Switchback Travel occupies a quiet corner on 34th Avenue and Pike Street in Madrona, but visit the travel company’s website and find yourself among fjords in Norway, glacier-blue lakes in Patagonia, and looking out over jaw-dropping vistas from the peaks of the North Cascades in our own backyard. An underlying theme of adventure threads throughout Switchback’s catalogue of detailed travel guides, focusing on where to hike, ski, climb and more in locations as varied as the well-tracked American West to Tierra del Fuego in the southernmost reaches of Argentina. Not only that, but the site’s extensive selection of product and gear reviews ensure you’ll know which tents will keep you dry, which shoes will hold up on your trek, and which camera to capture it all with.
Switchback founder David Wilkinson set out to create an online destination for travel guides that don’t follow the traditional guidebook formula, and prioritizes quality and length of content over quantity. “We aim for articles that are longer than the norm, have writing that is more polished, and are written by people that truly are experts in the field. Instead of publishing articles as fast as we can, we try to make sure they are written and designed the right way,” Wilkinson wrote in an e-mail. For example, readers can follow contributor and accomplished climber Chris Kalman up and down the peaks of the Andes in the Cochamó Valley in Chile through his three-part journal, or read about photographer Cody Duncan’s personal journey to the Lofoten Islands in Norway.
The site is easy to navigate and every page brings one stunning photograph after another, which was part of Switchback’s design strategy. Wilkinson says, “I was always someone who grabbed a travel guidebook and went straight for the photographs in the middle, so photography and good user experience both were big priorities.” There is also only one ad per page, which is a refreshing departure from travel sites running endless ads for car rentals and hotels.
Although the site, which was founded in 2011, now has a global reach (a third of its readers are in Europe), Wilkinson says he is enjoying the office’s tucked away location in Madrona. The neighborhood was the first place he visited in Seattle, and he says “There is a lot more in terms of business here than most people realize, with start-ups, design studios, small businesses, etc. Madrona is a vibrant community and I’m happy to be a part of it.” So, give the Switchback crew a wave when you’re in the neighborhood, and visit the site for endless travel inspiration!