Amelia Duggan won two awards at the Travel Media Awards 2019 — the Young Writer of the Year award and the Specialist Travel Writer of the Year. We chat to her about her achievements
1. How does it feel to be the first Travel Media Awards recipient to win two awards?
It was an honour to be recognised as a finalist — I shared both shortlists with such talented, hardworking writers. To have taken home two trophies feels incredibly gratifying; I moved from editing to become a freelance writer in January 2018, so the awards represent two years’ hard work. But no travel writer is an island entire of itself. I owe a massive debt of gratitude to the editors at National Geographic Traveller; to Clover PR, who curated my wild and wonderful Audley Travel trip to Colombia’s Pacific coast; and to Hamilton Public Relations, who organised an unforgettable introduction to Malawi with Gane & Marshall.
2. How did you first get into travel writing?
I got a taste of the travel media industry as an intern in my mid-twenties and knew I was home. I’d already spent several years working abroad in Chile, where I got my first job as a reporter, and in India, so the transition from travel and journalism into travel journalism made sense. I had a handful of champions in my life who supported my writing and helped me find my voice — I wish good mentors for anyone starting out. And I’ve made wonderful friends along the way — this business seems to attract a lot of creative, curious, open-hearted people.
3. What are the necessary ingredients for an impactful travel feature?
Good guides and interesting interviews — it’s the voices and insights of the local people that breathe life into a piece. My favourite stories to tell are about destinations that need a little help rehabilitating or establishing their image in the minds of British travellers — Colombia fell into the first category, Malawi the second. In both I found gorgeous natural beauty, warm welcomes and important environmental projects. It’s a pleasure to spread the good word.
4. What is it about Latin America that keeps you going back?
I spent a year in Santiago after I left university, and later backpacked across the continent. I’ve returned to Latin America almost yearly since — in part to improve my Spanish, which is a constant work in progress, but also to top up on the warmth and colour of life out there. The Latin joie de vivre is the antidote to our British culture of restraint and stiff-upper-lip. And there’s still so much to discover, so many stories to tell. I’ve still only scratched the surface.
5. What’s next?
I’ve just got back from a fortnight in Guatemala and have started a staff role as acting deputy editor, covering the maternity leave of National Geographic Traveller’s Stephanie Cavagnaro. I’m commissioning features for the year ahead, but am also cooking up some adventures of my own. I’m looking forward to having more conversations about sustainable travel in 2020.