LOWELL THOMAS TRAVEL JOURNALISM COMPETITION
Awards for Work Published in 2014-2015
Faculty members of the Missouri School of Journalism judged the competition, with Prof. John Fennell, Prof. Jennifer Rowe and administrative assistant Kim Townlain coordinating. There were 1,406 entries, a near record high. The list of winners, along with these judges’ comments, also may be viewed online at the Foundation website, www.satwf.com. For questions, contact: Mary Lu Abbott, SATW Foundation administrator, 281-217-2872, or email@example.com.
Category 101: Grand Award—Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year
Gold: Todd Pitock, freelance writer
Todd Pitock demonstrates not only a tremendous grasp of thick description but also an uncanny ability to bring meaning to his travel writing. Far more than destination pieces, his stories examine people, history and issues. He ponders the nuanced philosophies of the Bushmen of Botswana and the country’s “Great Nothing.” He laments through the eyes of an astronomer the pervasive loss of the night sky. He ponders the “misleading narrative of ‘hope’” postulated by Amsterdam’s Anne Frank House. Even when he allows himself a bit of whimsy — whether traveling the United States’ Whiskey Trail or sampling Denver’s burgeoning beer breweries — he focuses on culture rather than personal experience.
Silver: Tim Neville, freelance writer
Tim Neville isn’t afraid to let his journalism get personal. He turns stories about fly-fishing with his father in the Chesapeake and sailing the Fiji Islands with the woman who would become his wife into accessible pieces that offer insight into our own lives. And his adventurous spirit knows no bounds. White-water rafting in Albania is one thing. But traveling to North Korea? He and a friend endured days of intense and intimidating scrutiny for the absurd chance to be among the first to ski at a $100 million resort built as a playground for Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un. That’s dedication to the craft.
Bronze: Christopher Solomon, freelance writer
Characters are central to Christopher Solomon’s work. As much as he enjoys skiing the relatively unknown snowcat trails of northern British Columbia, enduring the perilous days-long trek across Alaska’s remote Aniakchak National Monument, or casting futilely for trout in the Patagonian rivers of Argentina, Solomon truly revels in the opportunity to meet and write about the people who make all those things happen. His unique style of prose brings to life the natural landscapes he visits and the folks who make them even more spectacular.
Honorable Mention: Melanie Radzicki McManus, freelance writer
Melanie Radzicki McManus surprises readers with stories about places they’ve never heard of. Who knew there’s a museum memorializing a former Japanese internment camp in McGehee, Arkansas? More impressive, though, is how she inspires readers with her outlandish physical feats. At age 52, becoming only the fourth woman to “thru-hike” the 1,100-mile Ice Age Trail across Wisconsin, she set a fast-packing record by running it in 36 days (35 if you subtract the day she had to log 0 miles to treat a foot infection). Her reporting entertains but almost makes us feel guilty for taking the time to sit down and read it.
Category 102: Newspaper Travel Sections/Coverage
102A—Newspapers with 350,000 or more circulation
Gold: The New York Times, Monica Drake, Travel Editor
In an era of shrinking travel sections, the Times has a robust section with national and international content. Supported by good visuals, the stories are reported well and written in an entertaining style. The “36 Hours” feature is outstanding. The full page cartoon “story” was innovative and adds a different dimension to the already diverse section.
Silver: The Boston Globe, Chris Morris, Travel Editor
The Globe’s focus is on the New England region, but coverage also takes you across the U.S. and around the world, thanks primarily to freelancers. Section covers incorporate both illustration and photography. Columnist Christopher Muther presents a familiar face. The Globe offers the standard travel stories but also mixes in other delights: enduring pangs of conscience watching a rodeo, taking toiletries from hotels and trying to book a flight back to Boston during one of the classic storms.
Bronze: Los Angeles Times, Catharine Hamm, Travel Editor
The Los Angeles Times sections are modest in size but ambitious in scope. The “Fragile World” section reports on environmental concerns from Ethiopia to Ecuador. The Alaska double-truck, staff-written and -photographed feature is a delight to read as are the many stories on traveling California and the West. The quality of the content, both text and visuals, is excellent.
102B — Newspapers under 350,000 circulation
Gold: San Francisco Chronicle, Spud Hilton, Travel Editor
The San Francisco Chronicle offers readers a buffet of travel stories in a compact section. Although it concentrates on the West region, writers regularly visit Europe and sometimes other continents. Wide-ranging topics include women’s ski and snowboarding expeditions, finding hidden rooms in the Big Sur and diving in Palau. There’s something for everyone.
Silver: The Seattle Times, Kristin Jackson, Travel Editor
The Seattle Times cover stories are written and also often photographed by staff (and sometimes readers in the case of the summer-vacation photo contest). This gives the section a Seattle-centric approach, even when the newspaper takes readers to Hawaii or Mexico or around the region for a fresh look at familiar places to visit. The “If you go” boxes provide all the relevant details for travelers, and “Travel Wise” columns offer top-notch advice.
