LOWELL THOMAS TRAVEL JOURNALISM COMPETITION
Awards for Work Published in 2017-2018
Faculty members at the Missouri School of Journalism judged the competition, with Prof. John Fennell,
Prof. Jennifer Rowe and administrative assistant Kim Townlain coordinating. There were 1,275 entries.
For questions, contact: Mary Lu Abbott, SATW Foundation administrator, 281-217-2872, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Category 101: Grand Award — Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year
Gold: Christopher Solomon, freelance writer, Seattle, WA
Christopher Solomon has a truly remarkable range as a travel writer and a voice that is both unpretentious and authoritative. When the subject is a serious one, like the plan to exploit the oil resources of a pristine wilderness area in Alaska, Solomon can make an argument with powerful precision. When the topic is mad fun, like mountain biking through Utah’s unforgiving canyon country, the tone is self-effacing and keenly observant. Solomon is a travel writer whose work reflects an understanding that the world is not our playground but an amazing resource on loan to us.
Silver: Elaine Glusac, freelance writer, Chicago, IL
Elaine Glusac digs a little deeper than most for that story that helps the would-be traveler make decisions, plan and prioritize. The implications of the Bermuda same-sex marriage ban on travel to the island and the unlikely culinary revival of Cleveland, to name just two, illustrate Glusac’s eye for the timely and topical. Her writing voice is that of the wide-open traveling companion who knows to sit at the bar, make friends and listen carefully for the story.
Bronze: Beth Harpaz, Travel Editor, The Associated Press
Beth Harpaz doesn’t waste a reader’s time. Her sentences are clear and full of facts. Reporting is the heart of her stories. Whether she is digging up tourism statistics or writing about Blues music, she adds data and context. Her podcast about an association for people who have visited all 50 states is also excellent.
Honorable Mention: Nikki Ekstein, Travel Editor, Bloomberg Pursuits
Not many travel writers will start an article with references to a city’s bad crime scene, but Nikki Ekstein manages to do that and tell you why you should still visit Chicago. Her stories range from news, United Airlines’ seat policies (which you won’t like), to romantic outings for the rich. Her portfolio oozes creative story ideas.
Category 102: Newspaper Travel Coverage
Gold: Los Angeles Times, Catharine Hamm, Travel Editor
For California travelers who want to get to know this vast and diverse state and places beyond, the LA Times travel section is an amazing resource. Astute readers would never run out of ideas with just a couple of these sections on hand. Like so much travel, they’re fun, informative and quirky. These immersive pieces fling travelers deep into astonishing places, like Taiwan’s Taroko Gorge, where spiders are as big as your face and the views rival the most beautiful on the planet. This travel coverage displays a sense of unbounding energy and relentless fun, as well as plenty of inspiration to plan that next, crazy trip.
Silver: The Wall Street Journal, Deborah Dunn, Travel Editor
The Wall Street Journal’s travel section is for people who take their travel (and their time) seriously, which means the section is thoughtfully designed to be both engaging and easy to use. The images are stunning and abundant, and sidebars are concise. The FAQ on travel to Cuba and where it stands in the Trump era is a good example of the editors’ keen sense of context and timeliness. Writers are given enough space to shine and often take a fresh approach to subjects that are familiar. Overall, this is an attractive travel section that is compelling and compact.
Bronze: The New York Times, Monica Drake and Steve Reddicliffe, Travel Editors
The New York Times travel section takes a different tack from most newspapers by pulling the curtain back on the business of travel so readers can make more conscious decisions about how they spend their travel dollars. A good example is the piece on human trafficking in the hotel business and the female safari guides of Botswana. The work is meaty, thoughtful and visually spectacular, and it often strays pretty far off the beaten path with coverage on destinations like Kurdistan and Detroit. These examples suggest that the Times thinks its readers want something deeper from their travel experience. Instead of a vacation, they want, perhaps, a life-changing experience.
Honorable Mention: Star Tribune (Minneapolis), Kerri Westenberg, Travel Editor
There are a lot of worn-out ideas in travel journalism, and the editor of the Star Tribune’s travel section steers clear of them. The section is consistently surprising for the originality of ideas and quality of execution. And there’s news here too, like a piece about a new program that eases air travel for people with special needs. A story about St. Marks Place in New York is rich in history and quirkiness. A story about a service that surprises travelers with a pre-planned trip to a mystery destination prompts the feeling: “Why didn’t I think of that?” With its variety and depth, this section impresses.
Category 103: Magazines
103A — Travel Magazines
Gold: Virtuoso Life, Elaine Srnka, Editorial Director
Each page in Virtuoso Life sizzles with an editorial exuberance, whether it’s a deep dive on cocktails in Lisbon or a brief review of a Salman Rushdie’s globetrotting novel. That energy makes this magazine hard to put down. Virtuoso Life’s grand ambition is ever present: in the stunning “how’d you get that shot?” photography, clever headlines and interesting approaches to the well-told stories. Instead of the garden variety review on the Four Seasons, for instance, you get a fun chat with the cool florist, Jeff Leatham, whose arrangements have also adorned events for Oprah Winfrey and Chelsea Clinton. Instead of the standard “best restaurants” story, you get some of the world’s top chefs ruminating on their favorite culinary trends and the best places to sample them. Virtuoso Life is more than a thoughtful trove of smart travel tales, tips and trends; it’s a celebration of place, and our quest to touch them in big and small ways.
