Thank you all for your courage to create and for sharing your stories with us.

With more than 8,000 travel stories to review, we were thoroughly overwhelmed by your witty, gut-wrenching, heart-warming and just plain incredible stories. From those of you who captured a single interaction to others who took us for a wild adventure, you left few corners of the world unexplored.

However, our job is to not only find the best stories, but also to find the most passionate and aspiring travel writers, who will use this scholarship opportunity to build their skills and kick-start their travel writing careers.

Here are your 2017 Travel Writing Scholarship winners...

Missed out on this scholarship?

In partnership with:

Congratulations to our 3 winners

Alexander McCoy, Helen Glenny and Kaushal Oza, we're kick-starting your travel writing career with a mentorship from professional travel writer Tim Neville. You'll then be off on a real-life assignment, exploring the Balkans and writing about your adventures along the way!

Alexander McCoy,
from the USA

Naked As I Was Born

Story about Japan

Out of my comfort zone

Many of the contestants can string together excellent sentences but what’s more important is picking a topic of significance. This story is superb in that way. The essay is told with honesty through a strong protagonist you sympathize with. The language feels like it’s grappling in spots but that can be fixed. We have a clear sense of place, action and dialog. Most compelling of all, the writer uses a situation that’s foreign to most and expands it into something bigger that any traveler can identify with.

Mentor, Tim Neville's Comments

Helen Glenny,
from New Zealand

The Price of Books

Story about Myanmar

Making a local connection

This is a solid piece of writing with the right mix of setting, characters, and action. There are a few clunky sentences in here that any editor could fix, but overall this is a moody, revealing and ultimately very rewarding read. The skill that shines through here is how the writer takes a common item, a book, and uses it as a lens to gaze upon two very different worlds. That’s far harder to do than it sounds and in this case the writer nails it.

Mentor, Tim Neville's Comments

Kaushal Oza,
from India

Cricket in the Valley

Story about India

Making a local connection

Gorgeous piece of writing. Eloquent. Exotic and measured in its telling with bursts of color and commentary, much like a cricket match. The writer does a fine job with the imagery and use of symbolism. This is a serious, deeply divisive subject — also one of significance — and the writer floats us right across it with a boat. This is high quality work.

Mentor, Tim Neville's Comments

The Shortlist

Congratulations to the following members of our shortlist. Each of you will receive a certificate from World Nomads and personal feedback from mentor, Tim Neville.

Amanda Vandenberg from the USA - A Funeral for a Fish (Spain)

Blaine Pennington from the USA - A People Displaced (Jordan)

Cheri Grissom from the USA - My Black-Eyed Barricade (Colombia)

Danielle Tate-Stratton from Canada - The Horse Thief (Iceland)

Fabio Grandi from the UK - Partying with Pachamama (Bolivia)

Johanna Sorrell from the USA - Walking Alone. (Canada)

Katie Wirsing from the USA - First Date (Cambodia)

Leah Tioxon from the USA - No Turning Back (India)

Matt Hayes from New Zealand - An Encounter in Langtang Valley (Nepal)

Michael Kelly from Nepal - An Affinity inside Infinity (Nepal)

Michaela Barnett from the USA - Savoring a Guinea Pig Gift (Ecuador)

Nick Sustana from Spain - Catalan Skyscrapers in Barcelona (Spain)

Rebecca Wilson from the UK - Between The Wars. (Brazil)

Rhiannon Arnold from Australia - The Bali Dawn (Indonesia)

Sarah Puckett from the USA - Journeys in Life and Death (the USA)

Sarah Dittmore from the UK - Finding Pain (India)

Zoe Power from Australia - The Chase Is On (Guatemala)

Missed out on this scholarship?

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First of all, a huge thanks to all of you who took the time to send us your stories. They made me laugh and cry and think. They made me want to hand out my wallet to strangers on a bus, to play with the children of the favelas and hug my father. Most of all they reminded me that the best travel experiences emerge not in the moment but after they’ve been given some time to stew. To everyone, a big bravo.

World Nomads received a record number of entries this year — thousands and thousands — and the team read every single one of them. They then forwarded me a larger shortlist. I spent countless hours reading them again and again with everything removed but your title and story. For each piece, I took diligent notes on what I thought worked and didn’t. I then reread the story again to see if my own thoughts held true. The quality of the essays I received would make me fear for my job if I didn’t believe I could help make you better, too.

In the end, I picked a handful of the best of the best. After interviews, more deliberating, some sleepless nights and insightful feedback from my own mentors, three winners emerged. Alexander, Helen and Kaushal are not only very promising writers, they’re also hungry to embark on this funny, rewarding career. We feel they’ll benefit the most from what this contest is all about.

Many new writers think writing is all about wowing the reader with heady sentences or using a voice that sounds engaging but just doesn't match the material. Too often the words get in the way of the writing. Good storytelling is about delivering a complex, nuanced message in an economical yet elegant form that can be funny or sad or brutally honest. Most of all it has to feel authentic. The best writers do this by crafting scenes and characters and setting everything into motion in such a way that the words themselves fade away and all that’s left is an invisible hand guiding your imagination. As Ernest Hemingway once said, raisin bread is all right but plain bread is better.

It's a lesson that can take a lifetime to learn so don't be discouraged. Keep traveling. Keep writing and always take good notes. The best stories are still out there.

Tim's portrait photo Tim Neville,
Travel Writing Scholarship Mentor & Contributor for the New York Times

Please note: Due to the sheer amount of applications we receive for our scholarships, we do not provide individual feedback. If you would like to improve your travel writing skills in time for your next trip, please be sure to sign up to our exclusive tips in the sign up box above.

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Hi everyone,

Thank you for your passionate engagement and debate regarding our scholarship winners.

Each year, our winners are chosen based on their storytelling skills, stand out creativity and personal dedication to the craft. However, these artistic considerations are not the only ones. No matter how good the writing is, it cannot supersede cultural awareness and racial sensitivity to a global audience.

We would like to make it extremely clear that we do not condone the use of offensive language, including a term referring to Native Americans in “Two is not always company”. After speaking extensively with the author about her intent, we have learned that it did not come from a hateful or racist place, but from a place of pure ignorance. An ignorance that we shared. We realize that this is not an excuse for us to overlook its use.

For this reason, we have decided it is not appropriate to award the scholarship to the author of “Two Is Not Always Company”, and the application has been withdrawn. We will continue to talk to the author about ways in which through the power of travel we can break down prejudice and bigotry, promote inclusion and build understanding.

The scholarship spot created by this decision will be filled by the first runner-up as determined by the mentor Tim Neville, which is Kaushal Oza’s "Cricket in the Valley”.

Thanks for your understanding.

The World Nomads team

Please join us in congratulating our winners and shortlisted applicants below

Congratulations to our winners!

2017 World Nomads Travel Writing Scholarship in the Balkans.

In partnership with:


  • Pierre said

    Congratulations to the winners, loved reading their stories!

  • Meaghan said

    Well done to the winners. Can't wait to read about your adventures and to see you grow as writer's.

  • Mark said

    Congrats. Great to read and enjoy the journey. All had a certain style - almost like sections from novels, interesting to read the winning formula

  • Emma said

    Congratulations to the winners! I'm excited to read more of your pieces.

  • Kelly said

    Congratulations to all winners, really lovely writing!

  • Ieva said

    I don't know if anyone noticed, but all the winners (and 80% of shortlisted candidates) are from English-speaking countries. What's more I didn't see any candidates from middle east, Africa, or eastern Europe... This is alarming. I get that the quality of writing is important, but what about non-native English speakers who want to share their stories with wider audiences? @worldnomads

  • Anastasiia said

    Compose a 2500 character travel story around one of the following themes:
    'Making a local connection'
    'Out of my comfort zone'
    'A place I’ll never forget'

    I wonder why do we have THREE winners but two of them have the same theme of their stories? I thought that three winners should represent three topics - one winner in each "nomination"

  • Tara Vandeveer said

    What's the point of having a contest and the prize being to get mentored in a writing career if the winners are already good writers? I think this contest is not fair and agree with Ieva.

