our fourth issue will be dedicated to inclusivity. These themes give each issue a focus and allow us to select stories and women to feature that ultimately tap into that theme.

    For example, in our first issue, we featured VICE correspondent Isobel Yeung for her resilience in reporting on women’s stories in places like Afghanistan and Syria. In our second issue, we explored the topic of consent and how countries like Thailand are defining it. In our upcoming issue—the Inclusivity issue—we feature Nomadness Travel Tribe founder, Evita Robinson, and her work to diversify the travel industry and champion travelers of color. 

    Why is it important for Unearth Women to be called a feminist magazine? What sets

    Unearth Women apart from other magazines targeted for women?

    Women makeup 70% of the travel consumer base and yet most travel media—particularly in print—is founded by men. We wanted Unearth Women to be the go-to travel magazine for female travelers and minorities who feel largely overlooked and unaddressed by the travel industry. Our next issue, for example, is entirely dedicated to diversity in the travel space and features stories from travelers of color, travelers with disabilities, trans travelers, senior travelers, and more. 

    Many travel magazines take on this ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach when it comes to travel content. We see the same travel guides, listicles, destination features all blanketed to travelers. What Unearth Women does is acknowledge that the travelers of today are all unique and have unique needs and travel concerns they want addressed in their content. This is ultimately what sets us apart: our push to address the travel industry as it is today and travelers as they actually are.

    What do you think the future of the editorial landscape looks like for women?

    It is very inspiring to see women creating print and digital platforms to lift each other’s voices. I think the editorial landscape will continue to evolve and diversify so that women have a stronger voice as do communities of people who have historically been marginalized. We are shifting from people telling other people’s stories to now people telling their own stories, and that is a very powerful thing. 

    As a Colombian woman, were there any other Latinas you were inspired by growing up (famous or familial)?

    My two grandmothers—Clarita and Amparo—have always inspired me. Amparo, who has unfortunately passed on, was the image of grace. She had impeccable manners and class that, from a young age, she always worked to instill in me. My grandmother, Clarita, is a firecracker. Loud, funny, unapologetically herself, and vivacious—Clarita has such a palpable thirst for life that I have always admired. 

    What is your favorite travel destination in Colombia?

    I absolutely adore Cartagena. This colorful seaside gem is what one imagines when they think of Colombia. The colors! The food! The music! Everything about Cartagena is enchanting to me and although my extended family is in Bogota, I always make a point to head to Cartagena when visiting the country. 

    What was the first trip (first place) you went to that sparked your love of travel?

    It was Cartagena! My family moved from Colombia when I was fairly young and had no interest in returning to Colombia. It wasn’t until my twenties, after college, that I gathered some friends and we planned a five-day trip to Cartagena. This was my first time traveling abroad on my own dime, without family. Up until then, travel felt like this unattainable luxury for me. That trip really showed me that not only travel could be affordable—a revelation for an entry-level, post-grad in NYC—but it also set me on this path to becoming a travel writer and editor. 

    Where would you like to go that you haven’t been to yet?

    So many places! Tanzania, Greece, Sri Lanka, Jordan, Egypt, Brazil—the list goes on! 

    What are your top essentials to pack when you travel? 

    I always bring compressions socks and Bayer for long haul international flights. No matter what trip, I always bring a journal and a pen with me as I’m bound to either derive inspiration or introspection from my travels. I always bring a book with me and, as of late, I always bring a copy of Unearth Women magazine in case I meet someone who may find it interesting! 

    What is one piece of travel advice you can offer to other women?

    Travel on your own terms. However, you like to travel, you go do that. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty or judged. People have this tendency to project their idealized version of traveling onto others. We cut each other down for being ‘tourists versus travelers,’ for making someone feel like their style of travel is somehow inferior to our own, less authentic, less worldly. In the end, all that actually matters is if you’re traveling mindfully (which is to say you’re not leaving a wake of litter in your path and are being conscious of the destination and culture you’re visiting) and you’re enjoying your trip.

    Our thanks to Nikki Vargas for the interview and featured image above.

  • Botero

    Fernando Botero Angulo is a Colombian figurative artist and sculptor. Born in Medellín, his signature style, also known as “Boterismo”, depicts people and figures in large, exaggerated volume, which can represent political criticism or humor, depending on the piece. He is considered one of the most recognized and quoted living artist from Latin America.

    I visited the city landmarks and photographed the famous Botero statues that line the city streets in Botero Plaza near Museo de Botero. This is a must see stop if you visit the city.

  • An Evening With Roberto Escobar

    Sometimes opportunities come up while traveling that are unexpected. This was the case while visiting the city of Medellin in Colombia. My friends and I were given the unique opportunity to spend an evening with Roberto Escobar at one of Pablo Escobar’s houses in the city. It was definitely a stand out evening in my travels that I will never forget.

    Roberto is Pablo Escobar’s brother and was the accountant in the Medellin Cartel. At one point he was wanted with his brother on the FBI Most Wanted List for a $10 Million reward. There are photos in the house of their FBI posters and he spoke about being in Washington DC in front of the White House the day the poster came out. He said they even visited the FBI museum.

    He told stories of his brother always in a positive light highlighting the Robin Hood effect he had on the city of Medellin building hospitals, schools and soccer clubs for the city. The family provided housing to all low-income families in the city and provided scholarships to college for hundreds of children.