Silver: Afar, Julia Cosgrove, Editor-in-Chief
In a genre that can feel stodgy and pretentious, Afar brings a distinctly modern sensibility into the mix. You can sense a rebel spirit in the bold, quirky fonts and illustrations, but it’s most apparent in its offbeat stories (“Moveable Feasts,” a fun photo montage of food trucks across America, comes to mind). Overall, Afar is an intelligent mix of smart and topical travel stories, elegantly rendered, insightful and layered with cultural context. Most impressively, Afar seems to delight in the surprising twist on well-worn stories; Afar’s first-person narrative of a blind man’s safari in Zimbabwe is unforgettable.
Bronze: National Geographic Traveler, George W. Stone, Editor-in-Chief
Expertly reported and gracefully written, National Geographic is known for perfectly balancing thrilling storytelling and clear-eyed investigation. Its Traveler offshoot lives up to the sure-footed authority that is singular to its iconic namesake. It’s tough, for instance, to dismiss Traveler’s cover pronouncement “Best of the World/Where to Go in 2018” as mere opinion, especially when it’s backed up with smartly reported pieces on places like Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and Malmo, Sweden. You can’t help but feel an urgency to book a flight. What’s also refreshingly familiar is the meaty substance of the topics their reporters tackle; in their nimble hands, we learn that urban renewal, for all its wonkishness, can still make a darn good travel story.
Honorable Mention: Southbound, Kevin Benefield, Editor-in-Chief
Southbound, like the region it covers, is far more complex than its surface suggests. Beneath a homespun, “aw-shucks” modesty is a proud heritage of architecture, music, cuisine and literature. Each of these elements is brought to the fore in Southbound, an inspired spin on the fast-evolving American South. It’s colorful, edgy and always entertaining. Along with features on the only Frank Lloyd Wright home built in Alabama and your typical Elvis fare straight out of Tupelo, you get the lyrical essay by acclaimed author Melissa Fay Greene reminiscing on bike riding along the tidal marshes of Georgia.
103B — Travel Coverage in Other Magazines
Gold: Southern Living, Sid Evans, Editor-in-Chief
Southern Living blends smart stories and sumptuous visuals in ways that are at once dreamy and practical. What’s most impressive is SL’s travel sections’ push to reflect the interests of its readers. One example is a section chock-full of the South’s best bars, restaurants, inns, museums and even tailgates. But instead of a list of editors’ recommendations, often de rigueur, Southern Living editors launched a digitally crowd-sourced feature and wrote stories based on the overwhelming response, 22,000 surveys in all. How else to find Callaghan’s, a funky Irish pub in Mobile, AL, or the worldly accessory shop, The Paris Market and Brocante in Savannah, GA?
Silver: Outside, Christopher Keyes, Editor
Outside boasts a striking balance of bold narrative storytelling, gritty reportage and thoughtful service journalism. Outside’s push to be more than a gear guide, to deliver solid journalism around adventure and lifestyle and to be socially relevant (cover story: “The Future of Adventure Is Female”), is admirable and shows clearly on its pages. Its features are topical and can also be deliciously contrarian, such as “Cruise Control,” which delves into the environmental effect of rising cruise ship traffic to Alaska where Arctic sea ice is fast melting.
Bronze: Coastal Living, Sid Evans, Editor-in-Chief, and Tracey Minkin, senior editor, Travel
Coastal Living is a compelling tapestry of romance travel mixed with practical, thrift-minded tips, a kind of bible for the escapist on a budget. The magazine’s strongest moments are when it expands beyond bits and bytes into personal odysseys of beachside travel and adventure, such as the story of an L.A. casting director’s rescue of her childhood home and the memories of the colorful family who once inhabited it.
Honorable Mention: National Parks, Rona Marech, Editor-in-Chief
National Parks magazine is a thoughtful exploration into the wonders and worries of our natural environment and National Park Service. Each issue is solidly reported and lucidly written, full of compelling yarns whether it’s the menace of black vultures damaging cars at Everglades National Park or the insight of the great-great niece of Harriet Tubman into the new park honoring the famous slave liberator. National Parks magazine is refreshingly agile, shifting gracefully between tough environmental issues such as global warming to leisurely paddling the Congaree River in South Carolina.
Category 104: U.S./Canada Travel
Gold: Sarah Khan, “A Muslim American’s Homecoming: Cowboys, Country Music, Chapatis,” The New York Times
Each traveler sees the destination through a personal lens. For Sarah Khan, exploring regions of the U.S. was a test of popular myth, culture and stereotypes. The result? Fresh and surprising insights ... and a welcome sense of humor. This is cross-cultural travel writing that shines.
Silver: Meg Lukens Noonan, “The Return of Polynesian Pop,” Coastal Living
Nostalgia is part of every journey. This one looks at the mainland’s discovery of pupu platters and tiki bars in the 1960s. Turns out, it was all a big cultural mishmash. This is a delightful journey into our misconstrued past and look at the renewal of many Polynesian icons in Hawaii today.