Bronze: The Plain Dealer (Cleveland), Susan Glaser, Travel Editor
The energetic Susan Glaser writes the cover story or stories and adds a column each week. That gives the Cleveland Plain Dealer section a local brand. Her topics range from Disneyland to small cities in Ohio, and she writes with a sense of authority while still providing easily accessible information. Compilation stories, such as four fall getaways, add variety to the city-specific features. Stories on art exhibits and service pieces round out the section.
Category 103: Magazines
103A — Travel Magazines
Gold: National Geographic Traveler, the late Keith Bellows, Editor-in-Chief; Norie Quintos, Executive Editor
The photography is every bit as beautiful as you’d expect when the magazine has a yellow border on its cover. National Geographic Traveler is not trendy, yet still in touch with the times despite or perhaps because of its 30-year history. Designers showed great restraint with accent colors — when the photos are so brilliant, you want them to shine. Reading through the entire magazine is an experience in itself, and the planning and positioning of each department and story shows thoughtful consideration of the reader. Overall the content balances the globe-trotting adventure with down-home useful information. As the editor explained in one letter, “We want you out of the armchair and into the field.” The magazine inspires readers to do just that.
Silver: Afar, Julia Cosgrove, Editor-in-Chief
The destination index on the table of contents sets the tone with Afar magazine — it wants its readers to scatter the Earth. Overall the magazine has a youthful, hip feel without being frivolous, due in part to the colorful design presentation with a primary color palette, plus some green and orange. “Wander” is a fun front-of-book department with “Zeitgeist” as a compilation page or spread that shows readers what’s “it” now. The features are first-person forays and bring a sense of the personal and emotional to demonstrate the magazine’s tagline “Where travel can take you.” Noted writers such as Chris Jones and Cheryl Strayed add their own voices to a publication that has a distinct one of its own.
Bronze: Travel + Leisure, Nancy Novogrod, retiring Editor-in-Chief; Nathan Lump, Editor-in-Chief
Travel + Leisure lives up to its name. Its sensibility takes a nod from fashion magazines and the best of men’s and women’s publications, contemporary and modern both in design and content. “Radar” is a perfect appetizer to ease readers into the publication. “Trip Doctor” as a whole contains some of the best and most brilliant service found in any genre of magazines with many variations on “story,” such as infographics, charts, graphs and more. The breadth of the feature well is impressive and allows readers to immerse themselves in numerous worlds at once. The book closes with “Decoder/Our Definitive Guide to …” and “The Next Time You’re In …” as last calls for intrepid travelers.
103B — Travel Coverage in Other Magazines
Gold: Departures, Richard David Story, Editor-in-Chief
Thumbing through the “Blackbook” travel section of Departures is like perusing a double-digit-page menu at a five-star restaurant. You know what you pick will be great, but the selection is almost overwhelming. The offerings are plenty, the packaging crisp and appealing, but most importantly the writing has precision. With content that includes regular travel fare such as “Insider’s Guide,” Departures steps it up with articles that address the economy of Greece or a section titled “Traveling in Troubled Times.” The October issue takes a deep dive into one city (Miami) and presents nearly every angle a traveler could want, including fun quotes from notables in a running sidebar called “This is My Miami.”
Silver: Outside, Christopher Keyes, Editor
Whether it’s assessing the deadliest year on Mount Everest (before the Nepal earthquakes of 2015) and projecting how the fatalities will forever change the landscape of climbing the highest mountain on Earth, or Ted Conover taking us on his train-hopping odyssey with his son, Outside provides some of the best travel features today. They are gripping in pace and cadence while being insightful in their content. Department articles focus on, among other things, the best travel destinations right now — for a weekend jaunt, road trip or overseas adventure. The writers know their stuff but don’t flaunt it and make sure the content is accessible without feeling dumbed down.
Bronze: Private Clubs, Don Nichols, Editor-in-Chief
The aesthetics of this magazine are impeccable. Filled with stunning photographs, enchanting layouts with lots of offerings on each spread or page and gorgeous typography with a clear sense of hierarchy, Private Clubs could just be another pretty magazine. But it isn’t. It supports the design with maps and graphs and content that’s serviceable to the reader. A travel news department staple includes such imperatives as See, Eat, Hear, Sail, Stay. Readers get valuable information that is written with authority and bolstered with all the must-have items mixed with plenty of surprises.
Category 104: U.S./Canada Travel
Gold: Kim Severson, “Little Bit Country, Little Bit Gay,” The New York Times
This is a charming piece with a thoroughly original premise — who knew that Dollywood was a prized destination for the gay community? The writer is in on our surprise and develops her clever tale with stylish details and wit. She writes with obvious admiration about Dolly Parton’s open-hearted philosophy and how it has informed the culture of the theme park. Her generous spirit inspired this truly satisfying article.
