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Narrative Travel Writing Contest

From the 2013 Travel Writing Contest Winner
Photo of nomads in a tent in Turkey from the The Secret Lives of Nomads, the 2013 Transitions Abroad Narrative Writing Contest winning entry by David Joshua Jennings.

Travel Writing Contest Winners Present and Past

Guidelines for the 2014 Narrative Travel Writing Contest

Congratulations to the 2013 Narrative Travel Writing Contest Winners!
2013 Theme: The contest begins with the experience of traveling to new locations, meeting local people, and immersing oneself in an empathetic manner within local culture(s) in an era in which it seems superficially that everything has been materially "discovered," either physically or virtually. Is it truly possible to discover any new location in this day and age in an empathetic and responsible manner? If so, where did you go, what did you discover, and how did you learn to interact with locals without disrupting their daily life and sacred rituals? Do you believe that you brought anything enduring from your own culture and unique humanity to the people who hosted you? Please weave these ideas implicitly into a narrative.

Editor's Note: We were very pleased and excited to receive many fine submissions during the past year, many of which were of exceptionally high quality. Judging the submissions in order of quality proved very, very difficult; the articles reflect a great deal of introspection, perception, empathy, imagination, and a desire for cultural immersion on the part of the authors. The winners wrote articles on the theme making use of different angles and their unique voices, covering a variety of countries. The judges' choices most clearly followed and expanded upon the theme of this year's contest.

1st Place
Nomads in Turkey

The Secret Lives of Nomads by David Joshua Jennings

2nd Place (tied)
Malawi The Motherland by Amanda Formoso
2nd Place (tied)
Monk in Thailand Inside the Monk’s Cave by Paul King
3rd Place
Children in El Salvador

An American Girl in El Salvador by Alison Konecki

2012 Narrative Travel Writing Contest Winners
2012 Theme: Quite broadly, the transformative role of cultural immersion, empathy, and volunteering in the fabric of your travels abroad woven into a compelling story.
1st Place To See the Queen by June Calendar
2nd Place Tall Tales of Tallinn by John M. Edwards
3rd Place The Himalayan Cock Fight by Liz Cleere

2011 Travel Writing Contest Winners
2011 Theme: Professionals, freelancers, and aspiring travel writers were invited to write articles which describe how traveling in a slower manner and adapting to the space and time of natives has deepened your experience of both the people and the destination. One of the results of a slower form of travel is the experience of "epiphanies" which change one's perceptions of the world, of others, and of oneself. We urge you to translate one of those moments or series of moments into a narrative, which will convey this view to many who still tend to see travel as a way to "do" as many countries, cities, and continents in the world as possible—as if travel was some form of competition or consumption.

Rather, Transitions Abroad has always believed that more experienced travelers and travel writers seek to engage more deeply in a destination by staying for a longer period of time and thereby immerse themselves in the culture and homes they are fortunate enough to visit. Learning to ask questions, share stories sad and humorous, cook, trek, learn a craft, work, volunteer, and participate in other daily activities or rituals is one way to deepen the travel experience and transform it into a two-way street in the process. The Slow Food movement born in Italy and its offshoots are one such manifestation of the urge now felt by many more travelers to participate in the daily lives of the host community and not simply as consumers of their culture and land.
1st Place Chinês in São Tomé by Chaney Kwak
2nd Place (tie) The Kazakh Eagle Hunters of Mongolia by John Glinsman
2nd Place (tie) Turkey, Blindness, and the Philosophy of Traveling Slow by David Joshua Jennings
3rd Place (tie) On Learning How to Fish by Sarah Danielle
3rd Place (tie) Sand and Pomegranates by Daan Nijs
Runner-Up Puja: God and Money in the Indian Subcontinent by Stuart Braun
Runner-Up Blue Cheese by Brenden Cooper
Runner-Up The Timkat Coffee Club by Joanna Griffin
Runner-Up Paths Exist by Kevin Kato
Runner-Up A Mission With a Purpose by Thommen Jose
Runner-Up Train Journeys in India by Shruti Viswanathan

 2010 Travel Writing Contest Winners
2010 Theme: The theme for this year's contest related to the core mission of Transitions Abroad, which has always been centered on educational, responsible, and cultural immersion travel. We were looking for pieces which reflected a respect for what you have learned from native peoples, their cultures, and/or their unique relationship to the land—and how you put your new awareness and empathy into action.

