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 Ellen Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries and six continents. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she worked on cruise ships for seven years and backpacked for three years in Asia. She is the founder of the website WeSaidGoTravel which is read in 235 countries and was named #3 on Rise Global’s top 1,000 Travel Blogs. Niver is a speaker at the Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Dallas Travel and Adventure Shows for 2023. Her podcast, “Make Your Own Map,” has been watched in more than 11 countries on 4 continents. Niver is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, Inc. Look for her memoir in Fall 2023 from Post Hill Press/Simon and Schuster. You can find Lisa Niver talking travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, Satellite Media Tours, The Jet Set TV and Orbitz travel webisodes as well as her YouTube channel, where her WeSaidGoTravel videos have nearly 2 million views. With more than 150,000 followers across social media, she has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best, is verified on Twitter and listed on IMDb, and is the Social Media Manager for the Los Angeles Press Club. As a journalist, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors and been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. She has been a judge for the Gracie Awards for the Alliance of Women in Media, and has run 15 travel competitions on her website, publishing over 2,500 writers and photographers from 75 countries. 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 times.   Niver has published more than 2000 articles, in more than three dozen magazines and journals including National Geographic, Wired, Teen Vogue, HuffPost Personal, POPSUGAR, Ms. Magazine, Luxury Magazine, Smithsonian, Sierra Club, Saturday Evening Post, AARP, AAA Explorer Magazine, American Airways, Delta Sky, enRoute (Air Canada), Hemispheres, Jewish Journal, Myanmar Times, BuzzFeed, Robb Report, Scuba Diver Life, Ski Utah, Trivago, Undomesticated, USA Today, TODAY, Wharton Magazine, and Yahoo. Awards National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards 2021 Winner: Book Critic: Ms. Magazine “Untamed: Brave Means Living From the Inside Out” 2019 Winner: Soft News Feature for Film/TV: KTLA TV “Oscars Countdown to Gold with Lisa Niver” 2019 Finalist for: Soft News, Business/Music/Tech/Art Southern California Journalism Awards 2022 Finalist: Book Criticism 2021 Winner: Technology Reporting 2021 Finalist: Book Criticism 2020 Winner: Print Magazine Feature: Hemispheres Magazine, “Painter by the Numbers, Rembrandt” 2020 Finalist: Online Journalist of the Year, Activism Journalism, Educational Reporting, Broadcast Lifestyle Feature 2019 Finalist: Broadcast Television Lifestyle Segment for “Ogden Ski Getaway” 2018 Finalist: Science/Technology Reporting, Travel Reporting, Personality Profile 2017 Winner: Print Column “A Journey to Freedom over Three Passovers” Social Media Presence YouTube Channel: We Said Go Travel (1.7 million views) Short form video:TikTok, Instagram Reels, Facebook Reels, YouTube Shorts Twitter: lisaniver (90,000 followers) Instagram: lisaniver (24,000 followers) Pinterest: We Said Go Travel (20,000 followers and over 70,000 monthly views) Facebook: lisa.niver (5,000 followers); We Said Go Travel (3,000 followers) LinkedIn: lisaellenniver (9000 contacts)

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