Silver: Matt Jaffe, “Two Men and a Truck,” Arizona Highways
Everyone agrees that a 1972 Chevy Blazer with 1.5 million miles on it is a remarkable vehicle. But as “Two Men and a Truck” shows, it’s more than a curiosity. It’s a symbol that reminds us that some things just plain last. And, in our modern disposable society, that resonates. Matt Jaffe, riding shotgun, shows how that plays out in this fresh story about a road trip through the Southwest.
Bronze: Jacob Baynham, “Land of Plenty,” Coastal Living
This is a crisply written, engaging look at California’s bounty, one that captures the reader’s attention from the start by proclaiming that salt has a season. The story of the unlikely salt vendor is just one of many delightful anecdotes about the writer’s pilgrimage with his wife to the land of food abundance. Across central California, the pair included stops for farmhouse Mexican dishes, organic produce and sustainable seafood. This is altogether a sublime read.
Category 105: Foreign Travel
Gold: Andrew McCarthy, “Untamed Ireland,” Travel + Leisure
Great writing transcends and transports us to another time and place. Andrew McCarthy snags us by the shirt collar and plops us down in Connemara, where we confront ancient ghosts, cry in our Guinness and comfort ourselves with the newly rediscovered corned beef and cabbage. In McCarthy’s hands, we can almost touch the fiddle music as it lifts toward the Galway sky.
Silver: Carl Hoffman, “It Takes a Village,” National Geographic Traveler
Searching to regain his sense of self, writer Carl Hoffman retreats into the jungles of New Guinea. With spare grace and vivid description, Hoffman strips us of the familiar as he retells his month living with a former tribal chief in his remote village. It’s a study in anthropology, written by a master.
Bronze: Todd Pitock, “The Rebirth of Awe,” National Geographic Traveler
We travel to see the unusual, the unseen, the unbelievable. But is that still true in the age of sounds and photos that transport us miles in an instant? Todd Pitock travels to Botswana to find that awe he thought he lost. This story layers upon itself to a conclusion that’s as pure as poetry.
Honorable Mention: Bruce Schoenfeld, “Spanish Inclination,” National Geographic Traveler
In this first-person story, the writer provides multiple scenes of a city he knows well. Whether contemplating the latest architectural addition to Seville or eagerly awaiting a bullfight and weighing if it’s sport or spectacle, Bruce Schoenfeld makes readers a part of his journey. He shares the beautiful familiarity or predictability of this community as it evolves into an international travel destination.
Category 106: Photo Illustration of Travel
Gold: Brian Peterson, “Wild World in Bloom,” Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Brian Peterson’s photographs bring northwest Minnesota to life in the springtime. All aspects are covered, from details, to animals and landscape. The lead shot of the pasque flower is a work of art, as are many other images in the online gallery. The overall aerial shot with the winding path invites readers to explore the scenery while animal and people photographs show diversity of life and interaction. This is a beautiful, well-rounded package with strong print and online presentations.
Silver: Aaron Huey, “The Road to Wellville,” National Geographic Traveler
Feelings of neglect and sadness permeate these images along U.S. Route 80, once known as the Dixie Overland Highway, which the author’s father and grandparents took when they moved across the country in 1936. Bypassed by interstates, these once busy locations are now forgotten, and Aaron Huey’s photographs replicate that sense of abandonment. A haunting Texas carnival, the HiWay Café and the derelict Palomino Motel are all remains of a once-teeming route westward.
Bronze: Kari Medig, “The Great Canadian Safari,” Air Canada enRoute
Photographer Kari Medig has a delightful sense of humor that comes across in the bleakness and serendipity of her images. A woman holding massive horns seems out of place as she confronts the camera while her hair blends perfectly with the fence. A child mimics a mastodon statue, and an animal head is used to hang old cowboy hats in a Gold Rush-style bar. The great use of diptychs adds to the style.
Honorable Mention: James Whitlow Delano, “Traveler in the Sunset Clouds,” Smithsonian Magazine
The black and white images perfectly match the story about 17th-century Chinese travel writer Xu Xiake. The vignettes and high contrast create a feeling of nostalgia, and the numerous landscape photographs set the scene. We are introduced to daily life, rituals and local people in a way that makes us feel like we are part of an ancient land. Additionally, stitched images are a unique way to approach difficult landscape photographs.
Category 107: Special Packages/Projects
Gold: “Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2014,” Air Canada enRoute magazine and multimedia,
Andrew Braithwaite, author; John Cullen, photographer; and enRoute-Spafax Canada staff
Air Canada enRoute’s “Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2014” package does an amazing job using a variety of media to tell this story. This includes an exquisitely written and produced print piece, online voting site for readers, an app on the back seats of airplanes and great interviews with chefs among many other entry points to this series. Each piece is produced with contemporary design that makes this large package accessible and interesting.
