Meet the winners
With the scholarship winners' workshop and trip looking like it will have to be postponed, we debated whether we should still announce the winners as planned. We came to the conclusion that the incredible stories we have been reading should be recognized and it's more important than ever to provide opportunities for creative travelers.
There could only be three winners and trust us when we say our judges Tim, Norie and Kathleen had no easy task in picking them. We hope you enjoy the winning stories as much as we did.
Please join us in congratulating the three winners of the World Nomads 2020 Travel Writing Scholarship.
Evangeline Yong (Australia), Megan FitzGerald (UK) and Morgan Campbell (USA), 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 the Caribbean and writing about your adventures along the way!
“You have funny eyes.” The man approaches me – thin and smiling in a coffee-colored suit, wheeling a cart of hollowed-out coconuts filled with snow-like flecks of ice-cream. He stops, pulls at the skin around the corners of his eyes, turning them into slits.
This piece shows how vivid language, lovely details and a pitch-perfect tone can transform a simple travel moment into a very memorable read. Evangeline adds warmth and texture to her writing and she dives into some deeper reflection without being earnest. Her concluding punchline adds some cringe humor that brings the reader back with a zing. Tight. Nicely structured. Well done.
“It's quiet this year,” Riaz murmurs as he sets Arjun down, barefoot and wriggling. “Very quiet.” His son stumbles across the red-tiled kitchen toward his mother, oblivious to the words which swim, fish-like, in conspicuous circles above his head.
Is it OK to visit places that are suffering? Megan uses a scene at a big dinner party to pose a difficult question but instead of answering it outright, she brings readers along to let them see the people behind the headlines. Her lovely use of setting throughout, and especially near the end, adds a layer that wraps the piece up like a winner.
Our day began at six-thirty in the morning. Still half-asleep, we shuffled into an unmarked white van, which transported us from our hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico to the El Yunque National Rainforest. I spent the forty-five-minute drive fighting the throws of sleep and watching the sunrise over the mountains.
This story stood out for how the writer took his narrative arc and character details to craft a low-grade tension that keeps the story moving along. Just as the action and emotional high points converge, Morgan turns off the camera to force the reader to hang on to that tension. An honest, awkward take on the father-son trip that speaks to the bonds we do and do not make.
Congratulations to the following shortlisted applicants.
The views expressed in these stories do not necessarily reflect the views of World Nomads, Selina, bamba, Toad&Co, 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.
Of everything that’s changed over the last few months, I feel like my connection to travel has only matured. Instead of looking outward to new experiences, I’m taking the time to look inward to the ones I’ve had. That’s travel writing in a nutshell, which makes this also an excellent time to pore over the entries for the 2020 Travel Writing Scholarship. We may not be able to hit the road the way we used to—not for now anyway—but that’ll change, too. And when it does, travel writing will have three bright new voices out there working to inspire.
Every year, World Nomads gets thousands of entries and this year was no different. A team of readers based around the globe goes over every last word you write, whittling the pile down to a few hundred entries. Two esteemed colleagues, Norie Quintos, a former editor at National Geographic Traveler, and Kathleen Rellihan, travel editor at Newsweek, have the impossible task of boiling that list down to 40. By the time the cream of the cream gets to me, the gap between winner and runner-up can be thin.
In each entry we’re looking for storytelling that strikes that perfect balance between action, observation and tone to make us laugh or cry or consider things a little differently. The structure has to be clear. The pacing must be perfect. The three winners this year each stood out for different reasons but a common element would be their awesome travel writing instincts. At the end of the day, that isn’t something you can score but it comes through clear as day in the way they use their characters, dialog and setting to make the piece feel bigger than the sum of the words. To me, that matters far more than a typo or a spelling mistake.
To see stories that came so close, take a look at Flor Khan’s The Unexpected Cowboy, which seamlessly blends two narratives to create maximum tension carried along with great dialog and even better pacing. It’s a story only she could tell. Chloe Amoo’s Don’t Run sat on the winner bubble with a story that sets up a climax that pulls the tale right off the page and into my mind. I loved the way Elizabeth O’Connor structured her entry, Hiraeth, too, with a pause right in the middle that breathes a unique understanding into her characters, her setting, and her. I could go on and on but look to any story on the shortlist for lessons on what to do right.
No doubt the world of travel will change some more over the next few months but that doesn’t mean you should put your curiosity for the world on ice. Grab a notebook and a pen, go sit outside and start piecing together the moments that have meant the most to you. Keep it up and you may have an entry for a next year’s contest before this one’s even through.
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.