I’ve had a lot of time to contemplate what I might say when we finally reached Daytripping’s 25th anniversary. Now that it’s here, what strikes me the most is how so much has changed in the world and in every aspect of our lives, and how Daytripping has changed so little, and not only survived, but flourished.

With every trip around the sun I find myself wondering if this will be the year that all the predictions will come true—that there will be no more paper, no more magazines—that no one will want to advertise in such an ancient medium. And yet, our sales are up just a comfortable amount every year, more shops are calling us wanting to advertise, and we’re running out of Daytrippers, just as we always have. Daytripping has also been online for years now and that works for those who can’t find a copy close by, but no one raves about reading the digital version. This “Biggest Little Paper in Canada” has become something of an old friend to thousands of readers, and I’m guessing that you still like it just the way it is. Maybe not every single thing under the sun has to change.

To put it in the most boring possible way, Daytripping is a travel guide. It’s a free paper that promotes a great number of the most unique shops, stops, towns and events in Southwestern Ontario. It’s not your typical magazine because it’s printed on newsprint. It’s not a newspaper because there is no news – lots of stories, but no news. No bad news anyway. Our readers are our writers, which makes for an interesting read. Most of them are from our region in Ontario, but a few are from far and away.

Our story began in a gift shop in Petrolia, Ontario (Canada’s Victorian Oil Town) in 1995. John Redden is a friend and former customer who owned “Under the Maple Tree,” an elegant gift shop in Petrolia. He had mentioned an idea for a paper to me several times over the course of two years but I never thought much about it until he actually showed me an example of what he meant. The paper he dug out of his basement was torn, faded and bent, but the pages inside covered almost every unique antique and craft shop for miles around. Almost all of it was advertising and it covered a large area of the U.S. There were no articles, but he had kept it for almost two years – for the ads! You have to understand that to an advertising salesman, this was amazing. So John Redden is officially credited with the idea for Daytripping, but our paper turned out to be considerably different than the example I saw that day.

Needing shops to advertise, I began by asking Jane Teskey who owned a local folk art shop. By the time I approached Jane I was working on a craft and antique paper that would cover all of Lambton County, but she set me straight and encouraged me to cover all of Southwestern Ontario. I set my sights on the five counties closest to me, covering an area from Windsor to Goderich to Tillsonburg. To drive from one to the others in the triangular shape they form would cover 675 kilometers and take over seven hours. Then there were all the places in between. It was time to hit the road!

When I arrived in towns like Ridgetown, St. Thomas and Kingsville for the first time, I didn’t know a soul. Surprisingly, I walked into the best shops I could find and was not only well received, but encouraged. Many of the people I met sent me to other shops that they felt would be a good fit for this new paper. Some of the customers that took a chance on me then are still in Daytripping today, 25 years later. The strange thing is that I wasn’t even sure that there would be a second issue, and I had no idea that it would be three times as large as the first. In no time at all, Daytripping was covering all of Southwestern Ontario and was being prominently displayed in almost every unique shop along the way.

Within one week after the release of our first issue in March of 1995, I had fielded more calls from people asking to advertise than I had received in the previous year. The response forced me to put a number of other projects aside in order to concentrate on Daytripping and while I was still trying to figure out if “Daytripping” was a good enough name, the most amazing thing happened. One of my customers had backed out of the first issue and the half page space was filled with an eleventh hour recipe column… featuring the only four recipes I knew. At the bottom of that article we asked any readers to send in their recipes, stories, etc. and they actually did! Sue MacKellar and Mr. & Mrs. Chapman were our first contributors.

While the shops, stops, towns and events are the reason for producing this paper, the contributors changed our initial idea into something worthy of the unique shops we promote. Our readers had the opportunity to help build this paper and by meeting the challenge, they have made “The Daytripper” their own. Most of our readers realize that Daytripping is a very special paper, but it is due to the contributions from many writers and artists. Speaking of artists, our front covers have presented the works of artists and photographers such as Barbara Perrin, Elsie Thoonen, Shelley McVittie, Alan Hilgendorf, Al McGillivray, Kay Lamb Shannon, Lucy Ogletree and John Sloane, just to name a few.

In the early years, we would have created the ads and then tried to find enough stories, photos and tidbits to fill the pages, but due to the input from our readers, we now have a small library packed with very good articles, poems, recipes and more to choose from. More than anything else, I love to say “Our Readers are Our Writers.” People that had never before written to a paper, now have faithful readers who pick up Daytripping to read their work. Unless you’re a local, you’ve probably never heard of Ruth Sharon, Eileen Cade Edwards or Glynn Leyshon, C.W. Tiffin or Spokeshave. They’re not famous…yet! The tales we’re told are truly inspiring and Daytripping has become a part of the fabric of southern Ontario.

Daytripping is a surprisingly small business to be calling itself the “Biggest Little Paper in Canada.” There are six of us in all now: Laurie Dunlop and myself both came from an advertising background; Carrie Ann Timm had never worked as an editor, bookkeeper, or graphic designer before coming on board after college in early 1997; Carla Mejia started with us in 2003 as a graphic designer fresh out of college and has now learned the many aspects of publishing a magazine. Rhonda Long successfully began trying her hand at sales with us in 2005. Angela Lyon came to us with years of experience in graphics & office work in 2011. We have a great team, and as a result, the job of producing the paper has become easier over the years, even though the paper has grown immensely. Our office is now at home in Sarnia, Ontario.

Daytripping itself is fun…both as a job and as something to do on your day off. Most people don’t have time for all the extended holidays they would like to take, but there is so much to do in your own backyard that daytrips can become the best getaways of all. Many of our readers keep a copy of Daytripping in their car. It’s a fact that 72% of the tourism in southwestern Ontario comes from within Ontario. It is people travelling from Brantford to Port Dover for the day, or Londoners getting out of the city and driving off to Tillsonburg or Grand Bend. They’re looking for a new road to go down, a new shop to explore and an easy, affordable adventure.

So, Daytripping is a travel guide designed to promote unique businesses in southern Ontario. It’s ours, but it’s also yours. Anyone that has written to us or even read Daytripping has helped to build it from the ground up. It is theirs!

Hopefully, our website will encourage you to visit Southwestern Ontario and give you an idea of the best shops and towns to visit. However, once you’re here you’ll want to find a copy of Daytripping at an Ontario Travel Centre or at one of the shops listed on our Destinations page.

Thanks for reading!