  • Felipe Paula said

    100% of the winners came from English speaking countries. Including the shortlist, about 86% are from English speaking countries. So, what's the point of an International competition if you don't allow any diversity of voices? Good Luck. You are going to be called out a lot about this. "Anglo First World Nomads"

  • Eva said

    Leva and Tara's comments indicate that they missed the point of this contest -- and, perhaps, the point of World Nomads. World Nomads isn't a nonprofit that teaches people who don't speak English to speak English. It's a travel insurance company in an English-speaking country. They sometimes sponsor photography and writing contests, and it clearly says in the rules that entries must be written in English. Anyone from anywhere is welcome to apply, but obviously if their English isn't good, they won't win.

    If you're not a good writer, you don't need a successful, world-class travel writer as your mentor. You need a basic online tutorial. Try Youtube, Coursera, EdX, or one of the hundreds of educational websites out there.

    If you don't speak good English, you don't need a successful, world-class travel writer as your mentor. You need a recent college graduate with a TEFL.

    There is nothing alarming about any of this.

    As for Anastasiia's comment about how two of the winners responded to the same prompt... so what? Am I the ONLY person who read the rules?

  • Keith Ruffles said

    Congratulations to all the winners! Looking forward to reading the results of your Balkan adventures ;)

  • Johnny said

    Congratulations to all three winners, I look forward to reading your experiences in the Balkans.

    For anybody that's disappointed - keep writing and keep trying to improve. View the winners as an inspiration.

  • Matt said

    Well done but I didn't enjoy reading them compared to others. How is a story of an older (hairy mexican) chatting up a young woman useful to 'travellers' it's like cheap 50 shades of grey.

  • Syl said

    It is somewhat disheartening that, in the current political climate which has seen an increase in discriminatory behaviours towards Mexicans in the US, this is the best WN could muster up.

  • Matt said

    Syl I totally agree with you, I found the feedback comments 'has some politically correct awareness issues' a little naive. There is a heavy suitcase of judgement about people there which I hope can be 'adjusted with awareness'

  • Maribelle T said

    Congratulations to all that made this list! Those are some great stories! I guess I'll be trying again next year :)

  • Anthony said

    well done to the winners. I enjoyed the writing a lot but not as 'travel writing' .... I think the judge obviously likes a particular style, I think any of them could have told their stories in any location. I don't think I got a sense of place. But they write nice tales

  • Marie-France Roy said

    Has somebody else noticed that one of the shortlist members is also one of the winners (Helen Glenny)? Maybe they need to pick one more person for the shortlist? :)

    I'm disappointed that I didn't win, but I still intend to visit the Balkans soon (especially Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and of course write about them on my blog (

  • Shubha Jaggi said

    I expected to feel disappointed on not being selected, but I'm just genuinely happy for the three winners!
    What an opportunity this would be and I'm imagining y'all in the wonderful Balkans :)
    Congrats to the winners and shortlisters. For all else, let's keep writing and sharing :)

  • Dan said

    AS MENTIONED Anastasiia (perhaps she also wrote a piece for the non-winning category too) :P

    "I wonder why do we have THREE winners but two of them have the same theme of their stories? I thought that three winners should represent three topics - one winner in each "nomination"......"


  • Natalia Godoy said

    Congratulations to the winners. I will promote more Latinos to participate in this. Always the applications and shortlist are made up of Americans, who already have a culture to be travelling many years ago.

  • Jade said

    Congratulations to the winners on your amazing oppurtunity. The stories selected are not the type I expected to win, so interesting to see what the judge was looking for. Enjoy and safe travels!

  • Shikha Patnaik said

    When I read some of the participants here criticizing the entries (especially the Mexican one), I assumed that their comments were just coming from a place of jealousy. After reading the entries, I agree with them.

    I have read hundreds of these entries myself and I am surprised to find that some of them didn't even make the shortlist while the Mexican story actually won. The Japanese and Burmese stories are all right (forget mine, there are much better entries - one about butter in "Culinary Adventures", the war stories from Sri Lanka, and another about a trek in North East India), but the Mexican story? Seriously?

    The relationship between the US and Mexico is so sensitive right now that I'm surprised that the author chose to write that story, forget WorldNomads and Tim Neville actually awarding it. It doesn't even do the theme - Making a Local Connection - justice. So the author got hit on, yeah such a wonderful connection that throws light on the local culture and people.

    And a surprise ending, they say? Sure, I mean, random strangers just ask you out of the blue, right after introducing themselves, if they can tell you their story. Of course the Mexican here was trying to pick up the author.

    To all the wonderful, budding writers out there, who didn't win or made the shortlist, do not be disheartened. Something about this year's winners is off and this contest is not the right test of your capabilities. Let's keep writing! (Though I'm not sure if I want to come back next year.)

  • Marie said

    I'm shocked with the choice of the third story. Culturally tone deaf and hardly a portrait of a place or culture. I think many of the short list stories and I'm sure probably many others do a better job of being travel writing. One of the qualifications stated by world nomads was to be able to uncover a good travel story - but then the winners don't seem to reflect that.

  • Nicole Battersby said

    Congratulations to all the winners and those shortlisted, and well done team on reading the thousands of entries! What a wonderful opportunity these writers will now have :)

  • Betty said

    Like others, I am disappointed with the cultural insensitivity in the third piece. When there is already so much prejudice against Mexicans in our current political climate, why choose this one? I don't see how the "political incorrectness" could be fixed when the ending shows her initial bias and prejudice to be correct.

    I am also shocked at the use of "red Indian" in this piece and "third world" in the Myanmar piece.

    The Japan piece was an interesting read.

  • Aditi Agrawal said

    Congratulations to the readers! Their stories were a joy to read.

  • Editor in Chief said

    1. Two is Not Always Company. I do not get the sense of a local connection being made. In fact, there was no connection at all! I get the sense of a conversation and that's it. The author being understandably defensive, then letting her guard down, then being defensive again as she realizes he is a lonely man. The scene is portrayed well but it is just that: a scene! And one with no ultimate importance from my viewpoint. Underneath the context of the premise, there is no relationship being made. Where is the heart and depth of two strangers connecting? Any traveler can have a random conversation with a stranger and it won't always be a profound local connection. In fact, the author barely says a word. This story reads as a snippet from a hurried blog post or even a Facebook post from your cousin who is traveling the world. Under the heavy scrutiny and championing of the premise of this contest against the countless other entries, I felt perplexed that this story was one of the winners as it reads and feels empty and devoid of any substance. The writer had a golden opportunity to expound on the tragic yet relentless quest for love of the man (express it not just state it) but ends up dropping the ball. Her presence reads as droll, the man as a caricature.

    Nevill mentions "reflection and character development" which there are none. That it was a "hoot to read". Really? I didn't find myself amused or laughing. I did not have fun reading this story.

    2. Naked as I was Born. Nothing should be taken away from the author's harrowing life experience of gender. But the story's flow reads as pandering. Where is the heat of the crucial battle under way between the author's viewpoint of him/herself and his/her localized environment? Yes the author is out of place. Yes it fits the premise of the topic as Neville suggests by "picking a topic of significance." But how does that, by itself, make the story superb? There is no pull or drive from the author's view that hits home. As a reader, you don't always have to have gone through the same experience as a the protagonist, you just need to 'feel' that you could have or can place that situation somewhere in your own life. The author's premise and setting fit perfect but the execution is lacking. There is no electricity to the pained conflict I feel like I should have felt from the perspective of a transperson having to make a choice in a foreign bathhouse. Strong topic, lacking writing conviction.

    3. The Price of Books. Well, 1 out of 3 ain't bad.

    Just goes to show folks, keep writing and keep entering contests. World Nomads is foremost an insurance company so Nat Geo it is not. The winning entries are perplexing to me. So the cliche is true: You don't always have to be the best writer, just be a writer that finds an opportunity. Everybody must surely act on their own ambition -- but anyone, including the path Neville took for his own career (and other pro travel writers in the field), can benefit from a door opening by just having taken action!

    My comments should not read as criticism of the contest in general, just as a reader wanting to feel the power and depth of humanity through the deep rooted core of riveting and amazing travel writing. Congrats to the winners.

