We spoke to Ben Lerwill, who was named Specialist Travel Writer of the Year at the 2021 Travel Media Awards, about winning an award at last year’s TMAs and what he’s been up to since.
What did it mean to you to win Specialist Travel Writer of the Year?
An enormous amount. I was thrilled just to be nominated, so to win the award was way beyond my expectations. I was shortlisted alongside a group of writers that I really admire. The day after it was announced, I had a couple of emails from editors I’d not worked with before, so it really did give me a boost professionally.
What have been your biggest challenges of the past year?
From a travel writing perspective, the biggest challenge was metaphorically dusting down my passport and figuring out the kind of trips I’d like to prioritise. For a long while, it felt a bit like the starting gun had gone off and I was still floundering around trying to tie my shoelaces.
What makes a really good travel story?
I’d say it varies hugely depending on the topic, but I love reading pieces that have a genuine warmth and curiosity to them. You can tell when someone’s thrown themselves into a feature — the writing has real heart and honesty. The other upside is that when a writer’s looking to tell a meaningful story, it generally means there’s far less room for cliches.
Where’s on your travel list for 2022?
I’m crossing Europe by rail to spend time in Romania, which is massively exciting. I’m also off to South Africa to write about how some of the game reserves are recovering after the turbulence of the pandemic. I’ll be doing plenty of UK stuff as well, with a lot of walking, and Ireland and France are on the agenda, too.
Do you think travel writing will change over the next few years?
I think it’s already changing. Several of the specialist titles are including a much greater range of voices and perspectives, and I imagine too that we’ll continue to see a rise in pieces that focus on responsible tourism, community tourism and low-impact breaks. I’d also like to think that, collectively, we’ll resign the word ‘Instagrammable’ to the dustbin of history. Confession: I’ve been guilty of using it in the past. And I’m sorry.
If you’d like to enter your work for the awards, it’s easy, and free of charge, to do so on our website. Enter now to make sure you’re in the running for the 2022 Travel Media Awards, which will be presented on 26 September 2022 at The Dorchester in London.