Erin Spens

Photo by Davey Spens

May 01 2015

Erin Spens is a book-hoarding, travel-writing, coffee-drinking, obsessive- cleaning city hopper.
Not many people know that Boat Magazine is run out of my living room.
Failure is subjective.
Tomorrow, I will continue worrying about Issue 08 printing correctly and whether I missed any mistakes before sending it to print. This will go on until I can see a physical copy, and then I’ll be excited about it (and finally sleep again).

Erin Spens is in search of stories with grit. She runs the biannual and exceptionally nomadic publication, Boat, which is part travelogue and part sociocultural study. Each issue zeroes in on a different city, and the title actively eschews the travel mag norm of branded, canned luxo-wanderlust. And by favoring deep reads and complex, rich storytelling, the magazine steps well beyond vicarious tourism in favor of full-on cultural immersion. The point is precisely not to make a spectacle of any subject city. Rather, Spens’ inside-out approach helps to unearth and relay a place’s truest elements, from politics to sanguine stories of personal interest.

Twice a year, the entire publication team packs up and moves to an urban locale of choice—so far they’ve done Sarajevo, Detroit, London, Athens, Kyoto, Reykjavik and Lima, respectively, and Los Angeles is fresh off to press as we write this. It can all sound a bit exhausting, but for Spens, who has claimed home in Iowa City, New York, Istanbul, London and now Los Angeles, each issue offers a new opportunity to realign her perspective on the world. It is a noble pursuit, and one that resonates through each issue of Boat.

It is a testament to independent publishing that a magazine can operate under its own creative guidance, and that an earnest storyteller like Spens can work tirelessly at bringing little bits of the world directly to the reader. Boat is exceptional because it operates outside the shackles of a static geography. And Spens not only depicts the ethos of a movement, she embodies it.