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Travel Writing Scholarship 2019

Meet the winners

If there's one thing we've learned from this year's scholarship, it's that there's no shortage of talented aspiring travel writers.

We received the highest number of travel stories ever - 12,415 to be exact. Thank you for sharing your moments of vulnerability, courage and curiosity with us. You made the mammoth task of judging these applications even harder with the incredible quality of your writing.

As you know, we can only send three winners to Portugal, and we've chosen the writers who exemplify the passion and talent required to make great storytellers.

In partnership with:

Congratulations to our 3 winners

Cameron Beach (USA), Isabelle Abraham (Mozambique) and Jill Fernandes (New Zealand), we're kick-starting your travel writing career with a mentorship from professional travel writer, Tim Neville. You'll be off on a real-life assignment, exploring Portugal and writing about your adventures along the way!

Cameron takes a deep, horrifying subject and leads the reader through it masterfully with powerful dialog, a conflicted character and unforgettable details. It’s all packaged in a box that is far too small for the size of this tale. The result is a story that’s as haunting as it is beautiful.

Tim Neville,

This story is simple but lovely for everything it isn’t. The language is straightforward, the tone is muted, and yet it captures the conflict between the significance that we travelers infuse into our encounters and how we ultimately have to let them all go. Even so, Isabelle never loses hope and determination—an aspiring travel writer’s greatest assets.

Tim Neville,

If I had to pick just one story to talk about, this one would be it for all of its layers and the way Jill peels them back one by one until — what the?!—you realize exactly what this is all about. It is impossible to read this and feel nothing. Let’s see if Jill can apply this innate sense of storytelling to topics that are far less personal. Her story was so good it’s a bet I’m willing to make.

Tim Neville,

Missed out on this travel scholarship? Sign up to hear about our next one.

The shortlist

Congratulations to the following shortlisted applicants. You will all be receiving a copy of Lonely Planet's How to be a Travel Writer.

Please note:

The views expressed in these stories do not necessarily reflect the views of World Nomads, Eurail, Interail, Lonely Planet, Tim Neville, or the scholarship judges. They are the opinions of the writers, and we have selected them for the caliber of their writing and for the instincts that we can see behind the writing. That is, for example, how they framed their stories, the way they zeroed in on certain details, or the attention they paid to pacing.

Tim's feedback

Twelve thousand four hundred. That’s how many of you applied for the 2019 World Nomads Travel Writing Scholarship, the most ever. Even more remarkable? The outstanding quality of the entries this year, easily the highest yet.

To those of you who read the travel writing guide and the articles offering tips on how to craft winning stories, and then took those lessons to heart, thank you. Your efforts really showed. Once again you blew us away with your thoughtful, heartbreaking, hysterical tales and then delivered them in highly effective ways. You did more than just tell us about what you did last summer. You took those experiences and ran them through the travel writing machine. The results were spectacular.

To see what I mean, take a look at Ashlee Craig’s A Country of Contradictions, she uses dialog to create a unique tension that’s resolved at the end. Stephanie Gavan (Lessons in Counting) and Amy Maiden (Madam Khanh: The Báhn Mí Queen) both wield their stories to comment on something bigger and more universal, just like the pros do. I could go on and on about the great use of language in so many of the stories, but Emily Carter’s The People in the Journey stood out for the way it deftly used a second-person point of view to create a character, “you”. That’s a terribly risky thing — I rarely recommend it — but Emily saves the day by revealing that “you” have actually passed away, which then makes the entire story about the people we meet on the road, reminding us just how fleeting and precious those connections and moments are. Bravo, Emily, but don’t do that again, unless you do, in which case I’ll read it because that was super clever.

You may notice that all of the winners this year put forward stories that aren’t exactly cheery but that’s not why they won. How we arrived at this moment took weeks and weeks and it involved teams of editors and professional writers from around the world logging long days and nights of reading and re-reading copy with far too much coffee. Eventually the stories get whittled down to about one hundred, and each of those authors is then asked to submit a personal essay. Those essays help us figure out who would get the most out of the scholarship. I never know anyone’s names, nationalities or gender unless it’s spelled out in the story itself. 

At the end of the day, we don't award a slot to someone who has crafted an amazing story but who can’t quite articulate the fire in them required to be a professional travel writer. We give it to someone whose story is not only amazing, but who also live and breathe the craft. Our winners this year exemplify exactly what it takes. 

So follow them on their journeys, learn from them, and then get out there yourself. Write. Be curious. And then write some more. You can bet next year’s winners are already out there doing just that.

Tim's Avatar
Tim Neville,
World Nomads Travel Writing Scholarship Mentor
and Contributor to The New York Times

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 writing in time for your next trip, please make sure to sign up for Tim Neville’s Art of Travel Writing Guide.