  • Lynnora said

    As I am sure the other thousands of applicants agree, entering this contest was small fries in comparison to reading through the life experiences described by other contestants. Congrats to the winners and short list, but a hearty shout-out to the applicants as a whole--my world was rocked reading through these stories, winners and non-winners alike! Where else in one place can you flip through so many vignettes of "ordinary people" in extraordinary places? It's like the best rolodex of memories ever.

  • Ankita said

    I am unable to find my travel story in the first place.

  • World Nomads Scholarships said

    Hi everyone, thanks for supporting our travel writing scholarship this year.

    To address a few points made about our scholarship program:

    All of our scholarships are global opportunities and we encourage people from all over the world to apply. However, as per our terms, we only judge applications submitted in English. Having a very good grasp of the English language is essential to writing a good essay in English. To clarify, all applications were judged without knowing the country of residence of the author – stripping away any bias. We have been running our travel scholarship program for more than 10 years and have had winners from 6 out of the 7 continents (still waiting on a winner from Antarctica!).

    The writing themes provided to our applicants are a guide for our writers to craft their stories. We do not stipulate anywhere that we will pick one from each theme. This year, as with every year, we select our winners based on their stories as well as their personal essay (which are not displayed publicly), and pick the top 3 applicants we feel will most benefit from this opportunity.

    We hope you keep channeling your passion into your writing and look forward to reading your stories next year!

    - Pari, World Nomads

  • Shikha Patnaik said

    Betty, agree with you. The use of "Red Indian" and "wolf-like hairs" are very offensive descriptions. And the way the author swings from thinking "he's a sexual predator" to "awww, he's just lonely" is quite immature.

    Editor in Chief got it right, too. There was no "connection" at all but just a conversation, and a boring one at that.

  • Kat said

    Some great writing in all of these stories - congrats to the winners! Travel is all about having an open mind and learning - about others, places, culture, self - and whether I relate to these tales personally or not, it's about the storytelling. Look forward to next year's comp.

  • Kuturanki Silas Auta said

    Congratulations and I wish you the best of the travel.

  • Sean said

    Agree with Kat - it's not only what you write about, but also how you write it. Congrats to the talented winners and shortlist!

  • Akanksha said

    No one mentioned that the entrues should revolve around sad, horrific themes like gender change, wars and deprived Mexicans. Who needs happy stories?

  • Sunayana said

    Congratulations to Alexander, Helen and Aimee and those shortlisted. Really enjoyed reading your stories.

  • Joe said

    Thousands of dreamers and only 3: Alexander, Helen and Aimee made their dreams come true. Congratulations Winners! You will embark your journey into the Western Balkans starting with the set location for Game Of Thrones.
    So many voices have so many things to say about the results but I would say: It takes a lot of time to read so many stories and so Thanks to WorldNomads Readers team as you played a significant role in selecting the winner. (I hope you found it interesting to read my story too)
    It's heartbreaking to not see your story up there but I am glad for this Travel Writing Scholarship 2017 opportunity for the WINNERS(I wish I was one among you)!

    P.S. Happy Journey to Balkans!! Have a wonderful time with your mentor Tim Neville and working on your travel assignment Alexander, Helen, and Aimee.

  • Paul said

    World Nomads, you have taken the time to reply to most criticism, yet remain silent on the most important issue: the tone deafness and cultural insensitivity of the 3rd winning entry.

  • Ernesto de Castro Icogo said

    Congratulations to the winners. It's nice to be part of the contest which gave me the experience and the feel of being an essay writer, expressing my feeling and contributing to the future of travel for the benefit of those who were born later.

    I hope my writing will contribute to the future of travel.

  • Heather Kay said

    Congratulations on all the winners! Guess I will still be going to the Balkans this time anyways, even without the win! :)

  • Rasha Rashad said

    Congrats all winners, hope will catch up with you next time :)

  • Koumudi Chakraborty said

    Congratulations to all the winners. Loved reading all your stories! Looking forward to some exciting insights from your trip in the Balkans. All the best!

  • Siddharth Gupta said

    Congratulations to the winners! They honestly deserved it with the brilliant stories they have delivered. So crisp on top and the perfect gooey centre makes it a delight. Thank you. I must travel and write more this year and come back next year to try my luck.

  • Laura said

    Congratulations to all three winners, I hope you have the best time in the Balkans.

    Unfortunately Making a local connection has taken on the subtext of "EW!" for next year.
    I have a tale about a handsy German truck driver who insisted on helping me in and out of his lorry, or that French tourist who kept one hand under the jacket he placed across his lap as he chatted about North American woman, no wait, there was a Turkish farmer that...."

  • Maria Correia said

    Congratulations to the winners! Enjoy this wonderful opportunity! Well done World Nomads and Tim Neville! Thank you for everything!

  • Bin said

    Congrats to the winners!

    I really think the Mexican story, albeit well-written, is offensive...and that Tim's excusing of its offensive nature is symptomatic of the colonialist, first-world attitude that pervades the Anglophone travel industry.

  • Chiara said

    Thanks to TravelNomads for this beautiful opportunity to get to know better other travellers and fellow writers.
    I'll send something again next year!


  • rachel Noel said

    Congrats to the winners, can't get my head around the winning Mexican one though...50 shades of daft? But, really enjoyed Helen's story. Look forward to the next contest. I hope there is another one soon

  • Tara Vandeveer said

    Good Luck and congrats to the winners. I hope I get to meet Tim Neville one day. He seems like a good person.

  • Tara Vandeveer said

    To those who didn't win. Please understand that every writer/artist/musician has an audience. You really have to know where your audience is coming from to know what they want to hear. Lindsey Stirling didn't win any contests but yet she has the highest views on YouTube and a successful career. People love authenticity. Keep writing and one day you will find your audience if that is what you desire.

  • Onur Memis said

    From the very beginning, the approach of the employees of World nomads was very good.

    But the assessment is not for a national competition. The jury must know that there are 193 countries in the world when they decide. If only Western countries are given the chance, there is no point in hoping for the whole world.

    This note is not just for 2017!

  • Milena said

    Congratulations to the first two winners. About Aimee Binstead's story, I had no idea that someone so racist as to refer to a Latin American as looking like a 'RED INDIAN' could possibly win. This isn't an issue of 'political correctness' this is just bluntly racist. To promote the stereotype of Latino men as "hitting on young BLONDE women" is an issue of political correctness (i.e. why do you need to specify your ethnicity, hair colour? do you mean they just don't bother with brunettes or Asian or Black women?). To describe someone as a Red Indian is insulting to my whole continent. Please refer to the merriam-webster dictionary for definition: Definition of Red Indian
    chiefly British, dated, now often offensive
    : american indian

    I am insulted that this story won, that such blunt racism is being ignored, and even more promoted.

  • Samantha said

    It shocks me that out of 8,000 applicants, they choose an essay that contains a racial slur and is based on a premise that re-affirms harmful racial stereotypes. 'Red indian' is not a matter of political correctness. That's a racist term. The deeper issue, however, can't be fixed. She's telling a story about how she had this stereotype in mind - even going as far as comparing this Mexican man to a predatory animal, as if we don't see enough of that in American political discourse - and how her stereotype was confirmed. Yeah, the telling is funny. But this is a funny bar story for your friends, not a piece of travel literature.

    Congratulations to the first two writers. Their stories were great! Hopefully this mentorship will help Aimee Binstead broaden her mind. Though if Tim Neville really sees that all as a simple "political correctness issue" then I doubt he'll be of any help.

  • Shruti Jain said

    It's great to read the incredible stories of the three winners, truly inspiring.
    Congratulations to the winners and the shortlisted writers!

  • Peter Keithly said

    So, these are travel stories? Seems like they would somehow encourage you to travel to those places, or perhaps warn you to not? These well crafted works are much more like creative writing exercises than informational. My preference is for good travel writing that also informs about the places visited. Anyway, I am happy for those who won and hope it will make them better travel writers.

  • Lauren C said

    Two of these stories were excellent. But clearly many of us agree that the Mexico story was a big disappointment on many levels. While it was well-told and entertaining, the story really had nothing to do with travel, so the fact that it was chosen by Tim made me feel like this contest was a bit of a joke. Nevertheless, what a fabulous opportunity for the three winners!