Bronze: Annie Graves, “Maine’s Sweet Spot,” Coastal Living
This story may tackle just a small piece of Maine, yet the communities on several peninsulas off the main road offer some real treats and a variety of experiences. This well-done destination story offers a great example of how the small can illuminate the large.
Category 105: Foreign Travel
Gold: Ryan Knighton, “Out of Sight,” Afar
“Out of Sight” is an introduction to the sounds, tastes and smells that most travelers miss on safari. This author, who is blind, starts his safari skeptically, but an insightful guide slowly wins him over. He experiences animals by smelling their location and excrement, tasting the leaves giraffes eat and listening for hyena to laugh. The descriptive writing puts readers in the middle of the action. While the overall tone is serious, Ryan Knighton finds humor in small events, such as being handed a surprise ball of rhino dung. Offering much more than information for vision-impaired travelers, this story is a joy to read.
Silver: Aaron Gulley, “Information Freeze,” Outside
“Information Freeze” takes readers above the Arctic Circle into central Russia on a journey that is “an immersion into one of the world’s last nomadic cultures.” Here we find 12 tourists from different areas of the globe on a 10-day trip with three guides. Far from disruptions like cell phones, we learn about Nenets, a nomadic tribe of reindeer herders. Aaron Gulley doesn’t romanticize life without technology in writing that is humorous, detailed and visually descriptive. From beginning to end, readers are given “a chance to go back in time to a simpler existence, if only for a little while.”
Bronze: Cheryl L. Reed, “A Hot Destination: Radioactive Ukraine,” The Washington Post
Visitors on this trip won’t find abandoned white-sand beaches, but they will learn about a time and place when nuclear war was a serious consideration (déjà vu?). Here tourists encounter a missile named Satan, which had more destructive power than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and a silo with an 11-by-11 control room where military officers tapped secret codes onto a “dingy yellow monitor” and could turn a key to launch 10 nuclear rockets at once. Cheryl Reed provides history lessons as she introduces us to a former Soviet army officer turned tour guide who is sad to have lost his missile control job and never thought he’d be taking a picture with an American. Times change, and this story reminds us that we live in a complicated world where even pending destruction can be beautiful.
Honorable Mention: Justin Fornal, “Oaxaca: The Gift of Color,” National Geographic Traveler
After the death of musician Prince in 2016, this author and self-confessed purple addict decides to track down traditional weavers in Oaxaca, Mexico, to watch them create their coveted purple cloth. Who knew that Mexican snails produced a liquid used to dye thread purple? Readers are treated to a delightful journey through Oaxacan markets that culminates on a Mexican beach where the author finally witnesses and takes part in the purple dye process. Superb writing and a compelling narrative make this a strong read to the end.
Category 106: Photo Illustration of Travel
Gold: Ken Geiger, “Drive Yourself Wild,” National Geographic Traveler
This humorous take on traveling solo while on safari uses long telephoto lenses extremely well to photograph animals in their habitats. Once, readers are shown a lodge with a grand, wide-angle view that encapsulates the closeness to nature the sustainable building embodies. There is a noticeable contrast in style when Ken Geiger trains the lens on the animals that honors their beauty and power. The sharp and clean photography is capped by an intense and slightly motion-blurred image made while three lions skirmish at dawn.
Silver: Susan Portnoy, “The Thrill of Canada’s Only Polar Bear Walking Photo Safari,” TheInsatiableTraveler.com
The marvelous photo editing in this story takes us from the cold outside, to inside, to other species living nearby, and then to a gradual color shift from blue and white photos to golden-hour images, ending with pictures that show the aurora borealis. That doesn’t happen without high-quality storytelling images. The photos from inside the lodge show an important element of just how close, yet safe, the access is for guests. A pair of particularly nice photos of arctic fox, a polar bear at the golden hour and some sweeping wide-angle images of the polar walk in action show the photographer’s ability to control the lens and exposure in difficult situations.
Bronze: Susan Portnoy, “Behind the Scenes of a Rodeo and What Makes Cowboys Tick,” TheInsatiableTraveler.com
Photographer Susan Portnoy sees the culture of the rodeo cowboy as engrained into the geographic region of the Canadian Badlands. A photo-essay unfolds during one night in the rich culture of rodeo as she mixes documentary photojournalism with good aesthetics. A mix of lensing, proximity to subject and the subjects’ emotions makes almost every image unique and, in some cases, powerful. Sometimes the power is loud and bold, while others are quiet, as in the photo of the cowboy praying. There’s good use of the wide-angle, like the image of resin on a rope. And the telephoto action images, one with great layering of a judge ducking out of the way, will surely excite anyone about spending a night in a rodeo town.
Category 107: Special Packages/Projects
Gold: The New York Times, “On the Border: A Special Issue,” The New York Times staff
In an age of high tensions and high walls, the New York Times explored life in five cities separated by the U.S. border with Mexico. The stories are written at ground level. We hear families talking to each other through the border fence at Nogales. We hear a Mexican, who crosses daily to work in Brownsville, ask why the writer wants to visit Matamoros, site of so much violence. These stories are packed with first-person experiences and plenty of contextual information about the economy, the violence and the impact of increased border security. This is a brilliant combination of travel, politics and economics.
