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, M.A. Education, is a television host, travel journalist as well as a passionate artist, educator and writer who has explored 101 countries, 6 continents and sailed on cruise ships for seven years on the high seas and backpacked for three years in Asia. She is the founder of We Said Go Travel which was read in 212 countries in 2018 and named #3 on the top 1000 Travel Blog and the top female travel blogger 3 times in 2019. Find her talking travel at KTLA TV and in her We Said Go Travel videos with over one million views on her YouTube channel. She has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best, is verified on both Twitter and Facebook, has over 150,000 followers across social media and ran fifteen travel competitions publishing over 2500 writers and photographers from 75 countries. She has been a finalist for six Southern California Journalism Awards in the past three years and won an award for her Jewish Journal article. Niver has written for AARP, American Airways, Delta Sky, En Route (Air Canada), Hemispheres (United Airlines), Jewish Journal, Luxury Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Myanmar Times, National Geographic, POPSUGAR, Robb Report, Saturday Evening Post, Scuba Diver Life, Sierra Club, Ski Utah, Smithsonian, Trivago, USA Today 10best, Wharton Magazine and Yahoo. She is writing a book, “Brave Rebel: 50 Scary Challenges Before 50,” about her most recent travels and challenges. Look for her underwater SCUBA diving, in her art studio making ceramics or helping people find their next dream trip.

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