The focus of the travel narrative was to remain squarely on the people and land which had in some ways transformed your vision of the world and had led you to new realizations or epiphanies which may have inspired you to become a volunteer, a teacher, a writer, an aid worker, a foreign service officer, an international nomad, or any other activity influenced by your experiences abroad.
1st Place Accident on the Buffalo Trail by Michael Benanav
2nd Place (tie) Monks, Rice, War by Jann Huizenga
2nd Place (tie) The Collision by Tim Leffel
2nd Place (tie) A Land About Stories by Elizabet Wendt
3rd Place (tie) ¡Oye Niña! by Seble Gameda
3rd Place (tie) Strangers in Czech Lands by Pearl Harris
3rd Place (tie) Finding Joy in Sucre by Mark Kennedy
3rd Place (tie) Finding Refuge in Giving by Alyssa Martino
3rd Place (tie) A Return to the Smallest Country in Africa by Miranda Paul
3rd Place (tie) My Heart's Home by Sarah Seaton

 2009 Travel Writing Contest Winners
2009 Theme: Professionals, freelancers and other talented travel writers were invited to write a travel narrative relating to the specific theme for this year's contest: "Travel in a Dangerous World: Myths and Realities." Many of our readers are independent travelers who are looking for travel ideas which take them to areas unspoiled by mass tourism, where they may meet and respectfully interact with local people who have not yet become cynical about the foreigners who come into their homes or lands. We are looking for stories written by authors who have taken a risk—or been told that they were taking a risk—when traveling overseas. How did you manage to stay safe even while engaging in a form of adventure travel which often involves finding oneself in remote areas of the world or in off-the-beaten-track areas of known cities and regions? One implicit question the articles should address is whether the world (at least that part of the world in which you have traveled) is truly more dangerous than it has ever been, or did you discover that governments and/or mass commercial media have exaggerated the threats for their own motives?
1st Place Ancient Wonders by Victor Paul Borg
2nd Place Beirut in the Baltics: Into the Wild Wild East of "Europe Minor" by John M. Edwards
3rd Place (tie) Aluminum Recollections by Elizabeth Bernays
3rd Place (tie) Armies and Allah in the Vale of Kashmir by Mark Hawthorne
3rd Place (tie) Brave Eyes, Laughing Hearts: My First Encounter with Yemen by Sarah Shourd
3rd Place (tie) Danger About Us by Zachary Haynes
Runner-Up Dangerous Love in India by Lucinda Tikwart
Runner-Up Guatemala City: The Aftermath of Civil War by Veronica Hackethal
Runner-Up Long Live Pakistan By Sonya Spry
Runner-Up Mouth to Mouth by Kristianne Huntsberger
Runner-Up Pokhara Valley, Nepal by Donna J. Moore
Runner-Up Road….what road? A shortcut from Ganzi to Litang, China by Jules Bass
Runner-Up Saffron and Nukes by Nancy Penrose
Runner-Up The Brandy Making Bee Keeper of Bosnia by John Webster

 2008 Travel Writing Contest Winners
2008 Theme: Professionals, freelancers and other talented travel writers were invited to write a travel narrative relating to the intrinsic educational aspects of meaningful travel. We are looking for evocative and engaging writing in which sensitive immersion in the country, the people, the food, the land, the art, the rituals, and the culture in general play the leading role in the writer's self-discovery and enlightenment. We were were looking for a well-crafted and inspirational story which should appeal to those who have traveled independently overseas with open minds, sensitive souls, and empathetic imaginations. The aesthetic and intellectual pleasures of discovery are of more interest to us in this year's travel writing contest than the sense of personal or cultural guilt over the many horrific situations to be found worldwide and covered in-depth in other areas of
1st Place Education from the Streets of Giza by Alexander Breimann
2nd Place (tie) The Aesthetics of the Empty Landscape by Alan Drop
2nd Place (tie) Pray that the Road is Long by Luke Rodehorst
3rd Place (tie) Coexistence by Claire Morris
3rd Place (tie) Take me to America by Elizabeth Sharpe
Runner-Up An Authentic Hill Tribe Experience by Laurie Weed
Runner-Up The Buddha, the Dharma & the Sangha by Dorothee Lang
Runner-Up Coffee: A Universal Language by Jenny Williams
Runner-Up Feasting in Fez by Beebe Bahrami
Runner-Up Finding Roots in a Foreign Land by Hassan Awaisi
Runner-Up From an Ethnic to an African Island by Sandra Jackson-Opoku
Runner-Up The Happiest Country by Cynthia Wolterding
Runner-Up Hut of the Wanderer by William Orem
Runner-Up Life and Death in Tana Toraja by Chris Dunham
Runner-Up Market Hopping Around Lagos by Lola Akinmade

2007 Travel Writing Contest Winners
2007 Theme: Professionals, freelancers and aspiring travel writers were invited to write articles which describe a moment or moments which capture the sense of immersion in another culture. Whether as a traveler, a student, a volunteer, or as one living and working in another land, there are often moments when one loses a sense of one's own nationality and becomes aware of a common connection with the native people and their culture. Often the feeling of unity or empathy is brief and may just as suddenly transform into the realization of one's inescapable role as an outsider. We invite you to describe such moment(s) in a narrative where the people are the primary subject and the "I" disappears into the background.
1st Place The Ultimate Journey: A Trip to the Heart of Tibet by Matthew Bowden
2nd Place A Question of Tradition by Kim Foote
3rd Place The Music and Rhythm of the Cuban Spirit by Darin Cook