Silver: “50 Reasons to Love the World,” BBC Travel, Jim Benning and Allison Busacca, editors
BBC’s “50 Reasons to Love the World” producers created a unique and inspiring project by asking writers, chefs, musicians, photographers and others to share one experience in the past year that truly inspired them. The online piece was designed with simple elegance — including beautiful typography, illuminating photography and storytelling video. The production builds to an insightful and joyful conclusion.
Bronze: “My European Ritual,” The New York Times, multiple contributors and staff
The New York Times created a package within the 2014 Europe Issue that included almost a dozen writers with unique and refreshing stories of places that they visit time after time. Because the writers had such familiarity with the locations, the stories had an authentic feel and carried a nice note of nostalgia. Topics ranged from the bridges of Budapest to the book exchange in Paris. All the articles included storytelling photographs in the print edition and complementary video in the online edition. Producers also created a section that asked readers who were inspired by the stories to share their own.
Category 108: Cruise Travel
Gold: Andrew Sessa, “Trip the Lights Fantastic,” Houston Chronicle
Andrew Sessa captures the majesty of the scenes as they unfold before the passenger on a smaller ship that can navigate the fjords of Norway. The writing is almost as lyrical as the scenery. For example, in describing the Northern Lights: “Growing brighter, these feather-flames snake in a glowing arc over our heads, extending to the horizon. ...” There are plenty of details about the ship and its owner, the accommodations, and those all-important items — pricing and food. The information lets the readers know this is an easily repeatable journey.
Silver: Eddy Hartenstein, “South of Everything,” Los Angeles Times
Scenery, science, sounds and solitude blend smoothly in “South of Everything” by Eddy Hartenstein for the Los Angeles Times. This piece on Antarctica is comprehensive with information but not pedantic. Rather, its tone is awe-filled in describing the “jaw-dropping” views, the variety of the animals and birds, and the value of the land itself.
Bronze: John Flinn, “Smaller Cruise Ships in Alaska Offer Big Close-ups,” San Francisco Chronicle
John Flinn takes the reader along on this off-the-beaten-path cruise on a 40-passenger ship. Like the cruise, the writing is “intimate” without becoming a diary entry. An added bonus is making note of the accommodations for folks with mobility issues, such as a special boarding ramp for accessing kayaks. There’s also a sprinkling of science in the classification of chunks of ice and the reduced levels of the ice fields. Details abound about accommodations and costs.
Category 109: Adventure Travel
Gold: Elizabeth Weil, “The Woman Who Walked 10,000 Miles (No Exaggeration) in Three Years,”
The New York Times Magazine
Elizabeth Weil’s story of 42-year-old explorer-adventurer Sarah Marquis’ solo trek walking from Siberia to Mongolia, to the Gobi Desert, China, Laos and Thailand, then across Australia accomplishes what so few travel stories do: leave readers in awe of what a human being can endure — by choice. Using comparisons of bold explorers of the past, Weil captures Marquis’ determined spirit as she delves into the question of why anyone would risk their life to undertake such an arduous, dangerous journey.
Silver: Christopher Solomon, “Baked Alaska,” Outside
Christopher Solomon’s prose makes readers want to drop everything, book passage ASAP and get to Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve, the least-visited site in the U.S. National Park System. The writing is so beautifully descriptive that readers feel as if they’re here, slugging a backpack and experiencing this other-worldly landscape dense with brown bears and other wildlife. But there’s a more elusive quality to this story. Obsessed with rarely visited spots, Solomon gets at the heart of the allure. Such remote places, he writes, allow us to “shake off the dross and find a surer and more ancient pulse.”
Bronze: Aaron Teasdale, “Maya Medicine,” SUP (Stand-Up Paddling) Magazine
The best travel experiences are often about transcendence, and that theme is at the core of Aaron Teasdale’s improbable circumnavigation of Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan on a stand-up paddleboard with a Maya guide. In recounting the four-day, 40-mile trip around the 50-square-mile lake fringed with ancient Maya villages, Teasdale contrasts the simplicity and beauty of this place and people with the “soul-deadening materialism” of the U.S. Teasdale’s quest yields a wonderfully evocative, detail-rich story — a search for meaning in a world that has forgotten how to live for today.
Category 110: Travel News/Investigative Reporting
Gold: Grayson Schaffer, “Black Year,” Outside
Well-reported and compellingly written, this narrative recounts the worst single-day disaster (before the Nepal earthquakes of 2015) in the history of what is perhaps the world’s most legendary travel destination, Mount Everest. It’s impossible to read this story without understanding something moving and new about the lives and sacrifices of sherpas.
Silver: Tracy Ross, “Vanished,” Backpacker
This revealing and graceful story about a doomed solo trekker in Nepal serves as a framework for illuminating — as much as it was possible — unsolved attacks on female adventurers in what is supposed to be a “hikers’ paradise.” A must-read for those traveling alone.
Bronze: Mark Seal, “A Line in the Sand,” Departures
This is a deliciously detailed account of real-estate warfare over Amanresorts, the world’s most exclusive hotels. The insider-y narrative rests on the specifics of the deal-making that led to a high-profile ouster in a One-Percenter world.