Silver: National Geographic Traveler, “Cities on the Rise,” George W. Stone, Amy Alipio, Jennifer Barger and staff
National Geographic Traveler answers the basic question “What’s the best way to tell the story?” by using text blocks, efficient graphics, lists and photos to present cities on the rise. After explaining how the editors used data to make the selections, readers are treated to an informative and entertaining presentation that is easy to understand. The descriptions on the cities are focused in a package that respects readers’ time.
Bronze: Andrew Juiliano, “Grit World Racing: A Belgian Cyclocross Odyssey,” Peloton magazine
Andrew Juiliano takes readers along as he competes on the European bicycle racing circuit. In a chronology that appears in print and online, Juiliano captures the hardships of competition and the joy of being with a team of friends. The competition takes them to different cities – even to China – where he also writes about his surroundings and the food and drink. The series, supplemented with social media, is a fun read that informs as it entertains.
Honorable Mention: Chabeli Herrera, “Tourism’s Invisible Army,” Miami Herald
“Tourism’s Invisible Army” reveals what life is like for the nearly 50,000 laborers who travel from Miami to Miami Beach to work at hotels. The story is told through the eyes of Odelie Paret, a veteran housekeeper who gets up at 4:30 a.m. and rides buses for nearly an hour in the morning and sometimes three hours in the afternoon. She and others like her must commute because they cannot afford to live in Miami Beach. The author humanizes the story but makes sure to include all the necessary data on wages, numbers of commuters and rental costs.
Category 108: Cruise Travel
Gold: Andrea Sachs, “Cut From the Same Sailcloth,” The Washington Post
Of course, there are theme cruises. But a two-masted schooner full of knitters? Andrea Sachs explains the curious relationship between sewing and cruising, describes the conditions on the boat (more like camping than cruising) and finishes a scarf that she had started years ago. An adventure shared.
Silver: Todd Pitock, “Icy Greenland Smiles as Climate Change Brings Greening — and Independence,"
The Australian Financial Review
With vivid description, Todd Pitock shows the ways that climate change is transforming Greenland. And it’s not all bad. The nonchalant attitude of some of the people whom he introduces readers to reveals the character of the place. The narrative, which works on several levels, is engrossing.
Bronze: Stephen Heyman, “Lost at Sea,” W magazine
It’s not a cruise, it’s a “crossing.” For folks with time on their hands, a transatlantic voyage on the Queen Mary 2 can provide a frozen-in-time experience. Stephen Heyman provides the description, and the humor, that shows how things work on the ship and makes the experience come alive.
Honorable mention: Rosemary McClure, “On Some Cruise Lines, There are No Wallflowers,”Los Angeles Times
Would you dance with single women, host dinner parties and be charming in exchange for a discounted cabin on a cruise? There are gentlemen hosts on most every cruise, and Rosemary McClure’s story lifts that curtain. Beyond the news, the specifics — and the “complaints” — make this piece work.
Category 109: Adventure Travel
Gold: Tim Cahill, “My Drowning (and Other Inconveniences),” Outside
Beyond the facts of this brilliant piece — a 71-year-old man gets trapped underwater during a rafting trip, is rescued only to experience sudden cardiac arrest — this is a story about story by one of the original founders of Outside magazine. What makes this narrative so beautiful is that it has everything: adventure, humor, scene setting, evocative prose, a driving emotional arc and, above all, meaning. A reflection of Tim Cahill’s 40 years as an adventurer, here he lays out what he’s learned. “I had begun to realize adventure was about story, not brute survival,” he writes. “…story became my obsession …a story well told, I thought, provided a brief glance at the meaning of life...” A masterwork not to be missed by anyone who aspires to the calling.
Silver: Tim Neville, “A Journey Into Iraqi Kurdistan,” The New York Times
Part adventure story, part history, Tim Neville’s journey into a once war-torn region of the Middle East, positions Kurdistan as a welcoming and beautiful region to discover. What stands out are Neville’s descriptions — “Middle Eastern Montana with ruins” — and his reporting on what this region and its people have endured. Neville paints a hopeful picture about Kurdistan’s potential as a travel destination and its welcoming people. In his week of touring, he takes readers into relatively unknown places that “oscillated between breathtaking beauty and heartbreaking anguish.” Neville deftly weaves history with observation, culminating in “the sense that something deep is afoot and that adventure travel stands at the center.” If Neville is right, go now and beat the crowds.
Bronze: Aaron Teasdale, “The Ecology of Fear, A Skier’s Journey Into the Heart of Wild America,” Mountain magazine
What can be learned by skiing in Yellowstone National Park at winter’s end when the only creatures are you, the grizzlies, wolves, bison and other wild beings? A lot if you are writer Aaron Teasdale, who reflects on the importance of the world’s first national park, what he calls “America’s best idea.” Teasdale blends ecology, history and politics as he asks and answers the question: Why does Yellowstone matter? “I start to see what may be Yellowstone’s greatest value for our age — it gives us a way to measure our impact on a changing world. Yellowstone teaches us what coexistence looks like. … it can also show us a better way to think and manage society.” Smart writing, smart lessons for a country that too often ignores the ecological warning signs ahead.
