Best Travel Writers: 2010 Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Winners

The Society of American Travel Writers Foundation has been recognizing achievements in North American travel journalism since 1985.

Three Champions

North American Travel Writers fighting it out for top honors (Obviously an early round as the women contestants probably received first-round byes…)
Photo Credit: State Library of New South Wales | Flickr

Based on my work on a project involving travel inspiration, great travel writing is a key consideration. So, in the interest of exposing as many people as possible to superior travel journalism, below is the complete list of winners, appended with links to the individuals, articles, and publications recognized for their accomplishments.

One side note to the authors, publishers and their respective media representatives – many of you are not doing a very effective job of communicating your award winning achievements, or in a few cases, any aspect of your craft on the web.

The time and number of searches required to find links to author bios, the stories and on one occasion, the publication itself, was startling.

Perhaps some of these winning writers are interested in sustaining the tradition of the starving artist mercilessly avoiding the evils of commercialization to preserve the purity of their craft… I would guess most others are probably trying to figure out why not nearly enough people know of their work.

Winners – you are really good at your craft and you put painstaking effort into producing an outstanding product. Please share it with the world – use social media to grow your following. A simple twitter profile, Facebook fan page or LinkedIn profile can go a long way to serve as a hub for interested readers to learn more about you and your other works.

No, “serious writers” need not demean themselves by transforming into full-blown travel bloggers, but there is no harm done in being a smart, web-aware journalist. The travel industry needs you to continue filling imaginations and informing people of how travel enriches lives.

Kicking aside my soapbox, here is the list of winners:

This year, out of 1,161 entries, 78 winners were awarded gold, silver or bronze medals across 25 categories. The details of the competition can be found at the SATW website.

Grand Award – Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year
29 Entries
Gold: Andrew McCarthy, freelance writer
Silver: Catharine Hamm, Travel Editor, Los Angeles Times
Bronze: Gary Stoller, reporter, USA Today

16 Entries
Newspapers Over 350,000 circulation
Gold: The Washington Post, Joe Yonan, Travel Editor
Silver: Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Kerri Westenberg, Travel Editor
Bronze: Los Angeles Times, Catharine Hamm, Travel Editor

Newspapers Under 350,000 circulation
Gold: San Francisco Chronicle, Spud Hilton, Travel Editor
Silver: The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, CA), Gary Warner, Travel Editor
Bronze: The Ottawa Citizen, Laura Robin, Travel Editor

16 Entries
Travel Magazines
Gold: Afar, Greg Sullivan, Editorial Director
Silver: National Geographic Traveler, Keith Bellows, Editor
Bronze: Via, Bruce Anderson, Editor

Travel Coverage in Other Magazines
Gold: Midwest Living, Kendra L. Williams, Travel Editor
Silver: Southern Living, Warner McGowin, Executive Editor
Bronze: Bon Appétit, Victoria von Biel, Executive Editor

Newspaper Article on U.S./Canada Travel
59 Entries
Gold: Tony Perrottet, “America’s Outback: Southern Utah,” The New York Times
Silver: Reed Glenn, “End of the Road: Alaska,” The Miami Herald
Bronze: Barney Mann, “Across the Snowy Crest,” The Oregonian

Magazine Article on U.S./Canada Travel
68 Entries
Gold: Wells Tower, “The Tuber,” Outside
Silver: Tony Perrottet, “Behind the Scenes in Monument Valley,” Smithsonian
Bronze: (tie) Guy Saddy, “Big Apple Turnover,” enRoute
Bronze: (tie) Andrew McCarthy, “Driving: The Maui Loop,” Travel + Leisure

Newpaper Article on Foreign Travel
55 Entries
Gold: Amit R. Paley, “A Village, or a Zoo? I Wanted to See Thailand’s Long-Necked Women. Some Would Say That Makes Me Part of the Problem.” The Washington Post
Silver: Andy Isaacson, “Pamir Mountains: At the Crossroads of History,” The New York Times
Bronze: Spud Hilton, “River Murray Keeps Australia Riverboats Afloat,” San Francisco Chronicle

Newspaper Photo Illustration of Travel Article
27 Entries
Gold: Andy Isaacson, “Pamir Mountains: At the Crossroads of History,” The New York Times
Silver: Kari Bodnarchuk, “Picture Perfect,” The Boston Globe
Bronze: Torsten Kjellstrand, “All Aboard for Angling,” The Oregonian

Magazine Photo Illustration of Travel Article
45 Entries
Gold: Jimmy Chin, “Why Am I Here Again?Outside
Silver: Jad Davenport, “Greenland’s Ghosts,” Islands
Bronze: Brown W. Cannon III, “Lost in Time,” Islands

Special Package/Project
26 Entries
Gold: Jill Schensul, “Namibia,” The Record and, Hackensack, NJ
Silver: staff, “Oasis of the Seas Launch Party,”
Bronze: The Seattle Times staff, 2010 Winter Olympics and Vancouver guides/coverage,
The Seattle Times print/online

Article on Marine Travel
41 Entries
Gold: Kristen Bellstrom, “Cruise Ships on Steroids,” SmartMoney
Silver: Matt Hannafin, “Here Be Monsters: The Secret Story Behind Cruising’s Most Cherished Traditions,”
Bronze: Chris Riemenschneider, “The Reluctant Cruisers,” Star Tribune, Minneapolis

Article on Adventure Travel
47 Entries
Gold: Patrick Symmes, “Hugo’s World,” Outside
Silver: Patrick Symmes, “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” Outside
Bronze: Jordan Rane, “Three Men and a Mountain,” Los Angeles Times

Travel News/Investigative Reporting
15 Entries
Gold: Gary Stoller, “Since 2003, 65,000 U.S. flights with maintenance problems have taken off anyway.” USA Today
Silver: Joshua Hammer, “Heartbreak. Chaos. Mayhem. Hope?” Outside
Bronze: Catharine Hamm, “A Different Journey Than the Bride Bargained For,” Los Angeles Times

Service-Oriented Consumer Article
102 Entries
Gold: Arianne Cohen, “The Budget Travel Challenge: The Connected Traveler,” Budget Travel
Silver: William J. McGee, “Think Flight Times are Being Padded? They Are,”
Bronze: Paul Eisenberg, “Are ‘Operation Vacations’ Worth the Trip?