  • Adam said

    I hate to go all sour grapes on this but the winning essays are creative non-fiction at best not remotely travel writing as such (save the fact the stories don't take place in the US or Canada).

    I couldn't make it through the identity politics-heavy first story. I wanted to know more about the onsen not somebody's almost complete self-absorption despite being literally immersed in a complex, ancient culture.

    Second story was OK. A little too grandiose in its speculative conclusions from limited premises but whatever. Heads and shoulders above the other two and still not remotely among the best I read from the entries. Goes to show what's lurking beneath this contest... Weirdly tone deaf (see third story) regressive left politics without any sense of what travel writing is supposed to do: illuminate the destination &/or make the reader actually want to go there. Simple, actually. No need for forced epiphanies.

    The third story is a local connection? Not even close. Almost zero environmental details about where the incident actually took place. Show me the beach if you mention a beach. Basic Chekhov. Tone deaf as others have observed.

    All in all self-absorbed & insufferable material. Write to the twisted formula and win or perish the thought. I'll find my own audience. Simply stunned by the quality & nature of the winning pieces.

  • Cat said

    Sorry World Nomads... I was so excited to learn from the winner's writing to improve upon my own skills as a novice but some of the awarded entries read like fiction. Travel writing is meant to inspire exploration and most importantly encourage tourism, cultural exchange and education. Two Is Not Always Company does none of this. I don't want to read about someone being hit on. I can go to a bar to hear that. It's an immature theme nor is it a unique tale that tells me anything about the place or person. As everyone has stated you have awarded a piece that is blatantly offensive on so many levels... Racial slurs (I am an Aussie and knew as a child not to use the term Red Indian) plus it perpetuates nothing but gender and cultural stereotypes regarding men and Mexicans. It is presumptuous and aggressive in tone. Some of the statements are blatantly sexist e.g men are only driven by carnal desire as the writer so disappointingly put. You are not only perpetuating these ideas but awarding them and thereby encouraging people to do the same next year! This isn't about being PC this is pure unprofessionalism and ignorant writing which builds up walls that travel writer's aim to break down through their work. I hope your company responds to community concerns because ultimately it reflects your values. As a travel based company you ALL should stand for something better than that narrative. Congratulations to all else involved, truly loved reading and learning.

  • Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku said

    Congratulations to the winners. I'd be reading all the shortlisted stories to help up the ante of my game. Thanks World Nomads for letting me try

  • Kristi Murphy said

    Many congratulations to the winners! The trip will be amazing and I can't wait to hear about it. Thanks to World Nomads for holding the competition and reading all of the stories. Your dedication to the competition and its integrity is admirable. I'm looking forward to next year's competition.

  • Jay said

    I am sorry to read so many complaints posted publicly from those that didn't win. A few responses smacked of sour grapes or poor sportsmanship.

    I was also upset and then absolutely angry about the content of one winning story. However, no one should be publicly insulted or humiliated for winning (especially since the judge and numerous World Nomad staff were also responsible). There was an alternative email address listed for comments, rants and anything beyond congratulations to the winners. I used it and I hope they take it seriously.

    Please continue to stand up and speak up about xenophobia. But do it appropriately and with the understanding that we are ALL guilty of it at times. Like the writer, we aren't always aware of our own internalization (and therfore perpetuation) of it because it is so ingrained. It can be subtle as well as blatant; sometimes the subtle is more damaging. I am lucky to have friends and colleagues (but not family, sigh) that call me on my bullshit in a safe mode.

    I hope that World Nomads values feedback and will use it proactively.

  • Shubha Jaggi said

    I agree. I might not like some of the winning stories, but we need to respect the Judge's and WN's choice.any congrats to the winners.

    Shikha Patnaik - THANK YOU for liking my story on the trek in the North East India! Made my day!

    Joe, very well said.

    Peace out, all. And let's keep writing and sharing!

  • Sarah Puckett said

    Truly loved reading Helen and Alexander's stories!!

    Alexander, I especially loved how you subtly reveal your gender identity in the context of going to a traditional bathhouse - something that could be uncomfortable for anyone, but which carries even more weight for someone transitioning sexes. I loved how the cultural tradition in the bathhouse is the backdrop for personal introspection. It's exactly what travel is meant to be - not just flitting about place to place in search of the next great Insta, but instead, travel is something that should cause us to pause and think about how we fit into unfamiliar contexts. Beautifully written. I'm so glad you are one of the winners.

  • Tim Neville said

    Hi all, Tim Neville here. Thank you for all of the comments both good and bad. I wrote some additional thoughts that I hope will shed some light on the contest. I think too many times people on the "outside" of travel writing see those of us on the "inside" as a fortress that cannot be reached, that your comments aren't being heard or considered. That's not true. They most certainly are. Again, though, I want to thank everyone for sharing their stories. The best thing about being a mentor I've learned so far is that it's a two-way street. So thanks to each of you who have made me better.

    You'll find some additional thoughts here.

    Excuse the barebones site. It is very much still a work in progress...

  • Shikha Patnaik said

    I disagree, Jay. If we want to voice our opinions on racism on the winning content, we have all the right to do it here, publicly - especially because the judge and WorldNomads are responsible. Of course WorldNomads doesn't want us to speak the truth here, they want their page to look pretty.

    I don't think anyone intended to humiliat e or insult the author, we have all definitely made similar or worse mistakes in our lifetimes but we were all voicing our surprise at the quality of the winning entries and at the offensive content of one of those.

    Tim's comments on the winning entries don't seem to make sense. Many of us feel there are way better entries in the contest (not our own but others) and even though we are not as experienced in travel writing as Tim Neville, some of us have some skill and many of us have read enough literature to be able to distinguish between good, mediocre, and bad writing. It is also important to send out a message to those writers so that they know their writing is truly appreciated even if the judge and WorldNomads didn't select their stories for the shortlist or as winners. (But we know now how seriously to take their judgment, don't we?)

    The authors posted their content publicly so they should be prepared to listen to the public opinion. In fact, reading public opinions is a way of educating oneself - I have definitely learned what's proper and what's offensive through public forums.

    WorldNomads doesn't want us speak the truth here, just hand out empty congratulations. Their response to our concerns has also been empty and Tim, thanks for sharing that link but it's not opening for me. Maybe you could respond here instead?

  • Amanda K said

    As much as I may not agree with all winning entries as others have listed above, congrats to those who did win.

    I read a few stories after submitting my own and some of them were truly remarkable!!! I knew for sure I wasn't going to win after haha! and never let this get you down if you did not win or make the short list, that doesn't mean you are not a wonderful writer :)

  • Enas Egypt said

    Congratulations to the winners and the shortlisted writers!, loved reading your stories and would like to thank also the WorldNomads Readers team for their wonderful work and I hope you found my story interesting to be read .

  • Jay said

    Thank you Shikha, you made some good points.

    I read Tim's response, but it didn't do anything for me. For me, it wasn't the writing ability or whether I agreed overall with his choices that was upsetting. It was the xenophobia being rewarded and promoted in the one story-- by a professional travel writer AND WorldNomads staff. Removing the term "Red Indian" would not make it better, there was much more than that on so many levels. And I can't imagine a personal essay that would have made it okay or prompt an interview. While many of the "local encounters" stories were vapid (or down right sappy)--Tim said this one stood out for taking a different approach... Yeah, right.

    That's it for me. I'll move on to more important things. Like preparing my presentation for Monday's writers group and updating my blog. There were many inspiring stories from this contest...Keep writing everyone! Cheers.

  • Shikha Patnaik said

    Agree with you, Jay. Tim's blog post didn't do anything for me either - maybe the author's interview and personal essay were better than others but I don't find a direct response to the content of the essay. All their responses are long and winding, skirting around the issue.

    Let's move on though, yes.