    Escobar’s home is situated on a hillside in Medellin with views of the airport from the terrace so Pablo could see his shipments of cash arriving by plane from the US. The house is almost setup like a museum of Pablo Escobar’s history. It has cars that belonged to the drug lord and photographs of both of the brothers throughout their years in the cartel. The photos and stories highlight how outrageous the lifestyle was in the 1980’s at the height of their business.

    Roberto Escobar also spoke about being always paranoid during that time and showed safe rooms in the house equipped with oxygen tanks to hide out for long periods if needed. I even tried out the safe room behind the living room fireplace.

    This house is also the site of the attempted kidnapping of Roberto Escobar in 2006 and still has bullet holes in the walls.

    Escobar told stories of meeting politicians, world leaders and entertainers. He spoke about spending time with Frank Sinatra, Fidel Castro and a 3AM visit from Madonna. He was open to answering all of our questions during the evening. When I asked him who the most interesting person he had ever met was, he wouldn’t say because he said they were still alive and maybe wouldn’t like the association.

  • Art in District 13 – Medellin

    District 13 (Comuna 13), the notorious neighborhood in Medellin history, has transformed itself from a dangerous place where residents were afraid to leave their homes into a vibrant center for arts and hip hop dance in the city.

    The area is home to the enormous 384m orange-roofed outdoor escalator, connecting Comuna 13 (located high on the hillside) to the rest of Medellín. A journey that once took residents a strenuous 35-minute hike up the hill has now been transformed into a six-minute trip. The escalator, completed in 2011, is divided into six sections allowing people living on different levels of the hillside to access at different points. It has improved life in Comuna 13 where people now feel more connected to the rest of the city.

    Along the way through the escalator stops you can see vibrant street art that lines the city walls with colorful graphics from amazing graffiti artists in the city.

    Community centers and the Library Park have also opened to provide services to women and children in the area to further education and financial independence.

  • Medellin, Colombia

    After the parades of Carnival were finished, we flew to the city of Medellin. Once considered the most dangerous city in the world because of the notorious Medellin Cartel led by Pablo Escobar, this city is now the center of commerce in Colombia and safer than many cities in the US.

    It is beautiful in landscape in the middle of the Andes Mountains and a stark contrast to the beach city of Cartagena. During the trip to the city we visited District 13 or Comuna 13. This neighborhood has the most tumultuous history in the city with its history of violence surrounding guns, drugs and money. In the 1980’s the neighborhood was controlled by those loyal to drug lord Pablo Escobar.

    Today this area of the city is safe and a major tourist attraction to see graffiti street art projects lining the sidewalks of the neighborhood.

  • Relaxing on Islas del Rosario

    On Friday we took a speedboat to the Islas del Rosario for a relaxing beach day. The ride was about an hour through bright blue ocean waters to reach one of the most beautiful beaches I have seen. There are few things I enjoy more than being on the water on a perfect summer day listening to loud music and singing with friends.

    These islands have many places to stop off for a drink and a major party but we docked and spent the day at the fabulous Agua Azul Beach Resort, a private beach club. We were able to take in the sun and the sand while drinking some amazing pina coladas away from the crowds. I rented a jet ski for an hour to explore further and see the beautiful landscapes of the islands.

  • After the Carnival Parade

    After the parade is finished and the participants have walked miles, the real party begins in the neighborhood at the end of the parade route. Bars are pouring drinks freely, barbeques are smoking, and children are playing with cans of silly string, a carnival tradition.

    The best part of my Colombian experience was meeting the amazing people that have so much pride in their families and communities. It was truly one of my favorite travel experiences.

  • Colombian Carnival Parades

    I was lucky enough to attend and photograph two days of Carnival in Colombia in the city of Barranquilla. The Battle of the Flowers parade took place on Saturday and the Grand Parade took place on Sunday. Dance troupes work all year preparing elaborate floats and colorful costumes for the parades.

    We had great seats in the bleachers on the front row for a perfect view of the parades where I made dozens of new friends happy to celebrate Carnival together. Each parade lasts five hours with thousands of participants from all over the country.

  • Barranquilla Carnival

    On Saturday the major parade of Carnival took place in Barranquilla with the Battle of the Flowers in the afternoon. The celebration included large floats, many celebrities and dancers for 5 hours. We arrived early while people in the troupes were getting ready for the festivities so we were able to get a behind the scenes glimpse of the performers.

    The performers dressed in the traditional colorful costumes that they make throughout the year for the competition. They prepared for the celebration by applying festive makeup for the parade. The performers and dance troupes walked with their clubs for miles on the hot sunny afternoon along a parade route lined with hundreds of thousands of fans. This is the second largest Carnival in South America behind Rio.

  • School Visit in Palenque de San Basilio Village

    The village of Palenque de San Basilio has a population of about 3,500 inhabitants and is located in the foothills of the Montes de María, southeast of the regional capital, Cartagena. The village is inhabited mainly by Afro-Colombians, which are direct descendants of African slaves brought by the Europeans during the Colonization of the Americas.

    The descendants have preserved their ancestral traditions and have developed also their own language; Palenquero. In 2005, UNESCO proclaimed the Palenque de San Basilio village Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

    We were fortunate to be able to visit a local school in the village to meet the students. It is always amazing to meet students studying around the world. Girls in the village are known for their creative, fun hair designs.