Honorable Mention: Aaron Gulley, “Colombia Rising,” Bicycling magazine
Curious why Colombia’s competitive bicycling pros are winning so many important races, more than any other country, Aaron Gulley spent eight days in the Andes finding out why a country once burdened with cocaine trafficking and a 52-year armed conflict is emerging as a biking paradise. The beauty of the country and the challenge of biking through these incredible mountains come through in Gulley’s vivid, energetic prose. While tourism has grown, with bicycling at its center, it is still in its infancy, claims Gulley, “bursting with potential … young and raw.” Add adventurous riding and thoughtful reporting and the result is enlightened journalism.
Category 110: Travel News/Investigative Reporting
Gold: Chabeli Herrera, “The Fate of Lolita,” Miami Herald
Our first thought is not always our best. This is a compelling story about Lolita, the last solitary orca in captivity in America. While groups muster support for the release of the whale, which has been in captivity since the 1970s, this piece reasons that freeing her might not be the best solution. This important and thoughtful piece explores our responsibility to earth’s other creatures, including those we have imprisoned.
Silver: Oscar Casares, “How Crossing the Bridge to Matamoros Got Complicated,” The New York Times
This is a powerful story about life along the Mexican border. Oscar Casares, who grew up in Brownsville, tells the story of a woman who lives in Matamoros (across the border) but crosses the bridge each day to work in Brownsville. The border has been in the spotlight since Trump proposed building his wall. This piece brings home the difficulties, and tension, of the situation and the people who live with it daily.
Bronze: Mike Seely, “Las Vegas After the Shooting: Renewing Vows, Embracing Community,” The New York Times
After the mass shooting in Las Vegas, what is the city like? Have travelers and tourists been affected? Are businesses feeling it? Mike Seely found that the out-of-town tourists don’t seem affected. But the residents have a different story to tell. A powerful and affecting story.
Honorable Mention: Jon Billman, “How 1,600 People Went Missing From Our Public Lands Without a Trace,” Outside
A well-researched story about the alarming number of people who go missing from public lands. It’s a revealing story about an under-reported issue.
Category 111: Service-Oriented Consumer Work
Gold: Mary Anne Potts, Andrew Evans and Kate Siber, “Adventures All Around,” National Geographic Traveler
With writing that is lyrically visual in places and succinct and bright in others, this overview of adventure travel delivers aspiration-worthy destinations along with all the details needed to make it a winning service package. Nicely organized into categories of Above, Across and Below, the longer pieces infuse reverence for specific attractions, including fuzzy Icelandic horses and an otherworldly Yucatan sinkhole, with travel specifics. The shorter pieces accomplish a lot in little space, succinctly blending service information alongside history and culture.
Silver: Zac Thompson, “How to Get the Most From a Great Wolf Lodge Vacation,” Frommers.com
Awash with the excitement and sensory overload that’s appropriate for a story about waterparks, this article provides personality along with its tips. The writer invites readers along as he and his young niece and nephew splish, splash and slide around a Great Wolf Lodge. The story is smartly structured, and it answers questions and provides recommendations for any would-be waterpark traveler. The plentiful specifics about rides and rooms are helpful, and notes about additional attractions, such as where to go off-site when the waterpark atmosphere becomes too much, help make it a full package.
Bronze: Brooke Porter Katz and Sarah Khan, “My Town,” Virtuoso Life
With a unique approach to these city profiles of popular destinations such as Singapore, Melbourne and Miami, this piece delivers an engaging read and a solid service story. By asking creative folks in each city — authors, chefs and art curators — to dish on their favorite haunts, the resulting tips are full of life and vibrancy and give travelers a few must-do items for future itineraries. The profiles are neatly organized, and with categories like Gallery-Hopping, Book Nooks and Drinks With a View, even a frequent globetrotter is sure to find a few new suggestions.
Honorable Mention: Andrea Sachs, “Women Who See the World Share a Universal Issue: Sexual Harassment,”
The Washington Post
Giving new scrutiny to an age-old problem, this article comprehensively addresses what women should do to avoid sexual harassment and assault while traveling overseas. With advice about how to prepare and organizations that can help, it’s a must-read for female travelers. The stories from women who’ve faced harassment and those who work to combat it help give the story weight and keep it connected to the people it’s really about.
Category 112: Environmental Tourism
Gold: Austin Merrill, “Comeback Wolves: Inside Lamar Valley Wolf Week,” Departures
As all good travel stories do, “Comeback Wolves” gives the reader a vivid account of what the experience is while also providing a deeper look at the subject, the background behind the story. Austin Merrill skillfully delves into the ecology, politics and impacts around the restoration of wolves in Yellowstone National Park’s Lamar Valley.
Silver: Mary Bergin, “Travelers to Missouri’s Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage Get Taste of Life Off the Grid,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch
There are a lot of travel stories about ecolodges, but few do as good a job as Mary Bergin’s in showing the ethic that defines them. This article nicely captured the quirky essence of this offbeat travel destination — and the ethos of its hosts and visitors — in an unlikely locale.
Bronze: Michele Bigley, “Hawaii’s Abundant and Ignored Earth,” Catamaran Literary Reader
“Hawaii’s Abundant and Ignored Earth” turned the tropical paradise travel cliché on its head with this insightful and surprising look at the intersection of poverty, sustainability and paradise. One sentence sums up the article well: “It seems today farmers and chefs of Maui are attempting to lasso the earth into an agreement; only their charge is by reverting to ancient farming methods.”