  • David said

    Tim you missed the point. A narrative was awarded for using a racial slur and you excused it. You are equally accountable. Furthermore the protagonist was publicly reduced to nothing more than a sex predator purely based on gender, age and nationality. Sexism. Racism. Ageism. Cultural discrimination. It truly was a story with everything. He was further mocked for his appearance. This is nothing to do with envy as the other awarded entries were fantastic and deserving. This is to do with standards and basic literary ethics. I have used World Nomads all throughout my years of travel but I don't want to support a company that perpetuates such ideas. Tim I have followed your career and am saddened this story was entertaining for you given the content. I hope the writer, yourself and World Nomads grow from this. Have a good weekend everyone, keep writing and safe journey to all the winner's

  • Aimee said

    Thank you, everyone, for continuing this conversation; and thanks to Tim for replying to our concerns. Unfortunately, as mentioned by David and Shikha, you completely missed the point. We are adults who can deal with not winning a competition, but we can't and don't want to deal with racism and prejudice being awarded a scholarship in such horrible times for the world and humanity. You have a social responsibility towards those people who cannot benefit from our white privilege, and that responsibility translates into NOT being racists and apologizing if you are found to be so.

    As a young woman, I have been hit on many times by men such as the main character of the story in question. They exist everywhere in the world. Most of them, in fact, have been well-dressed, well-educated, well-travelled individuals; some of them brandish their posh accents full of entitlement thinking I should be grateful for their slimy, creepy attention. Why choose a story full of prejudice and racial slurs to depict the connection with a deprived individual? Where is the empathy? Where is the traveling for deepening our understanding?
    You guys should be ashamed for this. I will not be purchasing your insurance anymore and will advise all my friends to boycott you unless you rectify this.

  • JustNo said

    While I'd like to congratulate the winners, I must say that this "contest" seems like nothing more than a marketing stunt.

    "World" nomads? And most of the winners are from English speaking countries? Oh, right, the "third world" obviously is some exotic geographical location, where superior folks can go take photos before returning to their superior countries to poke fun at the locals over cocktails with their superior friends. Come on, guys.

    I guess the story about Mexico is oh, just so, like, awesome for the insufferable "Eat Pray Love" "travel writing" crowd that I often come across. Though to be fair, it is impressive how they manage to find their way with their heads stuck up their behinds.

    Based on the winning stories, I wonder what kind of horrors your program will inflict on the wonderful people of the Balkans, how condescending and patronizing the winners will be instructed to be in their portrayal of the amazing region. "Remember folks: many people there do not speak English, in fact, it's a miracle they can communicate with words at all given their rustic living standards - I mean, there aren't even Starbuckeses at every corner. How savage!"

    Please: change the location of your program. Have your English speakers explore their own countries because the Balkans and the rest of the world, even the third world, deserve better than you.

  • Laura (Again) said

    Oh Tim,Tim,Tim I actually laughed out loud when I read your blog post comment, "you sympathize with Antonio. At least I did,". Really? You didn't see that ending coming?

    And then like an Easter Epiphany it hit me, you really didn't see it coming, why would you?

    You are a guy and fending off "handsy" is not a part of your travel reality. Sure you're aware that the tuk tuk driver is probably going to drop you at his cousins suit shop when he offers to drive you around town for a crazy low fare, but you don't think that his hand is going to "accidentally" grop you as he helps you out of his ride. And that's the truth of it.
    So let me first apologize for laughing (Sorry) and then offer just this...If a middle aged man picks the one vacant chair next to a young woman ( in any setting) he's not just doing so because he hopes she saw last night's Blue Jays game and might have insight into Carrera's batting slump. Even the soccer hooligans on the other side of the room would provide better odds for that conversation.
    Think about it, would you pick the one lone woman in the room to sidle up to just because you craved adult conversation... it's creepy! (However, still not ok for overtly racist comments)
    Here endeth the lesson. Happy Easter

  • Betty said

    Well after reading your response, Tim, I actually find this even more disappointing.

    Firstly, I had no idea there were interviews. (The email telling me to check back on April 12th to see if I had one obviously being a farce. I couldn't win if I hadn't had an interview).

    I thought this was a writing contest but it seems a lot of weight was put on the interview and personal statement.

    An offensive piece won because the writer gave a good interview. That is not right.

    You say you can work with this person to get rid of the offensiveness. If you had said that about the second piece which uses "third world" in an otherwise interesting story then I would understand. That was an unfortunate phrase but could easily be edited and the writer learn what description is more appropriate.

    The third piece however is offensive through and through. As has already been mentioned by myself and others, the descriptions (Red Indian, wolf hairs) are racist and the moral of the story is prejudiced and offensive. It's simply not acceptable and not easily edited.

    I also agree with the previous commentator. In no way was the ending a surprise.

    I read several other pieces under the Making a Local Connection category (not my own) that were truly remarkable. They didn't even make the shortlist. It is very sad to think they may never have even crossed your desk or were not included because their personal statement didn't fit.

    I know we cannot read them, but I am curious about the personal statements. I wonder what made them stand out. Or did they just fit a required type or tick certain boxes (young? Child free? Kooky? Normal sounding? Who knows?).

  • Tim Neville said

    It's a controversial choice, I get it. We all get it, but most of you are only seeing the very tip of the iceberg. And It gives me hope to see how fired up people are.

    To be clear, again, there is no excuse for some of the terms used, one of which my hairy, white, liberal privileged ears had never heard (is that a British expression?), even as an American living in a very divisive country who is very aware of racial / gender / social insensitivity, because it is not some abstract concept but something that directly affects my own family. (Is that clear? No, really, is that clear? I really don't want to have to keep saying this, but, sigh, I will for as long as it takes).

    I actually have had to fend off handsy, from a Maoist fighter in 2003 Nepal, but not to the extent most women must endure it probably every day. I have also been targeted many times for no other reason than for being the tallest, skinniest guy in the room/stands/bar/bus. Is it the same? No. Can I sympathize from a position of experience? Better than you might think. Thank for you making assumptions about me.

    Now the part I'm willing to debate: I disagree that awarding that story a top slot is equal to promoting anything more than a writer who was 10x more creative in her approach than hundreds of others. That's impossible to teach. I can help with the execution, especially since this feels like an awareness issue. (An elderly in-law relative of mine: "What do you mean I can't say faggot? That's the word, isn't it?") For some of you, the fact that it wasn't killed right off the bat is the part you can't understand. Perhaps you're right. Or maybe this is where we can also at least try to make difference with a rather creative young writer, who likely feels embarrassed and mortified at her gaffe. Do we welcome her back into the flock or banish her forever as not one of us?

    But to your point: I hear you. To mine: thank god people didn't just write me (and probably you) off when I made otherwise troubling mistakes along the way. Thinking of you, Kosovo. I learned. I saw. I understood. I was teachable. Yes, replace the racial descriptions with more revealing, humanly details and you have a stronger piece because it frees up room for more of everything else. That's cake work that any of you should be able to see. I can't teach you how to be creative. I can teach you the power of words and how to report with an open mind.

    Plus, something no one seems to be picking up on is what this story does for us men: it points out just how sleezy we can come across; how, we should better consider how, with whom and when we choose to strike up a conversation; that if we violate these basic tenets, even if our intentions are pure, we will be branded a creep by the hot flaws of our entire sex. Sounds obvious, right? And yet it's not. Other stories I read featured women trying to pick up looker locals but they didn't reveal the manipulation that this one so clearly did nor did they convey in such ugly words how that feels. No one wrote about making a connection like this.

    And yes I sympathize with Antonio. Any father who has ever loved his daughter would too.

  • A. T. Payne said

    While I get why the third winning story would strike a nerve for people, especially since we in the US just elected a whackjob railing against “Mexican rapists,” we need to take the hysterics on this comments platform down a notch. Let’s take this story out of the context of the Trump era and look at it critically.

    Guess what? Women get hit on by gross men in gross ways, and as well as by nice men in gross ways. Please don’t act like this isn’t a big deal. It is one of the reasons why women are discouraged from traveling. Therefore, it is a story that needs to be told.

    To clarify, when I say getting hit on by “nice men in gross ways,” I mean the men probably think they of themselves as harmless, but to women – again, especially solo travelers – any break with social convention is a red flag. What right does this Antonio character have to suddenly spill his life story to this completely strange woman? Again, Antonio probably thought it was harmless, but it had the narrator, Aimee, wondering what his true intentions are, and by extension if she should be concerned about her safety – which is what any sane woman would think. It doesn’t matter what Antonio’s race or nationality is. Men impose themselves on women all the time – that’s what male privilege is. Sometimes it’s dangerous, and sometimes it’s not. But it’s always disrespectful.

