And the Winners for the 2017 Independence Travel Writing Award


And the Winners for the 2017 Independence Travel Writing AwardThank you to everyone who participated in our WSGT Summer 2017 Independence Travel Writing Award this year. 

After reading the entries from our 2017 Summer Independence Travel Writing Award, our judges have selected the winners.



Finding Freedom in the Falkland Islands by Matthew Hay

“What do you reckon then, left or right?”. The question was gently asked, but with enough earnestness detectable to betray genuine concern. To my colleague, Mike, the man who had asked me, there were implications in the outcome; it mattered to him.


Dancing in the Storm in the Appalachian by Leah Lipka

The thunder cracked and I let out a scream. I didn’t just see the lightning, I felt it. These were the Great Smoky Mountains and the weather could change as quickly my mood. The sky had shifted from blue to ominous and I knew I had to to keep hiking. I knew I had to get down.


Green-Blue Sea, Cyprus by Elena Pitsilidou

Independence feels like the cold green-blue water of the Mediterranean. To be more precise, the cold green-blue water around my island, Cyprus. I get this feeling of freedom around May when I get into my car and I’m driving to the southeast coast. The windows are open, the sun is shining on the spotless sky, and the radio plays summer hits. The temperature is just right-not too hot. I get a feeling that this time of the year is a celebration of life; cicadas are singing non-stop, insects fly around, and flowers are blooming. The scenery invites you to feel free and alive.


The Freedom of Solitude in England’s Lake District by Lisa Michelle Turner

I’m not really one for planning. I go on wilderness camping trips with two hours of preparation, undertake international travel without an itinerary, and once moved to Seoul at three weeks’ notice. I’m cautious and aware of the threats of the world, but I’m also fortunate to be young and untethered. Why not take spontaneous advantage of that freedom?

How Wookie Saved Me in Black Rock City, USA by Theresa Christine

His name was Wookie. We met around 4a.m., both of us wandering the desert landscape alone. Just as our paths were about to cross, he softly inquired, “Are you alright?” No, I wasn’t. He’d found me just in time.

Analog in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil by Renata Bubadué

When I chose to travel only using analog cameras, I chose the insecurity of independence, the waiting and the unexpected over the immediate certainty a digital one would bring. Independence for there was no contract between us that would guarantee I shall always get at least one good picture out of the bunch for the mere reason I could repeat the process to my liking.

Left my heart in the Blue Mountains, Australia by Laura Anne Collins

Happiness and peace are what I experienced when I first glimpsed the Blue Mountains, near Sydney, Australia. If life begins at the end of your comfort zone, then peace arrives in an environment where you allow yourself to breathe. To be. For me these places are the mountains. The breath-taking scenery, the fresh air, being alone but entirely at ease, all combine to make me feel fully alive.

Thank you again to all of our participants and winners!
A giant thank you to our judges:

Amanda Castleman

A former wilderness guide, Amanda Castleman has published photos and stories in Afar, Outside, Journey, BBC Travel, Sport Diver, Bon Appétit, Delta Sky and The International Herald Tribune, among many others. Her 30-odd book contributions include Frommer’s and National Geographic titles.Now based in Seattle, Amanda has lived in Oxford, Rome, Athens, Cyprus and Turkey. She has taught travel writing since 2003. 

Jason Frye

Jason Frye is a travel, culinary and culture writer with stories and photography in Southern Living, Coastal Living, AAA Go!, AAA Traveler, Dallas Morning News, Our State, Salt, StarNews, Charlotte Observer, Raleigh News & Observer, Thrillist, Virgin Atlantic Airlines, Our State Eats,, Forbes,, The Official North Carolina Visitors Guide, Discover South Carolina Vacation Guide among other places. He’s the author of Moon North Carolina, Moon North Carolina Coast Including the Outer Banks, Moon Blue Ridge Parkway Roadtrip,and Moon Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers where he serves on the Eastern Chapter Executive Board, the Association of Food Journalist, and holds his MFA in Creative Writing—Poetry (2005) from University of North Carolina Wilmington. He lives on the coast of North Carolina with his wife and cat.

The entries from our first ever 2017 Travel Photo Award will begin to publish soon! Look for a new writing award in 2018. We hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday and that the festivals of lights in December will warm your hearts and hearths!

Stay up-to-date with WSGT and find out who the Independence Award winners are through our newsletterFacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest and Lisa’s YouTube channel.

And the Winners for the 2017 Independence Travel Writing Award


Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries on six continents. This University of Pennsylvania graduate sailed across the seas for seven years with Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Renaissance Cruises and spent three years backpacking across Asia. Discover her articles in publications from AARP: The Magazine and AAA Explorer to WIRED and Wharton Magazine, as well as her site WeSaidGoTravel. On her award nominated global podcast, Make Your Own Map, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors, and as a journalist has been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist twenty-two times. Named a #3 travel influencer for 2023, Niver talks travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, her YouTube channel with over 2 million views, and in her memoir, Brave-ish, One Breakup, Six Continents and Feeling Fearless After Fifty.

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