Thanks to everyone who entered the Next Great Travel Writer competition 2017.

Hundreds of people from across the US took part in the competition and the standard of entries was incredibly high. The judging panel has now reviewed the shortlist to find the most creative, the most inspiring, and the strongest from a technical perspective.

We’re delighted to announce the winners:

US Winner 2017:

Andrea Lett

US Student Winner 2017:

Zada Clarke

About the competition

Nothing excites the imagination quite like travel – and the very best travel writing can make us feel like we're right there, riding the dusty railways with Paul Theroux or sweltering in the heat of the Spanish sun with Hemingway at our side.

But if you're an aspiring writer, it's not always easy to get your voice heard…until now.

This winter, we're making it our mission to find the best new writing talent out there – and we're teaming up with Penguin to do it! So whether you're a student with editorial ambitions or you spend your days jotting down notes on your next voyage, we're giving you the perfect platform to tell us all about it, and also have the chance to win a one-on-one session with a Penguin editor.

The boring stuff:

  • This piece needs to be unique to the competition, which means you can't submit something you've published elsewhere
  • We're looking to showcase the talent of aspiring writers, young or old. If you're already paid to write about travel, then this isn't the competition for you
  • You can only enter once – so take your time before submitting your entry
  • Entries close at 11:59PM (EST) on February 5 2017 – we will not accept anything submitted after that date
  • You have to be over 18 and a US resident to enter
  • Students can win the main prize. However, if a student is awarded the main prize, then the runner up in the student category, as decided by the judges, will be awarded the student prize

Prize pool

The part you've all been waiting for! One lucky winner will be given:

  • A session with a Penguin editor & $1500: The winner will get a money-can't-buy one hour session with a Penguin editor, packed with top tips, feedback on your work and advice on how to make it as a writer
  • An additional bonus $500 prize for the best entry by a current university or college student

Neither Here Nor There

by Bill Bryson

But that's the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned. I don't want to know what people are talking about. I can't think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can't read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can't even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.

The Winners

The winners

US Winner 2017: Andrea Lett

Winds of Oz

“I loved Andrea’s story - it was so vivid you could feel the wind whipping your face, and it read like a piece of beautiful nature writing” — Anna Sophia Watts, Assistant Editor at Penguin Random House

US Student Winner 2017: Zada Clarke

Ten Times Ten Rupees

“I felt Zada’s use of dialogue was the strongest of all the entries, which is really hard in travel writing. I also loved how she made the destination feel really accessible” — Jonathon Howe, travel blogger at Two Monkeys Travel Group


The shortlist

Ten Times Ten Rupees

Zada Clarke

"There was the sweet scent of wood burning. Flesh burning by the Ghat's. An overcast sky met the horizon and the blended into the grey belly of mother Ganga. She was suffocating under the damp air, the sewers stream, the trash foam..."

Would You Like a Bracelet?

Stephanie Hubka

"To travel is to take a chance. To open yourself up to the unknown. To get out of your own way and experience a different life than the one you've always known..."

The Winds of Oz

Andrea Lett

"The winds had picked up again whipping the ocean into a frenzy. It had been zipping through the area for a week previous to my arrival, brought a cyclone slamming against the coast pulling coral from its reef bed..."

Coke in Jerusalem

Robert Michael Maakestad

"While studying abroad in Israel, I found myself surprised by how severely I missed carbonated beverages – in particular, Coke. As a college student in the U.S., I took my access for granted: the dining hall, nearby restaurants or gas stations, the local grocery store, and even nearly every academic building and dorm..."

A Home to Return To

Bethany Widdicombe

"With gripping fear and writhing pain, my soul finally understood. Amongst the crowded terminal, the tears slipped slowly down my cheeks. I tried to hold in the gasps of air that dared to escape as I burrowed my head into my backpack that still smelled of spicy sweet..."

The Woman Who Fell From The Sky

by Jennifer Steil

I had no idea how to find my way around this medieval city. It was getting dark. I was tired. I didn't speak Arabic. I was a little frightened. But hadn't I battled scorpions in the wilds of Costa Rica and prevailed? Hadn't I survived fainting in a San José brothel? Hadn't I once arrived in Ireland with only $10 in my pocket and made it last two weeks? Surely I could handle a walk through an unfamiliar town. So I took a breath, tightened the black scarf around my hair, and headed out to take my first solitary steps through Sana'a.


Entries to the Next Great Travel Writer Competition will be judged by an expert panel of representatives from Travelex and Penguin, as well as leading travel bloggers.

The entries will be judged on creativity, originality and quality of writing. In a nutshell we'll be asking ‘does the story make me want to pack my bags immediately and hop on a flight tonight?' That, to us, is great travel writing.

  • Dominic Grounsell

    Global Marketing Director at Travelex, Dominic Grounsell, takes his travel reading seriously. When he's not busy working or in his voluntary role as board member and fellow of the Marketing Society, there's nothing he likes more than indulging in a bit of escapism via a good travel tale.

  • Two Monkeys Travel

    These two travelling lovebirds got bitten by the bug so hard, they started their own travel blog. Kach and Jonathan have been on enough adventures to know what will make a great travel story and transport readers to a whole new world.

  • Dan Flying Solo

    A travel and photography obsessive by day and ice-cream addict by night, Dan is on a mission to meet as many faces around the world as possible whilst hunting out incredible places and share it all on his blog. Due to his years of travelling experience, he can sniff out a good travel story a mile off.

  • Anna Sophia Watts

    After studying Modern European languages in Scotland, and living in South America for a bit, Anna found a new home at Penguin Random House 4 years ago. As an editor working on so many different books with a huge range of authors she gets to travel to different times and places on a daily basis – she says 'nothing beats armchair-travelling (except maybe real travelling)'.

NGTW17 & Penguin

Before aeroplanes, trains and cars there were books - the oldest method of travel. Stories and writing that transport readers to destinations, real and imagined, past, present and future.

As the proud home of some of the greatest writers of all time, we're thrilled that Penguin is helping us to find the next great travel writing star. The lucky competition winner in each category will have their entry reviewed by a Penguin editor and meet them to get feedback and advice on how to get published.

Sailing Alone Around the World

by Joshua Slocum

I had resolved on a voyage around the world, and as the wind on the morning of April 24, 1895 was fair, at noon I weighed anchor, set sail, and filled away from Boston, where the Spray had been moored snugly all winter. […] A thrilling pulse beat high in me. My step was light on deck in the crisp air. I felt there could be no turning back, and that I was engaging in an adventure the meaning of which I thoroughly understood.