    That said, the issue gets more complicated when it happens between people of two different races and nationalities. Sometimes these interactions really are racially charged. For example, when I lived in China, I felt that a lot of Chinese men saw foreign women (non-Asian women, not just white women) as hyper-sexual. I recognized that this a result of China’s consumption of our screwed up Western media, in which sex is the unadorned entree. I’m not necessarily blaming these men. And you could say the exact same thing for foreign men: many of them lusted after Chinese women, whom they viewed as both exotic and easy.

    Look, the fact is, when you travel, you have to deal with race and gender. Your own unconscious biases come out and you have to consciously wrestle with them; sometimes others peoples’ biases are forced onto you. I think a good travel writer doesn’t pretend not to see it; she writes about it. Aimee’s story is not perfect -- the “red indian” thing needs to go -- but she does tell a story about a woman being put in an uncomfortable yet seemingly benign situation by a man in a foreign country. She listened to him and had sympathy for him. She also became aware of her own unconscious bias in the process. And When Antonio asked her “Do you like older men?” he revealed his own unconscious bias.

    I’d like to extend my congratulations to the winners and those shortlisted.

  • Shubha Jaggi said

    Dear Tim,
    Thank you. Much respect.

    How many judges would actually explain their stance? You didn't have to.

    Yet you did. That helped. My main problem with the third story wasn't the racism or hairs, but that it didn't feel like "travel" writing. Reading your words in the link you posted made me see it in a new light.

    So once again, thank you. May you enjoy the mentorship experience in Balkans, and may our paths cross some day.

    To all my fellow writers, let's leave it at this. The judgment has been made. And if you believe in your writing as much as I do, we would have our day :)

  • Matt said

    So how many ways can we dance around this?

    You are only seeing the tip of the iceberg ( patronising....and unfair really to all the entrants)

    Sourgrapes (obvious and human)

    Men hit on women and it's creepy ( yes we know that did we expect to read it here in such a derogatory way against 'a hairy Mexican'

    Taking all that & I think the reason why Tim you have to keep on repeating yourself is because any kind of apology to those offended, who lets face it with red indian, have a right should just be offered without a myriad of reasons to diminish the offence of creativity undeveloped, immaturity, lost voices, blah blah blah..

    It's wrong but it's now here.

  • Tim Neville said

    Hi Matt, I'll repeat it for you too and then I really have to get back to work: Not apologizing. (Is that clear? No, really, is that clear? I really don't want to have to keep saying this, but, sigh, I will for as long as it takes). A.T. you said it far better than I did: "I think a good travel writer doesn’t pretend not to see it; she writes about it." Study Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Leonard Pitts's early work (circa 2000) for a different take on what A.T. is saying. Shuba Jaggi: thank you and always happy to debate travel writing. To the rest of you, I would love to see some of the essays you found particularly compelling -- not for comparison or for critique -- but because I'm always looking for stories that move people and it's the weekend. So, what moved you?

  • Meaghan said

    Tim good on you for replying, that takes courage but you still are missing the point and your tone is very patronising. The narrative was flooded with issues with racism, gender and cultural bias and the protagonist was literally exploited for entertainment including physically. You have excused how deeply offensive it is and even now participated in making generalised sweeping statements about men. Participants have a right to be upset that this was chosen given how offensive the content was. What does the competition that we invested in stand for if that is what is chosen to represent us. It's nothing to so with the disappointment of not winning (that's life I have had greater disappointments) it's the disappointment that that story was chosen. Anyone who participates is eager to learn from the winning narratives. We don't have that opportunity now because we already know you don't make comments drenched in racism, sexism and discrimination let alone create a whole story about it. The story read as privilege, I mean how dare a man speak to a woman, let alone a younger woman and one of a different race without being branded. You are part of it! In addition, it wasn't a travel story... Yes it happened whilst travelling but it is simply a story that tells me nothing about the place or culture in my opinion. A lot of women, have experienced terrible harassment abroad but in my opinion this was not the time or place to open that discussion. This was about travel writing as per the comp first and it missed the mark. As someone else stated: what interviews? I never had that opportunity it was just the online application! Given how you stated on your blog the importance of the interview I am left confused why I was not given that opportunity to sell myself? On your blog you stated the interviews weren't done by yourself but were part of the reason why the winning blogs came to your attention. Who were they conducted by? At first I thought your wording might have been in reference to the online application (story, the question's concerning where we wanted to go and personal essay). But then I realised that would all be seen by World Nomads and yourself... So again what interviews? There was nothing about that in the rules and if an advantage has been given for writer's to express themselves beyond the competition guidelines this is a bigger issue regarding the integrity and fairness of the competition. World Nomads has a lot to address

  • Tim Neville said

    Not excusing it. Interviews were saved for finalists. Send me your essay.

  • Betty said

    Thank you for your response, Tim. I don't think anyone here expects you to apologise. But we are allowed to express our opinion and we are interested to hear your reasoning.

    You believe someone should still be allowed to win, even though they have written an offensive story, other people do not. The writer isn't an old grandma who doesn't know better, she is a young writer who has been deemed the best out of 8,000 applicants. There is a difference.

    The story is not simply a man hitting on a woman. Yes, this does happen to all women. Not just when traveling, but in our home countries too. The story has become more than that because of the racial descriptions. And although I completely agree with you that travel writing can take many forms (the first two indicate this well) this story is not a travel piece to me. The only thing that makes it travel-like are the racial descriptions and those are offensive.

    So, after all that I will just agree to disagree. There is no more to be said. We simply want to express our opinions. Just as you don't like being told you were wrong to select this piece, I do not like to be told I don't understand travel writing (because I really do and I fully accept the other pieces).

    Meaghan- I think you put it very well and I agree with you. I would like further clarity from the World Nomad's team on these interviews. It doesn't seem right that someone who was far down in the depths of the short listed candidates went on to win apparently because of her interview. I also feel sorry for the writer (sorry, I have forgotten who it was) who Tim apparently didn't pick because he was already a good writer. Just because he worked hard and wrote an excellent piece, it doesn't mean he shouldn't have the chance to attend a workshop and to travel. As long as he is not a professional writer already, he probably still needs help.

  • Meaghan said

    Tim correct me if I am wrong, especially because as you said in the blog you didn't conduct them... But I don't remember reading anywhere that there would be additional interviews. Again I might be wrong, accept my apology now if I am. It's not fair. It's an extra advantage to showcase who you are and what you have to offer. I also question how with time differences people overseas would have been contacted etc... Most importantly it's a writing competition and should be taken off the quality off the submitted pieces solely as other comps do. These are all learning curves for next year. I have already questioned the integrity and quality of one such winning piece. My opinion stands and though the company is not willing to stand up for what is right my decision is I don't want anything else to do with World Nomads if they support racism and cultural bias. Good luck to all

  • Betty said

    Meaghan- I didn't read about interviews anywhere, either. The email I got said to check back on April 12th to see if you have won. This is misleading as we couldn't win without being selected for the interview. I didn't realistically ever expect to win (especially after reading some of the other entries- I just entered for fun) but we were led to believe we still had a chance when we didn't.

  • Laura said

    Tim, you asked for other essays that resonanted with us as readers. "Meeting Theory" for one.

    Do not think I wish to be Roger Chillingworth and forever cast A. out friendless and alone. But you had to know that this choice would be controversial. Ah, and there it is, the beast that feeds the social media machine.

    As A.T articulated so well, it hit a nerve. (on so many levels)

    You announced the 3 winners as the "best of the best" and while I'm certainly ready to examine my own preconceived prejudices, call me old fashioned I just wanted them to be good.

  • Milena said

    Tim, why don't you just admit you made a mistake instead of perpetuating your ignorance?
    I mean it's bad to ignore racial issues just because you didn't think they were important enough, but it's a completely different story to defend someone's (and your own) racism.