Environmental Tourism Article
47 Entries
Gold: Jeff Greenwald, “Bedeviled Island,” Afar
Silver: Paul Kvinta, “Cat Fight,” National Geographic Adventure
Bronze: Bob Morris, “A Fish With Hair,” Islands

Cultural Tourism Article
97 Entries
Gold: Daniel Brook, “The Architect of 9/11,” Slate
Silver: Edward Readicker-Henderson, “Everything Is Illuminated,” Westways
Bronze: David Noyes, “The Sacred City of Shiva,” Lifestyle + Travel

Personal Comment
102 Entries
Gold: Tim Wu, “Bipolar Disorder,” Slate
Silver: Daisann McLane, “Why Not Linger?National Geographic Traveler
Bronze Ed Hewitt, “What’s Wrong With Airport Security (and What to Do About It),”

Special-Purpose Travel
83 Entries
Gold: Don J. Snyder, “Clubbed,” Outside
Silver: Jad Davenport, “Greenland’s Ghosts,” Islands
Bronze: Steven Rinella, “Me, Myself, and Ribeye,” Outside

Short Travel Article
66 Entries
Gold: Laura Daily, “Decoding the Alphabet Soup,” Dallas Morning News
Silver: Rick Steves, “Ride the Buses for City Sights,” Tribune Media Services/The Seattle Times
Bronze: Jason Overdorf, “Watching Over Delhi’s Soul,” Afar

Travel Book
18 Entries
Gold: Rick Steves, “Travel as a Political Act,” Nation Books
Silver: Tom Coyne, “A Course Called Ireland,” Gotham Books
Bronze: David Farley, “An Irreverent Curiosity,” Gotham Books

55 Entries
Gold: Andrew Mersmann, “Frommer’s 500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference,” John Wiley & Sons Canada
Silver: Brian Kevin, Compass American Guides: “Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks,” Fodor’s Travel
Bronze: Jeanette Foster, “Frommer’s Hawaii Day by Day,” Wiley Publishing

Online Travel Journalism Site
11 Entries
Gold:, Budget Travel, Stephen Merrill, General Manager Online
Silver:, Matador, David Miller, Senior Editor;
Julie Schwietert Collazo, Managing Editor
Bronze:, National Geographic Traveler, Jerry Sealy, Web director

Travel Broadcast — Audio
17 Entries
Gold: Joseph Rosendo, “South African Adventure,” podcast
Silver: Ron Bernthal, “Lost & Saved,” WJFF Public Radio
Bronze: Laura Del Rosso, “San Francisco’s Ferry Building and Embarcadero,” Visual Travel Tours, CD/podcast/mobile phone

Travel Broadcast — Video
8 Entries
Gold: Patricia Conroy, Richard Bangs and John Givens, “Richard Bangs’ Adventures
With Purpose/Assam, India: Quest for the One-Horned Rhinoceros,”
American Public Television
Silver: Joseph Rosendo and Julie Rosendo, “Guatemala — the Maya of the Western Highlands,” PBS stations
Bronze: No award

Travel Blog
33 Entries
Gold: Ben Mutzabaugh, Today in the Sky,
Silver: Chris Gray Faust, Chris Around the World
Bronze: Kayt Sukel and Jamie Pearson, Travel Savvy Mom

One additional aside for those that made it this far – Now that you have been exposed to quality travel writing, compare it to the content found on thousands of destination, hotel, attraction and online travel websites. In most cases, there is a chasm separating great writing from the dreck that most travelers must ingest when formulating their travel plans.

There is no reason the travel industry should settle for the often low quality descriptive content that may be the sole barrier standing between a traveler and a decision to take a trip.

Hopefully many people will read the work produced by these top tier travel writers and not only become inspired to travel, but also to hone their writing skills and tell others about their experiences in a thoughtful and compelling manner.

The Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition is judged by the faculty of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication, coordinated by Winston Cavin. For questions, contact: Mary Lu Abbott, SATW Foundation administrator, 713-973-9985, or [email protected]

About Robert Cole

Robert Cole is the founder of RockCheetah, a hotel marketing strategy and travel technology consulting practice. He also authors the Views from a Corner Suite Blog and publishes the Travel Quote of the Day. Robert speaks regularly at major travel industry conferences, authors articles for leading travel industry publications, advises travel-related startups and the equity investment community. He is an evangelist for the global travel industry.


  1. Congratulations to all the winners! Robert, thanks for sharing them to the world. I can’t even imagine where I should start reading their winning pieces.

  2. Travel writer Dave Richardson said: “Introducing an adults-only cabin or service is a good idea. “It would work well on high- frequency routes so that …

  3. .. the Lowell Thomas Award for 2010 Travel Journalist of the Year. First off, kudos to the people who designed the actor’s website. The “Writing” section …

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