Category 113: Cultural Tourism
Gold: Jason Motlagh, “It’s Like the NFL. But With Horses and a Headless Calf,” Outside
This story is as unconventional and surprising as its subject, the brutal national sport of Afghanistan called buzkashi. Told with wit, perfect pacing and abundant detail, the story gives the sport all the power that a great narrative can provide. For the reader, it is a breathless ride across the flat grasslands of the country with swaggering horsemen who seem bigger than life. Set against the turbulent backdrop of Afghan history, culture and politics, this is so much more than a piece about a popular pastime — it’s a wonderful story of a country and its culture.
Silver: Suzanne MacNeille, “Vancouver Island, Through an Artist’s Eyes,” The New York Times
This article about an endearing regional artist is richly reported and thoroughly captivating. The writer tells the story of Emily Carr, born in 1871, an artist popular in British Columbia but little-known elsewhere. Her story unfolds with such precision that the reader not only learns about her art but also about her technique, her causes, her eccentricities, her independence, her family and her beloved home. The tour through the house and its surroundings, the inspiration for much of her work, both charms and informs, almost as if she were taking the reader on an adventure with her.
Bronze: Jane Smiley, “Against the Grain,” Smithsonian Magazine
Author Jane Smiley returns to Iowa to follow the trail that inspired and defined the landscapes of artist Grant Wood. It’s October, the crops are in, the leaves are turning, and an elegant writer sets off to untangle the complexity of Wood’s experience, as well as her own. Just as Iowa informed the artist’s body of work, so did it underpin “A Thousand Acres,” Smiley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. This lively, self-aware account of her journey is thoughtful, wise and tinged with humor.
Category 114: Personal Comment
Gold: Pico Iyer, “Destination Nowhere,” National Geographic Traveler
Pico Iyer’s writing can make you wish for a missed flight. In “Destination Nowhere,” he so eloquently describes the passage of a day in nowhere with nothing scheduled, no responsibilities except to wait, as a blessing in disguise. As a closing moral, he writes, “No place, after all, is uninteresting to the interested eye.” You can almost hope to have such an inconvenience-turned-blessing happen to you.
Silver: Beth Rodden, “From Kidnapping to Kids, My Life On and Off the Rock,” Outside
“Before I was kidnapped” opens this engaging account of discovering that being in absolute control and checking and rechecking that everything is “just so” is also being in denial about having a balanced life — hardly any life at all, in fact, outside of competitive rock climbing. And, in an extreme example, it took being kidnapped by Kyrgyzstan freedom fighters and the trauma of witnessing an assassination and an eight-mile escape in total darkness to awaken to reality. It’s a page-turning read. And, be prepared with tissues while reading the closing segment about learning true love and the rewards of parenting. This is a remarkable story with an abundance of personal revelations.
Bronze: Rahawa Haile, “Going It Alone,” Outside
There’s plenty to discover while hiking the Appalachian Trail: friendship, challenges, the value of the natural treasures. Unfortunately, the ugly side of America also is revealed as a single female hiker is repeatedly categorized by the color of her skin. Confederate flags fly over hiker hostels from the deep South up to Mount Katahdin in Maine. A bar of black-face soap in Gatlinburg, TN, sends shock waves. It’s no wonder, Rahawa Haile writes: “Some days I feel like breaking.” The fear of having racist threats yelled at you by people on street corners and in passing cars is ever present. What more might they do? Haile writes with the voice of experience and perspective. It’s strong, it’s shocking, it’s a message that everyone needs to heed. She argues, rightly so, that America has a long way to grow.
Category 115: Special-Purpose Travel
Gold: Ian Frazier, “What Ever Happened to the Russian Revolution?” Smithsonian Magazine
What a sweeping tale told with authority! At 16,000 words, you might hesitate to jump into this article, but Ian Frazier sets the stage for what he’s going to do in giving readers this comprehensive look at Russia in 1917 and today. This is an incredibly ambitious article, broken into five parts plus a conclusion, and perfectly blends personal touches, experiences and observations with deep reportage. Frazier revisits famous routes and visits key places while taking readers through the history of the revolution and drawing parallels to contemporary life.
Silver: Taffy Brodesser-Akner, “We Have Found the Cure! (Sort Of…),” Outside
The writer grabs your attention with the first line, and you’re tugged along on her spa journey by her brashness, forthright tone and awe at what treatments are now commonplace for women in Southern California. In a category that included numerous spa stories, this one stood out for the voice of the writer and sense of humor she brought to the experience.
Bronze: Kim Stanley Robinson, “Nightmare on the Ice,” Smithsonian Magazine
Twenty years after an initial visit to the South Pole, Kim Stanley Robinson returns and takes readers along a journey of a lesser-known trek in this inhospitable region of the world. He re-creates scenes and moments in such a way that you’re convinced he has interviewed the participants and then drops into the story himself in the last portion. Here he underscores how daunting the task and conditions were more than a hundred years ago and reminds us the risks and sacrifices people have made in the name of science.