    Let's provide evidence! (My personal favourites are 3. and 5.)
    1. "there is no excuse for some of the terms used, one of which my hairy, white, liberal privileged ears had never heard"
    Writing is your profession and you think it's an acceptable excuse to be unfamiliar with racial slurs? I thought a big part of writing was having a decent vocabulary. Moreover, you then allegedly read the term in the travel story without knowing what it meant and didn't think of Googling it? Woah here I was thinking that being a reporter meant you had to do a lot of research! Also why do you feel the need to include the fact that you're white and privileged? (and liberal?). As far as I'm concerned knowing racial slurs is not exclusive to any particular ethnicities, social class or political affiliations, and I personally don't give a rat's ass what you look like physically because you'll always look incredibly ignorant to me.
    WHY I LOVE IT: You think that being ignorant to racial slurs is a decent enough excuse for choosing this racist piece!!!

    2. "because it is not some abstract concept but something that directly affects my own family"
    No, it isn't clear because that whole first paragraph is basically one sentence (you're not doing a very good job at selling your writing/reporting skills). Anyway, surely if "racial/gender/social insensitivity" directly affects your own family you'd be more empathetic towards people that find racial slurs and stereotyping offensive? Am I supposed to feel sympathy for you because of your (white, privileged, liberal) family? And more importantly what about any of this gives you the right/excuse to promote such insensitivities?
    WHY I LOVE IT: You think that by divulging that your family is also affected by racial issues you can get away with this??? Seriously????

    3. "I have also been targeted many times for no other reason than for being the tallest, skinniest guy in the room/stands/bar/bus. Is it the same? No. Can I sympathize from a position of experience? Better than you might think. Thank for you making assumptions about me."
    You're saying that your white, privileged, liberal ass can sympathise with racial and gender discrimination better than we might think because you've been targeted many times for being tall and skinny. You literally can't say that. This is the worst thing you could've said and actually inspired me to write this comment. You are actually more ignorant than I thought you were. (If you don't understand why this is wrong just imagine sitting at a dinner table with Fitzgerald and Angelou and telling them that you're a writer too).
    WHY I LOVE IT: You think people are making assumptions about you when you're actually screaming I'M RACIST to everyone's faces.

    4. "I disagree that awarding that story a top slot is equal to promoting anything more than a writer..."
    You're promoting a really aggressive, biased, judgemental, stereotypical and again, racist use of language. I am reading a story that starts with a racial slur by the narrator, who asserts herself as "too polite" to not answer and follows with a stereotypical assumption ("the inevitable sleazy onslaught of a local man hitting on a young blonde tourist"), then admits to being aware and embarrassed of her own judgements which actually end up being valid since the story ends up proving her right.
    WHY I LOVE IT: The underlying message of the story is that every racist misconception and stereotype you have is correct! Listen to your socially constructed instincts folks!

    5. "feels like an awareness issue. (An elderly in-law relative of mine: "What do you mean I can't say f*****? That's the word, isn't it?")"
    Again, not being aware of the meaning of racial slurs and stereotyping (and racial issues in general) is not an excuse. Stop trying to make it an excuse. There's nothing as embarrassing as hiding behind ignorance. Also, you should be more professional and avoid repeating your in-law's slur (Google that one too if you're unsure what it means). You're excusing yourself and the writer by comparing yourselves to your homophobic elderly relative? Really???? Kind of insulting isn't it??
    WHY I LOVE IT: Thanks for letting us know ignorance runs in the family. I love that you think comparing yourself to a homophobic elderly family member is a good move. It's actually pretty low.

    6. "I sympathize with Antonio. Any father who has ever loved his daughter would too."
    You sympathise with a man who lost his wife and daughter (fair enough), has a long-distance girlfriend who doesn't satisfy his desires, has an "insatiable need for a woman", and hits on girls half his age. You're sympathising with a creepy caricature of a stereotype. Good job.
    WHY I LOVE IT: Any man who has ever loved his daughter must sympathise with a guy hitting on girls half his age on the beach, right?

    Finally, I understand that you liked the story because of the creativity aspect. I'm not gonna attack that because it's a valid opinion. Personally, I found myself unable to trust the narrator. I don't know if anything about that story was true or if it's all made up from assumptions based on a really narrow gaze and shallow mindset. As soon as it's revealed that the narrator is racially biased it starts sounding like she saw what her preconceived stereotypes told her to see. I personally don't like that quality in any kind of writer, let alone someone who should understand multiculturalism.

    Why am I bothering? Because you're hiding behind your own ignorance in such an infuriating way. Try to learn from this experience and get informed please because you're supposed to be a mentor but you're providing an awful example. The fact is, you consider yourself 'aware of racial issues' but the things you say and how you say them are evidence to the contrary. To cure a problem, you need to recognise it first.

  • A. T. Payne said

    Oi vey. Hey World Nomads, don't you think it's time to close the comments section? Folks, if you're unhappy with the results of the contest, I suggest you bust out the pen and prove your chops as writers with an intelligent op-ed piece.

  • Shikha Patnaik said

    Tim, try out "Culinary Adventures." It mostly revolves around butter but it's so beautifully written that I can never have butter again without thinking of this story. The way the writer ended the story is pretty good, too. (I'm hoping it's original in thought!)

    I think we have made our point on "Two is Not Company", so I won't go into the analysis of its "political incorrectness" anymore but if that's a good standard for creativity and good writing, I think I should give 50 Shades another shot.

    Also, the introduction to the 2015 winners said that even if a story is well written, it can't be selected if it doesn't follow the brief. The brief was "Making a Local Connection", not "Not Making a Local Connection." Kind of contradictory of WorldNomads, no?

    And yes, it would be been better to have the winning process explained next time that if shortlisted WorldNomads would reach out for an interview by a certain date or just publish the shortlist so that those who are not in the running don't wait with baited breath unnecessarily.

    But glad to see you engage with us, Tim. It's a difficult conversation to have and I don't think the contestants, WorldNomads, or you expected this to become a debate thread.

    P.S.: Antonio has no wife or daughter who abandoned him. That was a pick up story straight from Barney Stinson's Playbook.

  • Laura said

    A.T "bust out the pen and prove your chops as writers with an intelligent op-ed piece."

    I think this is what has gotten so many peoples ire up. People did do that only to find out that is not what World Nomads really wanted. Even Tim said, "Kaushal Oza’s “Cricket in the Valley” is the real tragedy here. I thought it was gorgeous, like seeing a slice of a film that begs you to linger.Kaushal, I’m sorry. I can’t help you. You are already beyond most anything I could tell you."

    So the contest was actually not about writing an amazing travel story to be chosen as "the best of the best" it was, 1. write some drivel that gets our attention, (controversy will certainly do that) 2.tell us where it happened,(that makes it travel, right?) 3. give a great interview and're the winner. THAT is a different contest altogether.

    Tim has taken the brunt of it because he has at least had the decency to address the critics.

  • BT said

    Laura, I think you summed it up perfectly. Tim admitted himself that one of the best stories didn't win...Because it was too good? Unless the author is already a professional travel writer (which they aren't due to the contest rules) they can still benefit a lot from the workshop. Instead a racist story won because of the interviews that no one knew were part of the contest.Tim has been left to address all this when he didn't even conduct these mystery interviews (although he did choose the racist story). Thanks but no thanks World Nomads. I don't think I will use your services again. Bye!

  • Kaitlyn said

    If you children weren't claiming "racism", I probably wouldn't have even picked up on it in that third story. Being a young female who has traveled alone for an entire year, it definitely reminds me of multiple situations I've been in. You go back and forth wondering whether to be on your guard or kind because you don't know the culture and so on. In the end you're right. Stick to your guns, girl.