Category 111: Service-Oriented Consumer Work
Gold: “The Procrastinator’s Survival Guide to Summer Travel,” Sunset Magazine, with Christine Ryan, writer;
Andrea Minarcek, editor; David Zaitz, photography; and Supriya Kalidas, design
This “procrastinator’s guide” was a unique and interesting approach to a travel service package. It covered the topic in an unexpected and engaging way while also being incredibly useful and packed with ideas. It was well-written and carried a light-hearted tone throughout, supported by detailed reporting and tips. The first-person vignettes from readers and experts added relatable human elements.
Silver: “20 Ways to Travel Better,” Travel + Leisure, Amy Farley, Brooke Porter Katz, Nikki Ekstein and staff,
with photography by Andrew B. Myers
This handy guide presented a wealth of tips that could benefit most any traveler. What distinguished this package from other entries in the category was the innovativeness of the advice. From getting paid for a flight delay to ways to watch TV while on the go to products for charging battery devices, this article presented a variety of helpful information that readers can save and revisit for years to come. The combination of multiple approaches, from charts to tables to short blurbs, and accessible voice and writing style resulted in a fun and engaging package.
Bronze: Debra Bokur, “Gateways to Gastronomy/Upscale and Healthy Restaurants in Airports,” Global Traveler
This feature hooked me immediately with its historical insight into the luxe world of airport dining that prevailed in the 1950s. The rest of the piece provided a comprehensive guide to fine-dining options in airports around the world. The well-written, detailed descriptions of the history, food and ambience at these establishments, as well as what inspired them, made for an engaging, entertaining read that would convince any traveler to seek out an airport dining tour, whether traveling or not.
Honorable Mention: Irene S. Levine, “Bicycle Vacations: Boomers’ Latest Travel Trend,” PBS Next Avenue
Look no further for a great guide to traveling by bicycle. This story presented the basics of this growing trend, then proceeded to answer every possible question about it. It used thorough reporting and a well-organized format to cover the topic in a way that gave readers all they needed to know.
Category 112: Environmental Tourism
Gold: Austin Merrill, “Into the Arctic,” Departures
Austin Merrill’s story describing the environmental dangers facing Norway’s Arctic tundra is an exceptionally well-done combination of science and descriptive writing. As he explains how rising temperatures, storms and polar vortices are profoundly impacting the Arctic, Merrill leaves readers with the desire to go there — and an urgency to do that before it’s too late.
Silver: Jeff Greenwald, “A Natural Selection,” Westways
Beginning with a well-chosen quote, this article introduces and explains the Galapagos with a warm human touch. Jeff Greenwald’s prose is clear and conversational as he describes this “open-air” zoo and the need to preserve the habitat that helped define evolution. The story ends with a masterful touch: a subtle reference to the self-appointed zookeepers who think they are in charge.
Bronze: Rowan Jacobsen, “The River Was Everywhere and Nowhere,” Outside
In his chronicle following the Colorado River into Mexico, Rowan Jacobsen combines history, environmental science and first-person perspective. He was there to witness an unprecedented release of 34 billion gallons of water from the Morelos Dam to mimic the dynamics of the Colorado’s historical spring flood. This environmental adventure story educates as it entertains.
Honorable Mention: Caroline Alexander, “Five Hundred Pounds of Stealth,” Outside
The tiger’s future can’t be bright. With the climate changing, neither can the prospects of the people who share the tiger’s territory in India and Bangladesh. Caroline Alexander’s story is a fascinating look at a conflict with no likely winners.
Category 113: Cultural Tourism
Gold: Patrick Symmes, “Bonfire of the Humanities,” Outside
Patrick Symmes recounts the story of how thousands of manuscripts containing much of the history of Africa before the Europeans arrived were saved from the bonfires of the Jihadists in Timbuktu. The story has a narrative arc that entices readers to learn what was saved and how. Although Jihadists burned 4,203 manuscripts, the locals saved 10,487, secreting them away by donkey and carts and storing them in houses all around the city and beyond. It’s a mystery Symmes solves with deep reporting. This story is both informative and entertaining, and the writing is outstanding.
Silver: Eliza Griswold, “Poetry Slam,” Outside
Eliza Griswold takes us on a moving and personal journey to a place she knows from her years as a war reporter. By narrating her effort to collect poems from women in Afghanistan’s tribal regions, she gives readers an intimate portrait of the devastating emotional toll of decades of war. Griswold’s detailed observances of those around her and her rhythmic writing give a haunting impression of a land where violence rules.
Bronze: Don George, “Piecing Together Puzzles in Cambodia,” BBC Travel
Most of us won’t actually follow Don George’s muddy footprints deep into a remote area in Cambodia, but we can benefit from his journey and interactions with residents. A dedicated group of people is trying to save what’s left of some of the great 13th-century temples at Banteay Chhmar. The writer stayed at the home of a local family in a sparsely furnished room — electricity only five hours a day and no internet service here. He cried in sympathy as his guide told personal stories of the brutality of the Khmer Rouge. He talked to soldiers from Cambodia and Thailand, who only a few years earlier fought each other but now live in peace as friends. The ruins are one of the world’s treasures, and George shares the cultural implications with us.
