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Travel Writing Scholarship 2011- Our Winner!

WORLDWIDE | Friday, 1 April 2011 | Views [28296] | Comments [12]





Our judging panel have been around the world, and back, and then some, reading through 1142 travel tales from you talented nomads! Riotous, insightful, disorientating, hilarious and always inspiring, your submitted stories were a pleasure to read. Thank you to everyone who applied and shared your travel experiences with us, particularly our shortlisted entries who were all highly commended by our judging panel.  

But of course...there can only be one winner...

Our Winner....

Zoe Smith!

Zoe Smith, Thailand

Congratulations Zoe, you are off to Turkey to meet your Rough Guides mentor, Terry Richardson! You'll also enjoy a Turkish Delight tour with BikeHike Adventures.  Can't wait to read about your adventures.

UPDATE! Read Zoe's blog on about her adventures on assignment in Turkey.

Winning Story: Jamu in Java by Zoe Smith

Judges' comments: Jamu in Java was favoured by all the judges - and rightly so. Zoe created a piece of writing which was remarkably well balanced - successfully evoking a personal experience and making the reader feel involved and engaged with the sights, sounds, smells and emotions. The piece demonstrates a lightness of touch which is vital for successful travel writing and combines it with insightful observation and well-judged wry humour. It made us feel included in Zoe’s experience and, most importantly, it made us want to experience it for ourselves.

Second Place

Knights off-the grid by Chris Knight

Judges Comments: Knights off-the-grid stood out because it told a unique story – it animated a small detail, a brief moment from a trip which was presumably full of bigger, splashier experiences. It was a story told without clutter or embellishment, just simply related and all the more impactful for it. I felt like I’d really learned something and gained an insight that only this author could bring.


Third Place

The Heart of Varanasi by Eliza Latham

Judge's Comments: Heart of Varanasi took a subject matter that appeared quite a few times in the competition entries and elevated it above the crowd. Many writers got bogged down in excessive descriptions, but this piece brought us clarity and insight with vivid and well-judged prose which made us feel this was more than just a backpacker’s tale.

The Shortlist

(in alphabetical order)

In Transit by arabun

Keeping the Paradise Dream Clean by chantelles_travel_adventures

Cuba Libre by eileenorama

Touted! by ghobbs

"No Man" by gulliblestravels

Yemen-In-between Spaces by hopehill

Holy Mole(Pablano!)by lucieboots

A Home-cooked meal, Away from Home by mbrinlee

Mosi-oa-Tunya by nomadic_adventures

The Day I Saw a Living Goddess by ninawegner

Motorcycling in Vietnam by pete

Bloody Good Friday by ptumang

Spirits Lost and Found in New Zealand by sarahlochner

Heatstroke in Mongolia by tomczaban 

View from a Camel's Back by umbriagal

Journey in an Unknown Culture by theworldisabook

Mesmerised by Mayhem by writing_the_world

Travel. Learn. Create.

For all of you aspiring creatives, check out our Scholarships page and sign up to hear about our latest opportunities, tips, advice and interviews with industry professionals in the fields of photography, travel writing and filmmaking.

And if you're lucky enough to be mentored by one of our industry professionals, it could kick start your career!

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Many thanks to the judges for selecting my piece - there are so many beautifully written and evocative stories amongst the shortlist (especially the 2nd and 3rd place stories) it must have been a really hard decision. I'm thrilled that I somehow made it to the top of the list!
I can't wait to embark on what sounds like an incredible adventure (horse-riding, kayaking, biking, hiking... I'm going to be exhausted!), especially the opportunity to work with Terry Richardson and learn everything I possibly can about the world of travel writing. Here's to hoping this is start of my future travel writing career :)

- Zoe

  zoe_smith Apr 28, 2011 7:34 PM


Congrats Zoe, that was fantastic prose. Good luck!

Judges, you seem to favour a trend- one that deals obsessively with themes centred around East Asia and South East Asia and a style of writing that is overloaded with adjectives and exoticises the East in a vein similar to Orientalistic writing of the 18th and 19th century.

