Whether your ideal weekend getaway includes spending a few days shopping in Portland, Maine, or feasting on crab cakes in Baltimore, Md., trips like these typically require Manhattanites to fill up their car’s gas tank.
But what if they want to leave the car at home – or don’t even have a car?
That’s the basis behind the Web site, offManhattan.com (oM for short), started in 2007 by Lauren Matison ’06 and her fiance, Vince Crossley.
“Since 75 percent of Manhattan doesn’t have a car, it seemed like the perfect city to start a green-themed travel mission,” said Matison, who uses the site to promote sustainable dining and public transportation.
While Matison serves as the site’s editor, Crossley works as the web developer. They created the blog to promote simpler ways to get out of town via greener modes of transit. Whether it’s a bike ride across the Brooklyn Bridge or a bus trip to the ski slopes of Vermont, through oM, over 30,000 readers a month are getting ideas for eco-friendly leisure time.
“We’re trying to make it easier for people to be green and enjoy life while lightening their carbon footprint,” Matison said.
All of the site’s contributors check out their recommendations firsthand. Matison, for example, has visited community-based farms, jazz festivals, beer gardens, flea markets, hiking spots and dozens of pedestrian-friendly cities.
Matison, who previously wrote for Los Angeles magazine and Hearst’s Diversion magazine, started out publishing a few stories a week on her blog. But when the site took off, she decided to leave her job as a magazine editor for BizBash Media and focus solely on oM.
Today, she determines the site’s content, writes, creates marketing partnerships with organizations like the Sierra Club, and oversees a staff of about 15 contributors. One of those contributors is Silvie Snow-Thomas ’05, who met Matison through club soccer at Connecticut College.
“There are avid readers who are actually going to the towns, shops, restaurants and festivals oM recommends,” said Snow-Thomas. “Lauren has built this site from the ground up and showed me that anything is possible when you set your mind to it.”
While at Connecticut College, Snow-Thomas and Matison both wrote for on-campus literary magazines. Snow-Thomas co-founded the student travel magazine, Our Wanderlust, while Matison started the magazine, Confluence, during her senior year, which covered a wide range of topics – from the underground music scene on campus to study abroad programs. Matison said the experience helped prepare her to run oM.
“Working on Confluence made me realize what I wanted to do,” she said. “offManhattan is really a grander version of what I did at Connecticut College.”
Snow-Thomas and Matison also shared a mentor: Blanche Boyd, the Roman and Tatiana Weller Professor of English. Matison remembers hearing about some of Boyd’s student success stories and wanting to follow in their footsteps.
“She made me really want to reach for the stars and become one of those students she talked about in class,” Matison said.
Though Matison doesn’t know if she’s made it into one of Boyd’s stories yet, it’s safe to say that she’s found a winning formula in a challenging economic climate. oM has filmed travel segments with NBC’s “Today in New York” and was featured in Gotham magazine.
What’s next for oM? Matison and Crossley hope to create similar sites for cities like San Francisco and London. There may even be a trip to New London in the near future if Snow-Thomas has anything to say about it.
“I think I might propose to Lauren that our next story be a co-authored piece on New London - just a two hour Amtrak jaunt from Manhattan,” Snow-Thomas said. “We both miss Conn … and Blanche.”