Honorable Mention: Miranda S. Spivack, “In Spain, a Mosaic of Ruins Forms a Picture of Life in a Major Outpost
of the Roman Empire,” The Washington Post
Miranda Spivack paints an engaging portrait of Spain’s spectacular and often-ignored Roman sites. Her detailed knowledge of ancient art and architecture never wearies readers with archaeological minutiae, while her vibrant writing imparts both the awe of gazing upon 1,700-year-old antiquities with the thrill of traveling to new and unfamiliar lands.
Category 114: Personal Comment
Gold: Sarah Khan, “Once a Land of Princes and Palaces,” The New York Times
When does the nostalgia of a previous generation live up to reality? For Sarah Khan, the living past can be felt in the legendary places in the stories of her parents. Khan artfully re-creates the splendor of Hyderabad’s ancient palaces and monuments, inviting readers to reenter the world of the past. Through her familial ties she makes the chaos of India accessible through layers of cultural and historical description. Her rhythmic, fact-studded prose gives us a passport to another time.
Silver: Marcia DeSanctis, “Travelling Solo in the World’s Most Romantic Country,” BBC Travel
Marcia DeSanctis’ strong, first-person narrative captures what one is supposed to feel for France: recognition of its unquestioned cultural and culinary preeminence. Yet, because she inverts the expectations of the accompanied traveler, she introduces us to a flawed, humane and solitary France. The accompanied traveler carries the awareness of another; the solo traveler converses only with memories. DeSanctis captures the joy of not sharing canelés (traditional pastries of Bordeaux) and the freedom to live extemporaneously. “I was travelling alone,” she writes with a spark of recognition “but not a single thing was missing.”
Bronze: Jeff MacGregor, “La Dolce Via,” Smithsonian Magazine
A single street permits us passage though centuries of “its comic politics and its joyful failures” in Jeff MacGregor’s “La Dolce Via.” Though it began as a backwater, Via Margutta is a narrow street in Rome that exists also in the minds of film-goers around the world through the works of William Wyler, Federico Fellini and Woody Allen. Because MacGregor melds literary description with history, we see the street through the eyes of a seasoned traveler, and the memories of a young boy at the cinema. His references to what he can touch, as well as reconstruct in film, make the fantasy of a cinematic world real.
Honorable Mention: Ian Gordon, “The Fierce Life and Too-Soon Death of My Unlikely Cuban Friends” Mother Jones
Ian Gordon’s piece about his travels to Cuba is a testament to the tendency of American tourists to go places they shouldn’t, and plan less than they should. However, Gordon beautifully captures the human dependency on the kindness of strangers when a Cuban couple takes in Gordon and his wife. “Don’t worry,” Carlos said, “We have rice. We have beans. We have eggs. Forget the money. Están en su casa.” Gordon interweaves convincing dialogue with a portrait of Cuban life.
Category 115: Special-Purpose Travel
Gold: David Farley, “Ashes to Ashes,” Afar
Death defines life in Varanasi, India, a Hindu holy city where the dead arrive to be cremated and scattered in the Ganges River and pilgrims come to visit the core of all creation. Seeking perspective on how to deal with his own darkness, David Farley takes us on a very personal and beautifully described journey to Varanasi. He immerses himself in the culture of the doms, members of the untouchable caste for whom dealing with death is nothing more than a job. “This sort of experience,” Farley writes, “is exactly why we travel — to witness the ‘unreal,’ to take in the extraordinary ordinariness of a way of life we could never have imagined.”
Silver: Andrew McCarthy, “Steeped in Darjeeling,” National Geographic Traveler
Andrew McCarthy takes his readers to India on an almost religious quest to find the ultimate cup of Darjeeling, the “champagne of teas.” His story nicely balances history, geography and personal experience. McCarthy employs vivid prose — “Each morning I pay a few rupees to a grinning woman named Jojo, who...hands me a plastic cup filled up with a murky brew that could melt steel.” He pulls readers directly into his experience and creates a strong narrative that compels them to finish the quest with him. The conclusion contains a subtle lesson about the nature of quests in general and what ultimately makes them worthwhile.
Bronze: Joshua Hammer, “Dream Machine,” Smithsonian Magazine
Who can resist a travel adventure in space AND time? Joshua Hammer transports his readers to a forested hillside in the east of France, then impels them backward in time to the Age of Glaciers, Paleolithic hunters and the ferocious beasts they hunted — and that hunted them. The Caverne du Pont d’Arc is a lovingly re-created replica of a nearby cave complex that contains the world’s greatest known repository of Upper Paleolithic art. Hammer writes that he traveled to Caverne du Pont d’Arc as a skeptic — after all, this was just a replica — but was utterly blown away by what he experienced. Readers will be impressed as well, thanks to Hammer’s imagery and his choice of a topic carrying so much historical and cultural weight.