Is this something that worldnomads can throw some light on. Pehaps Zoe should go to London not Turkey.

  Dave Apr 29, 2011 12:22 AM


Congratulations, Zoe! You beat off a lot of stiff competition… make the most of your time in Turkey, and blow us away with your adventure stories.

  Ant Stone Apr 29, 2011 12:49 AM


I find it ironic how the judges said (regarding 3rd place) "Many writers got bogged down in excessive descriptions" where Zoe's piece was exactly that. Although well written, it was an extremely tiring read, and given the overloaded use of adjectives it exhausted itself with a whole load of fancy words.

I didn't realise this was a creative writing competition. Would you expect to read something like this in a travel guide?? They are clearly after a particular 'style'. Maybe the judges should be more clear next time on their expectations.

Good luck Zoe

  Shannon Apr 29, 2011 10:21 AM


Completely agree with Dave and Shannon's comment :/

  Alex Apr 29, 2011 10:22 AM


dissapointed that i didn't win, neither did i make the shortlist cut :(

although i have to agree about the judges looking for a certain 'style' (this can be seen from Zoe's, and also the last years winner's, writing) but it's nice that the winning story was about my home country :)

anyway, congratulations to Zoe Smith, you're very lucky.

  wanderingwhiterabbit Apr 29, 2011 10:48 AM


It's funny how everyone competition seems to pull out the whingers that don't get the nod. I've read about 8 stories shortlisted so far and thought they were pretty varied in style. Had a look at the theme, pretty open so how specific do you think it would need to be?. Imagine if Zoe did actually write in that style for a guide book, it would be more engaging than what's published today.

At least the folks at World Nomads provide the opportunity and although I applied, didn't get shortlisted ( probably can't write !), loved applying anyhow.

Cheers and the best of luck to you Zoe, I loved your piece.

  Toby Apr 30, 2011 12:28 AM


I loved Zoe's piece too- but the Dave and the other comments above are onto something. Most travel writing is told from a Western perspective. This is understandable considering most publications are English based and cater to an English audience. But writers are falling into the trap of exoticising Eastern cultures and simply 'commenting' on Western ones. Good Luck to Zoe and hope she doesn't fall into trap

  Mex Apr 30, 2011 4:06 AM


I think Zoe did a great job in Not exoticizing difference. Her prose was heady with adjectives, which (to me) evoked a vivid picture of her experience. Her words simply describe what she sees, and do not hold subtle judgment or cultural bias (look hard, unlike most travel writing of the past there is no mention of the naiveté or innocence, etc, of The Other).

Congratulations Zoe!

  Jill Apr 30, 2011 4:37 AM


Great work Zoe! Once I read Jamu In Java I knew I didn't have a chance.

I'm totally integrating the word 'fastidious' into my daily vernacular. I felt like I could actually smell the place while reading it.

Have a great trip. If you need an assistant, don't hesitate to ask!

  chrisaknight May 2, 2011 2:38 AM


Hi all,

Thanks for your comments. The debate around scholarship winners is always interesting!

We received 1142 entries, and we didn't dictate where your story could be set, it could be somewhere close to home or much further way. Without putting exact numbers on things, we received a huge percentage of stories from East Asia and South East Asia (have a read through all the entries), so it isn't surprising that these themes feature in the shortlist, but they are certainly not given preference. We are simply looking for the best writers, not looking for country or region specific content. An exceptional writer can write about anything or anywhere.

The judging criteria is clearly set out in the Scholarship promotion - and that is the only criteria used by the judging panel and each entry is scored on each criteria point - there is no hidden agenda! Often where some entrants lose points is in their written essay about why the should be chosen, by not giving a considered response. When something is as competative as this, small things can make all the difference.

The task set wasn't to write a piece for a guide book, it was to 'write a travel focused essay based on a personal experience'. Zoe did this , beautifully.

Amanda Byrne

  scholarships May 2, 2011 10:18 AM


I had totally forgotten about this year's scholarship and have only just returned now to read the winning entry. Congratulations, Zoe, on a really well crafted piece of writing. Hope you have a blast in Turkey.

  pete May 11, 2011 5:14 PM

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