An enforced extension to a vacation. Missed business meetings. The inability to reach family. Unwanted and unavoidable expense. The eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, and the resultant ash cloud that loomed over Europe like a malevolent spirit, meant a lot of different things to a lot of different people - and most of them were negative. Not many of those wannabe travelers who saw their plans ruined by an act of God managed to find anything to smile about amid the disruption, let alone use the unprecedented lockdown of the skies as a chance to unleash some creativity.
Yet that is exactly what British-born journalist Andrew Losowsky decided to do, when, after having celebrated his wedding in Spain, he and his wife found themselves stuck in Dublin en route to their home in the United States. The 32-year-old decided to put the call out to photographers, designers and writers who found themselves in the same boat: let's make a magazine.
The result is Stranded , an 88-page tome born from the frustrations and free time of the grounded traveler, featuring pictures, stories and even volcano-themed cocktail recipes inspired by the Icelandic eruption. As Losowsky writes in the publication's introduction, "when life gives you volcanoes, make magazines."
Is there something of the eternal optimist behind the venture? "Not really," he says. "When we got stranded in Dublin, we were trying to find things to do that wouldn't cost any money - don't forget, nobody knew how long flights would be cancelled for, so we really didn't want to end up broke in the first few days. I couldn't do much work while in Dublin, far from my desk... and then it occurred to me that there must be other writers, photographers, illustrators in the same situation. I thought we could all help each other pass the time, while also reflecting on this strange, unique occurrence."
The assignments Losowsky came up with for his contributors can certainly be described as unique, ranging from explaining the link between the eruption and the firing of a US general in Afghanistan, to a horror story set in the ash cloud. There are also intriguing glimpses into the personal experiences of the frustrated travelers, such as photos of the beds they were forced to sleep in as the disruption reigned, and even the account of a vulcanologist who happened to get stuck while collecting ash on Mount Etna.
A somewhat glaring omission, however, is the personal experience of Losowsky, a one-time resident of Madrid and Barcelona. "I was with my wife in the UK, visiting my parents after our wedding," he explains. "She was due to fly home the morning that the ash cloud settled; I was going to fly to the Netherlands for a conference the next day, before following her to the USA three days later. Instead, we decided to head west, to Dublin. Our flights had a connection there, and Dublin airport was still open. We took a bus, a train and a ferry... and by the time the ferry arrived, Dublin Airport was closed too. We stayed in Dublin for six unplanned days before getting home."
While obviously light-hearted in tone, the project does have a serious purpose, given that all proceeds from the sale of the magazine - which is available through on-demand publisher MagCloud - will go to The International Rescue Committee. "They're a remarkable charity that focuses on helping refugees who are stranded all over the world," says Losowsky. "What I really like about them is that they take things further than just trying to support people in the days and weeks after a tragic event - they also work hard on helping people assimilate to their new homes for months and years afterwards."
As such, everyone who contributed to the project did so on a voluntary basis, receiving no payment but simply the enjoyment of having participated - not to mention the no doubt welcome distraction during a time of enforced waiting...
But after Stranded , is there another naturally occurring phenomena that could give rise to a magazine? "Someone suggested - as a joke - that I go to create a magazine with those Chilean miners and their families," says Losowsky. "Actually, it's not such a stupid idea. Any event that affects a lot of people is filled with stories - as well as a need for those affected to try and process what is happening to them, and to those around them. Spontaneous publications could be one way to help that process."
And as Losowsky can attest, making them certainly helps to pass the time.
Stranded is available to buy at www.magcloud.com for $18.95.