2006 Travel Writing Contest Winners
2006 Theme: Professionals, freelancers and aspiring travel writers were invited to write articles which describe a life-changing travel experience abroad. One of the results of cultural immersion travel abroad is the experience of "epiphanies" which change one's perceptions of the world, of others, and of oneself. We urge you to translate one of those moments or series of moments into a narrative which might offer others inspiration to take the plunge overseas.
1st Place An Exorcism in Zambia by Guy William Volk
2nd Place Theater Street by Dominique Channell
3rd Place (tie) The Visit by Laura Gomel
3rd Place (tie) A Report from Northern Uganda by Kristin Anne Fleshner

Guidelines for the 2014 Narrative Travel Writing Contest invites you to enter its 2014 Narrative Travel Writing Contest with a $500 first-place prize and no fee for entry.

The theme for this year's contest is very broad and in keeping with our editorial. We wish to explore the idea of travel as a way to not only leave behind your material and spiritual preconceptions, but to use the opportunity to open up to ideas, aesthetics, and rituals which you have internalized into your own life going forward. What did you learn during your travels and did this fundamentally transform your perception(s) of the world? Do you believe that you may have touched your hosts in ways which may have in some way transformed their views of the world as well, or is that presumptuous as a de facto "outsider" to their rituals and way of life? As always, we encourage you to approach the subject in the empathetic way in which you traveled and stayed in host countries and homes. Please weave these ideas implicitly into a narrative if this relates to one of your experiences.

We are not looking for destination pieces which describe in flowery "amazing" terms your experience, essays on the pros and cons of a postmodernist view of travel, nor are we looking for travelogues or blog-like posts which are too overly personal and self-involved to necessarily resonate with others on their own paths of discovery. We are looking for well-written inspirational pieces which will lead others to experience the sense of engagement as a global citizen.

Accompanying photos which enhance the narrative are highly preferred. Photojournalistic essays or accompanying videos will also be considered, and humor is appreciated where appropriate.

Please include an optional bio of 1-3 sentences which reference your websites, blogs, books, and contact information in the body of the submission. will publish the top three winners' entries as well as those of the selected runner-ups.

Notification of your participation in the contest via Twitter, Facebook, or other social networking sites would be appreciated (see our links/buttons at the top and bottom of this page).

Contest Prizes

In this year's Narrative Travel Writing Contest, the first-place winner’s entry will receive $500 (USD), the second-place winning entry $150, and the third-place winner $100.

Any other articles selected as runner-ups will receive a $50 payment.

Who is Eligible

The Contest is open to professional, freelance and aspiring travel writers from any location around the globe and of any nationality.

How to Enter
  • Submit an original and previously unpublished essay from 1,000 to 5,000 words. Supporting photos in .jpg or .gif format are welcome to illustrate the experience and are considered part of the essay submission. Please do not embed the photos for the travel essay in the .doc files.
  • To enter the Contest, attach your essay in Microsoft Word format or copy and paste it into an email as a last resort. Please include your the essay title, full name, complete postal address and phone number in both the email and Word document and add a brief bio if you so choose. Please type "2014 Narrative Travel Writing Essay Entry" in the subject description of the email and send the email to
  • The Contest begins April 1, 2013, and all entries must be received by January 15, 2014. Transitions Abroad Publishing, Inc. will require first-time Worldwide Electronic rights for all submissions which are accepted as contest winners and for publication. In addition, Transitions Abroad Publishing, Inc. will reserve the right to reprint the story in a future publication. The writer may republish the unedited submission as desired six months after initial publication on
  • Editors of will judge entries based upon the following criteria:
    • Sensitivity to the people and culture being described
    • Ability to engage the reader
    • Literary quality
    • Rich photographic/video illustrations
  • Winners will be notified by phone, mail, or email by January 22, 2014 for publication in March due to the time required for all writers spanning the globe to send in Agreements and payments to be cashed.
Contest Terms
  • There is no entry fee required for submissions.
  • Decisions of the judges are final.
  • Transitions Abroad Publishing, Inc. is not responsible for late, lost, misdirected, incomplete, or illegible email or for any computer-related, online, or technical malfunctions that may occur in the submission process.
  • Submissions are considered void if illegible, incomplete, damaged, irregular, altered, counterfeit, produced in error, or obtained through fraud or theft.
  • Submissions should be previously unpublished, either in print or on the Web.
  • Submissions will be considered made by an authorized account holder of the email address submitted at time of entry.
  • The 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners—along with any others accepted for publication—will be paid by Transitions Abroad Publishing, Inc. either by check or Paypal as preferred by the author.
  • All federal, state, and local taxes are the sole responsibility of the Contest winners.