  • MJ said

    Kaitlyn, every woman can identify but it is not what you say but how you say it. The narrative was presented in a manner that exploited the protagonist in every way possible from age, looks, race, gender. There's a way to recount these stories without bias. The writer failed because a person's behaviour is not solely consequential of gender,age or race as she recounted and stated multiple times. People are governed by their own moral code but she just saw labels and was happy to perpetuate these labels. World Nomads enabled it. As people have said it is not travel journalism and many of us who have been writing and travelling the globe for a number of years know the difference. Just because we are participants in this comp does not make us inexperienced or uneducated. I have seen awful things abroad from seeing terrorists acts, to travelling to refugee camps in Turkey, to my Muslim partner being racially profiled, to even being drugged in South Korea. We all have these stories. I could easily have chosen these subject matters but in my opinion that is political/current affair journalism ...this competition was for travel writing which is a different ball game. Travel writing is designed first and foremost to generate tourism which many economies are dependent on which is why I personally elected not to discuss my experiences above as they don't encourage tourism and this is not the BBC so the tone of writing and subject changes according to brief. This piece does not do the industry justice from a professional stand point and fails Mexico on all levels and quite frankly is irresponsible writing. The Balkan states overall do not see a lot of tourism when compared to western Europe. The candidates chosen have a responsibility here to help change that with this platform all of which could help these economies. I have concerns after the piece in question was chosen. I hope to read more than the writer being hit when in Bosnia for example. Tell me about the Balkans, what should I see, do, eat etc. Inspire me to travel there out of the options in the world! But that's my two cents. We are all adults here and just because we engage in critical thinking and question the lack of ethics and competition rules ... It doesn't make us "children." We can all state our opinions without resorting to 'that'. Everyone can learn something from this no matter what side they're on. Personally it makes me even more aware of what I write and from consumer perspective makes me what to align myself with companies that share my values and be inspired by people in the industry who also share the same values. Let's just say my alignment has changed to the competitors of World Nomads

  • AT said

    What exactly is travel writing? Is it to "to generate tourism which many economies are dependent" as MJ says? I would say, yes, that's one of its sub-genres, of which magazines like National Geographic Traveler is an example. So is the listicle-type articles on The Matador Network. But then there's the tongue-in-cheek writing of Bill Bryson and Paul Theroux, and the personal essay style of others, such as Tim Neville himself. The Best American Travel Writing anthologies are a good example that show the breadth of travel writing in all its sub-genres. So to say that the winning entries are not travel writing is, in my opinion, only true if you adhere to a very narrow definition of travel writing. That said, you could argue that winning stories 1 and 3 do not capture a sense of place, which was one of the requirements of the competition.

  • DT said

    I read a few of these comments on April 12, found the comments amusing, and came back today to see if things had heated up. Sure did.

    I wasn't planning on commenting myself but Tim Neville's bratty, whiny responses surprised me. Milena's post adeptly tackled the heavy issues (about bullet point #3: you hit that one on the head) but there was one terrible thing missing from her otherwise excellent comment: Tim's sad pathetic blog post.

    Tim, I think you're an adult, not sure, and im glad, truly, for comedic purposes that you took some time away this week from, um, let's say, sitting in front of the computer "writing" or probably, um, probably watching, um, let's say normal videos with people definitely wearing clothes, surely clothed, at least in the beginning of the videos, and responded to these comments, but I am pretty sure you shouldnt belittle contestants... (see below)

    <<<I also spent days thinking about Sarah Puckett’s “Journeys into Life and Death,” which would have made commenter Adam seethe. He, like commenter Cat, is stuck in the tired frame that demands travel writing “illuminate the destination &/or make the reader actually want to go there.” No Adam. No Cat. That’s why we have guidebooks.>>>
    He later adds, condescendingly, "that's travel, my friends." Tim, do you have a bad history with Adam and Cat or are they just anonymous people you've never met that for some reason you feel the need to scorn? Really Tim, you can't handle these comments so you have to write a snippy blog post and directly chastise them? Does that make you feel worthy? Get it together dude.
    Also, I dont know Adam personally but out of curiosity do you really think he'd "seethe" after reading a story about a girl spreading her father's ashes?

    Oh and Adam pricked Tim's goose so badly that he mentions him again 5 paragraphs later... (see below)

    <<<(Commenter Adam would hate this one too but take note: The story made it into Best American Travel Writing 2004.)>>>
    Take note, ADAM, you sniveling little BRAT!

    [Side note: Gosh, Adam should stop reading he seems to dislike it so much]
    [Side note #2: I haven't written anything racist or xenophobic yet because Im trying not to plagiarize any of the World Nomads Travel Writing Scholarship winning entries. **specifically #3 tho**]

    Also Tim, I am pretty sure you shouldnt write a blog post where you handpick submitted entries that you call "predictable" and "flat" and provide links to the entries that have the author's/contestant's name for everyone to see... (see below)

    <<<You can write about the “heart and depth of two strangers connecting” as Editor in Chief wants but, frankly, unless you’re Jesse and Céline, I’ll probably find your tale predictable, earnest and flat, even if the writing itself is fine. (See HERE, HERE and HERE.)>>>
    HERE, HERE and HERE are links to real entries. Hurry, go to Tim's blog post and check out the entries he thinks are so memorably dull he cited them on his professional blog! Go now, before he forgets to pay the bill for the URL.

    @WorldNomads, is this the behavior you want from someone who will be mentoring young people on your behalf? Someone who provides links on his blog to specific entries he didnt like with the authors name listed and condescends people who leave comments? Someone who thinks he knows prejudice because he's skinny and kinda says he doesnt think he knows what its like to be a woman fending off handsy and possibly violent men on a daily basis but still mentions that one time it happened to him because you know...he couldnt let it go and deep down he thinks he really does know what its like but knows he should say he doesnt. What? lots of women are afraid to walk home at night? but did you hear about that one time someone made fun of tim at a bar for being tall? you know, tall, liberal tim with the weird ears or whatever.

    Lastly, @WorldNomads, please read this retort from Tim to a commenter (presumably someone who entered the competition) and think about whether or not Tim meets your criteria for a responsible professional who well-represents your organization and is fit to mentor young adults..

    <<<Tim Neville said 1 day ago

    Hi Matt, I'll repeat it for you too and then I really have to get back to work: Not apologizing. (Is that clear? No, really, is that clear? I really don't want to have to keep saying this, but, sigh, I will for as long as it takes).>>>


  • Xavier said

    This is one contest. You guys seriously need to move on. They aren't obligated to justify their choices to you. You may have a right to express your opinion, but that doesn't mean you are entitled to getting the response you want.

  • World Nomads Scholarships said

    Hi everyone, we will be reviewing the winner selection in the coming days. In the meantime, we will be closing the comments section.

    - Pari, World Nomads

  • World Nomads Scholarships said


    Hi everyone,

    Thank you for your passionate engagement and debate regarding our scholarship winners.

    Each year, our winners are chosen based on their storytelling skills, stand out creativity and personal dedication to the craft. However, these artistic considerations are not the only ones. No matter how good the writing is, it cannot supersede cultural awareness and racial sensitivity to a global audience.

    We would like to make it extremely clear that we do not condone the use of offensive language, including a term referring to Native Americans in “Two is not always company”. After speaking extensively with the author about her intent, we have learned that it did not come from a hateful or racist place, but from a place of pure ignorance. An ignorance that we shared. We realize that this is not an excuse for us to overlook its use.

    For this reason, we have decided it is not appropriate to award the scholarship to the author of “Two Is Not Always Company”, and the application has been withdrawn. We will continue to talk to the author about ways in which through the power of travel we can break down prejudice and bigotry, promote inclusion and build understanding.

    The scholarship spot created by this decision will be filled by the first runner-up as determined by the mentor Tim Neville, which is Kaushal Oza’s "Cricket in the Valley”.

    Thanks for your understanding.

    The World Nomads team

  • World Nomads Scholarships said

    Hi everyone,

    We would also like to address some of the outstanding questions that you have raised in the comments above:

    Interviews – Applications were judged solely on the written submissions which includes a story and personal essay. When we get to the pointy end of judging we do call a handful of applicants. We call to make sure that should they win they are available to travel, are not professionals, their work is their own and that they truly have a passion for their craft and a desire to learn from our mentor. As you can appreciate, we can’t interview all 8000+ of you. The Interviews are simply a check to substantiate the claims applicants have made in their personal essays.

    Scholarship vs. contest – This opportunity is not a contest, a competition or a game of chance. It is a travel scholarship which means that it is not always about picking the best entries, but about finding the applicants who could most benefit from the experience and truly develop their skills. This is why we no not allow professionals to apply. This is also why we ask for, and carefully consider your personal essays so that we can better understand who you are, how you could benefit from this experience and where you want to take your storytelling. This is not an insignificant part of our overall judging – and it something that you as the public do not see. Many times, we read incredible stories, yet the overall application is let down by the personal essay.

    We look forward to reading more of your incredible stories in the future. All the best!

    - Pari, World Nomads

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