Honorable Mention: Christopher Muther, “The Ancestry-Fueled Trip of a Lifetime in London,” The Boston Globe
In the lead, the writer is trying to deal with his mother’s crying and is wondering what he might have gotten himself into as he offered to take her to her own motherland. He feels the pressure of having to provide her with a “trip of a lifetime” and deftly weaves in references to her family tree and the quest she is on. Readers sense his apprehension about the trip yet adoration for the woman at its focus. A complement piece provides information on genealogical travel.
Category 116: Short Work on Travel
Gold: Melanie Radzicki McManus, “Testing Your Lungs in Colorado’s Fresh Air,” Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
“Their weariness is so palpable that my own limbs begin to tremble,” Melanie Radzicki McManus writes, then records the other hiker’s comments to a companion: ‘The next time we do this, we’ll be smarter about it … but this is the last time we’re doing it.’” With a vivid, gripping style, McManus puts the reader there with her, experiencing the steepness of the 2,000-foot climb, the burning with each breath and the strain with each step. There’s a sense of connection visitors make with Manitou Incline’s past and its present, putting the entire experience into context immediately.
Silver: Don George, “The Importance of Travel in Turbulent (and Not So Turbulent) Times,” Wanderlust
Don George delivers a heartfelt essay that reminds readers that we have more in common than what separates us and that travel provides a connection among us. Through his own reflection, he subtly challenges readers to look inward and contemplate the source of their wanderlust while nurturing their sense of curiosity and compassion.
Bronze: Samantha Brown, “Places We Love: London,” National Geographic Traveler
This feature goes beyond the typical tourist-spot roundup through its creative use of data visualization. Everyone knows London’s hot spots — the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square — but few know how to best plan their visit given the city’s geography. Through a panoramic photo from above the city, this offers an outstanding level of utility for visitors considering the best way to maximize the time on their visit, to plot stops based on location.
Honorable Mention: Elaine Glusac, “A Cleveland Arts District Hustles and Rebounds,” The New York Times
There’s more to Cleveland than rock music and basketball, and Elaine Glusac drives that point home in this article. By focusing on the people and places featured in a television reality show, she connects readers with locally owned shops and restaurants they may already have some familiarity with, giving an additional reason to want to visit and experience the spots for themselves.
Category 117: Culinary-Related Travel
Gold: Anya von Bremzen, “Counter Revolution,” Afar
The ultimate compliment to be paid to this very fine piece is that the reader need not be interested in food or travel to enjoy and savor it. The writing is zesty, witty, rich with telling, almost novelistic details, and sumptuously paced, all of which would be enough to honor it. But the writer also deftly incorporates her insightful readings of history and culture, giving the piece a weight and a resonance that lingers long after you have read the final sentence.
Silver: David Farley, “The Little German Town With All the Michelin Stars,” Afar
How on earth did Baiersbronn, Germany, end up with restaurants that have earned more Michelin stars than in such big cities as London, Chicago and Rome? David Farley enthusiastically hikes, eats and writes his way through the little town to answer the question. His colorful piece is rich with culinary and historic perspective and leaves the reader asking a different but equally pressing question: How soon can I go?
Bronze: Sylvie Bigar, “What Is a Gooseneck Barnacle?” Departures
In this examination of a bizarre ocean delicacy, writer Sylvie Bigar describes gooseneck barnacles in gory detail — “a steaming bouquet of dark tubes attached to what looked like prehistoric claws”— and then, miraculously, she makes you want to try them. Her fascination with the creature and its hunters is infectious from start to finish.
Category 118: Travel Book
Gold: Lola Akinmade Akerstrom, “Due North: Collection of Travel Observations,” Geotraveler Media Sweden
Born in Nigeria, educated in America and living in Sweden, this writer/ photographer views the world from a unique perspective. Her “snapshots,” verbal and visual, are full of life and insightful. The book is organized by the direction the author traveled and provides layered stories of the cultures she encountered.
Silver: Michael Meyer, “The Road to Sleeping Dragon: Learning China From the Ground Up,” Bloomsbury USA
Sent to a tiny village in China by the Peace Corps in the 1990s, the writer learns much more than the language. He learns, and we learn, that humanity crosses all borders. The final book in a trilogy, “The Road to Sleeping Dragon,” contains more observation and reflection as he considers the mantras offered him while living in China: Go slowly, eat slowly, look slowly.
Bronze: Michael Benanav, “Himalaya Bound,” Pegasus Books
The modernizing pressures of India threaten the traditional way of life of a nomadic tribe of water buffalo herders. Their story is a classic account of the clash between past and future and Western environmental practices coming up against an indigenous tribe’s relationship with its land. The book chronicles how the family’s way of life was being threatened from many angles.
Category 119: Guidebook
Gold: Rick Steves, Ian Watson and Cameron Hewitt, “Rick Steves Iceland,” Rick Steves Travel
Iceland seems to fascinate almost every traveler alive, maybe because the name seems so forbidding, maybe because of the geographic remoteness. This guidebook explains the attractions of the big city, Reykjavik, with vigor. But the guide also leaves the city to help with explorations of hiking journeys, visits to volcanoes, glaciers, and thermal waters. The offshore islands receive attention, too. This book is thorough and well-organized.
Silver: Jody Robbins, “25 Places in Canada Every Family Should Visit,” TouchWood Editions
Parents of families in the United States can find new adventures of all kinds to our North using this guidebook. The variety of destinations across Canada with family-friendly activities, from cities to the outdoors, is a strength of this guide as well as the eight chapters on travel tips from packing like a pro to sharing space. Extensive resources help with planning.