Category 116: Short Work on Travel
Gold: Mary Bergin, “In Nuremberg, Bratwurst Is an Institution, and Now a Museum Exhibit,” Chicago Tribune
Mary Bergin’s story provides more about the history and current state of bratwurst than readers may have thought possible. Bergin shares great detail about the current exhibit without advocating for or against a new museum. The personal notes at the end offer a real insight into the types of visitors drawn to such an attraction and may help readers think twice the next time they head to the store to pick up a Johnsonville Sausage.
Silver: Robert Stephens, “The Secret to Happ…,” Islands
Robert Stephens’ piece reads like the first chapter of a novel you can’t put down. Readers are no doubt captivated by the main character, Janti (Mr. Happy), and want to know even more about him and his quest to make Happy Island the happiest place on earth. The irony is in the fine print. “Happy Island was built as a sanctuary from stress, mother countries and the media.” Stephens does a terrific job building suspense based on his first encounter with Janti. By the end, the writer and the reader get it.
Bronze: Kat Tancock, “Running All Over Town,” Canadian Business
This story offers useful tidbits for “sightjogging” in multiple cities, but makes it clear that working out and sightseeing don’t often go hand-in-hand. This is not a commercial for one particular tour group, but the piece puts into perspective what tourists can experience while sweating it out on the streets. Immediately, readers can picture what currently isn’t a common scene in Amsterdam, leaving us wanting a follow-up.
Category 117: Travel Book
Gold: Karen Berger, with photography by Bart Smith, “America’s Great Hiking Trails,”
Rizzoli International Publications
Broad and deep reporting by Karen Berger combined with the skilled photography of Bart Smith make this not only a beautiful book to hold and skim, but also an extremely informative book for hikers. To produce this, Berger walked more than 10,000 miles and Smith trekked all 18,000 miles on the 11 trails. Every chapter is marked by excellence.
Silver: Michael Meyer, “In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China,”
Michael Meyer immersed himself in an important geographic area rarely studied in depth by Western journalists or anybody else with Western values. Rural China is enormously important within the Chinese empire, and also for the rest of the world as that empire expands its influence. Meyer’s avoidance of the much-documented urban China in favor of understanding the rural populaceis refreshing.
Bronze: Phil Karber, “Postmarks From a Political Traveler,” Paradigm Publishers
As a travel writer, Phil Karber is openly and winningly political, whether focusing on racism within national borders, the craziness of the U.S. invasion of remote Afghanistan, the impact of climate change on wildlife, and a virulent anti-Americanism easy to understand if studied with an open mind. Karber is obviously an acute observer before composing controversial paragraphs.
Category 118: Guidebook
Gold: Rob Rachowiecki, with photography by Vance Jacobs, “National Geographic Traveler: Peru,”
National Geographic Books
This is that rare guidebook that finds the perfect balance of fabulous photography, readable maps and practical information — organized in a logical and easy-to-use manner. It invites browsing as much as planning, and its voice is both engaging and authoritative.
Silver: Robert Walker, “Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands,” Tuttle Publishing
This is an ambitious undertaking: a guide to the remote chain of 150 islands between Japan and Taiwan that are home to cultural treasures, gorgeous beaches, volcanoes and other natural delights. The book reflects the author’s deep knowledge of a region he has explored for decades and provides the traveler with useful cultural context and the usual logistical and practical information — along with a full-size, foldable map that is essential for the kind of trip this book inspires.
Bronze: Andrew Dier, “Moon: Colombia,” Avalon Travel
This compact and cleverly organized guidebook uses color-coding to help the harried traveler find the right section fast. But that’s only one of its charms. It’s the right size for the adventurous traveler trying to see and do a lot and includes enough maps and practical information to make it possible.
Honorable Mention: Anne Vipond and William Kelly, “Best Anchorages of the Inside Passage,” Ocean Cruise Guides
This is a book designed for the cabin and the intrepid sailor who’s looking for that hidden beach or inlet where the water is calm and the fishing is good.
Category 119: Travel Journalism Websites
Gold: OutsideOnline.com/Adventure-Travel, Outside, Christopher Keyes, Editor
OutsideOnline.com/Adventure-Travel is an outstanding collection of travel writing, essays and photography that engages readers and will keep them coming back to find destination information and to travel virtually. Compelling typography and information design make the site a pleasure to read.
Silver: RoadsAndKingdoms.com, Roads & Kingdoms, Nathan Thornburgh and Matt Goulding, chief editors/publishers
RoadsAndKingdoms.com is not a traditional travel site but a collection of fascinating writing about unusual destinations and activities. A strong visual direction sets the tone for the site, which covers not only travel but also food, politics and culture. Roaming through the site is pure adventure.