Bronze: Ashley M. Biggers, “Eco-Travel New Mexico: 86 Natural Destinations, Green Hotels,
and Sustainable Adventures,” University of New Mexico Press
The emphasis on environmentally friendly destinations to visit in a state little-known to most American and foreign travelers is an attention catcher. Despite the slimness of the guide, the variety of destinations and the details provided for each become strengths for the book’s users. The distinction between cultural areas and natural areas makes sense and is often absent from travel guides.
Category 120: Travel Journalism Websites
Gold: BBC.com/Travel, Anne Banas, Editor
This website informs, educates and entertains with the full power and resources of the BBC behind it. The independence, impartiality and honesty that the brand is known for shines through this site, allowing users to reliably research and plan their travel with a focus on culture and identity, food and hospitality, adventure and experience. The site is illustrated with stunning photography and engages through the use of video and social media integration.
Silver: KidTripster.com, Shellie Bailey-Shah, Editor
The editors of this website truly understand the pressure families face when wanting to plan the perfect getaway. At a time when money might be tight, creating meaningful memories is what counts, and KidTripster offers the resources parents need to carefully craft their next family adventure. What better tool to help with this than this site’s teen section, which includes features written by teens, offering great insight into how to weave in special moments for the big kids, too.
Bronze: CulinaryBackstreets.com, Yigal Schleifer, Editor-in-Chief
One of the best ways to learn about a new culture is through its cuisine, and the global staff at Culinary Backstreets is working overtime to feed that curiosity. The city guides and walking tours give a deep sense of who and what makes up the local dining scene in cities around the globe. From the profiles on local legends to the features on the ingredients indigenous to each region, this site will give you a taste of what you need to know before leaving home.
Honorable Mention: SmarterTravel.com, Josh Roberts, Senior Executive Editor
Travel isn’t always glamorous; vacations aren’t always hassle-free. SmarterTravel helps prepare you for some of the more unpleasant aspects of globetrotting, such as illness, injury or even bedbugs.
Category 121: Audio Travel Broadcast
Gold: Scott Gurian, “Turkmenistan: Just Plain Weird,” Far From Home Podcast
This is a well-told story, full of mystery and intrigue, with some history, too. Great use of sound and excellent writing to keep listeners on the edge of their seats. The audience learns a lot, but the story also is designed to leave them wanting to know more.
Silver: Beth Harpaz, Warren Levinson and Scott Mayerowitz, “All 50 States as a Travel Goal,”
AP Travel “Get Outta Here!” podcast, Episode 24, the Associated Press
This episode had a great (and well-executed) frame that allowed the listener to explore multiple regions and stories. The variety of sources is another strength of this show. It was great to hear from so many different people of different backgrounds.
Bronze: Liz Beatty, “No-limits Travel for the Blind,” Native Traveler on SiriusXM Canada Talks Channel 167
This was a compelling approach to an episode, exploring many aspects of travel through a completely new lens to most of the audience. The show had a very high production value, especially considering the length. And kudos to contributor Kerry Kijewski, whose account as a blind traveler was outstanding.
Category 122: Video Travel Broadcast
Gold: Trevor Meers, Ryan Borts, David Poyzer and Kylee Krizmanic, “This Land is Our Land,” Midwest Living
A compelling eight-minute look at the Niobrara Chalk Formation in western Kansas. The writing is spare here and all the more powerful for it. The producers linger on evocative natural sound and let the sound bites breath.
Silver: Rick Steves, Simon Griffith and Steve Cammarano, “Rick Steves’ European Festivals,” Rick Steves Travel
This host takes what could be a stale topic — European festivals — and, through clever writing and charismatic performance, brings them to life. It’s fun and light-hearted and makes me want to go.
Bronze: Glen Abbott, “Wanderin’ the White Mountains,” Harley-Davidson’s H.O.G. Magazine digital edition
Exploring the White Mountains of New Hampshire by motorcycle should appeal to everyone, whether they ride or not. Great point of view video and use of natural sound.
Category 123: Travel Blogs
Gold: OenikaTheTraveller.com, Oneika Raymond
In a sea of travel blogs that mostly sound the same and showcase similar people, Oneika the Traveller stands out for its approach, voice and vitality. Oneika Raymond’s personality shines through every bit of this blog and her authentic experiences and pull-no-punches style make it a valuable resource for not only travelers of color, but for all people looking to understand more about the world around them.
Silver: Dangerous-Business.com, Amanda Williams
There are dozens of blogs for the solo female traveler, but what makes this one stand out is Amanda Williams’ thoughtful, clear and authoritative writing. The variety of places she has traveled is impressive, but her reactions to them and her words of advice for travelers like her are what distinguish her blog.
Bronze: SpinTheGlobe.net, Sylvia Longmire
This entry does an excellent job of covering all things related to accessible travel and can be of great use to travelers of any ability level. The author’s joy and humor shine through at all times.
Honorable Mention: YoungAdventuress.com, Elizabeth Carlson
Liz Carlson’s travel blog chronicles the adventures of a person who’s not afraid to admit her fears, humorous misadventures and surprising discoveries across continents.