Bronze: CiaoBambino.com, Ciao Bambino!, Amie O’Shaughnessy, founder and managing editor
CiaoBambino.com quickly establishes itself as the authoritative travel source for anything related to traveling with children. From destinations and hotels to travel tips and kid-friendly guides, this comprehensive site offers an incredible list of resources for parents who believe that adventure travel with children offers the best education possible.
Honorable Mention: Afar.com, Afar Media, Davina Baum, Digital Content Director
A tightly edited travel site, Afar.com, does a great job of guiding travelers to worldwide destinations. The website is visually appealing, well designed and simple to use. Standout features include easy-to-book custom itineraries and the ability for viewers to integrate with phone itineraries.
Category 120: Audio Travel Broadcast
Gold: Rudy Maxa, “Rudy Maxa’s World: June 2014,” syndicated radio travel show
This June 21 edition of Rudy Maxa’s World sheds light on troubling practices in small aircraft regulations and how different cultures’ perceptions of time can impact travelers. This is a unique and informative look at areas of travel not often covered. The engaging dialog connects with listeners.
Silver: Paul Lasley and Elizabeth Harryman, “Traveling With Paul Lasley & Elizabeth Harryman:
Margie Goldsmith Gets Engaged in Bali,” OnTravel Media
This episode of Paul Lasley and Elizabeth Harryman’s broadcast explored some of the lesser-known parts of Indonesia surrounding Bali. The episode provided excellent cultural context, as well as practical travel advice, and was a feast of colorful imagery.
Bronze: Thomas C. Wilmer, “Journeys of Discovery With Tom Wilmer: Discover Montserrat,” National Public Radio podcast
“Discover Montserrat” magnificently captured, in a three-part series, the history of this Caribbean island and its current rebirthing following a volcanic explosion. Thomas Wilmer detailed how the government is working to ensure the island remains an unspoiled rain forest paradise. The added bonus in this exciting piece was the music connection with rock legends and local personalities. This is bright and informative journalism.
Category 121: Video Travel Broadcast
Gold: Rick Steves, “Rick Steves’ The Holy Land: Israelis and Palestinians Today,” American Public Television
This installment of Rick Steves’ storied series goes beyond the typical travelogue. Steves and his team deserve a gold star for the sensitive approach they took to tell the story of the Holy Land in a respectful and contextual way. It’s a sacred place for Jews, Christians and Muslims — and by the end of the hour, you understand why. The program is frank and honest in its portrayal of each side of the conflict, helping the audience “learn about security walls, disputed settlements, and the persistent challenges facing the region.”
Silver: Bob Krist, “Day of the Dead in Oaxaca,” National Geographic Traveler Intelligent Travel blog
Bob Krist’s report on “Day of the Dead in Oaxaca” is a most delightful treat for the senses. It’s a concise, yet comprehensive look at the history, significance and celebration of this special occasion. The images provide an explosion of color so vivid that viewers can almost smell the flowers and taste the goodies while finding their toes tapping to the beat. A delight to watch!
Bronze: The New York Times staff, “36 Hours,” The New York Times
Where else can you take a virtual tour of one of the world’s most fabulous cities in six minutes or less than The New York Times? This series provides travelers with fast-paced looks at the food, drink, culture and history of cities near and far. The addition of a mapping feature that changes throughout the video gives viewers a sense of place when planning their itineraries.
Honorable Mention: Christine van Blokland, “Curious Traveler: Curious About … London,” Public Broadcasting System
It seems every travel series has taken a visit to London, but few are as fun to watch as “Curious Traveler: Curious About … London.” The program strives to provide the history behind the sites — and explain what makes them notable. Christine von Blokland’s whimsical delivery makes these “field trips for grownups who haven’t really grown up” a delight. Her energy and style can make even a “big ole hunk of wall” interesting!
Category 122: Travel Blogs
Gold: ThePlanetD.com, Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil
Even the world’s most remote destinations feel well within reach when reading “The Planet D.” Readers can sense the passion of this blog’s owners in every one of the carefully crafted posts. They combine a light-hearted, conversational writing style with stunning photography to create one of the most authoritative travel blogs on the market today.
Silver: LegalNomads.com, Jodi Ettenberg
How many people say they want to abandon the rat race and spend their days traveling the world, but never go? Jodi Ettenberg did it, and you can, too. This blog is a travelogue for the harried professional looking to leave it all behind for a day, a week, a year or a lifetime. The technology, packing and visa guides are just as helpful as reports on specific locales.
Bronze: VoyageVixens.com, Lanee Lee Neil and Lindsay Taub
Even the most seasoned travelers get road weary, and the Voyage Vixens aren’t afraid to admit it. They’re smart and sassy and don’t mince words with their readers. Read about begging for change, watch video of canopy tours, road trips and swimming with whales, or chat with Lanee Lee and Lindsay Taub on social media. This blog will have you begging them to pack you in their suitcase!