Student Travel Writing Contest Offers $500 For Best Essay Of Student Life Abroad

Are you a student who is aspiring to be a travel writer? Now’s your chance to strut your stuff and perhaps win $500.

Transitions Abroad has announced their 2013 Travel Writing Contest. It’s billed as “the only student travel writing contest to cover studying, working, interning, volunteering and living abroad.”

The contest is open to all “currently enrolled undergraduate and graduate students, students who have graduated within the past year, and students currently on leave from school.” The judges want to see essays of 1,000-2,000 words that offer solid advice for adjusting to student life overseas. Check out their guidelines carefully before putting pen to paper.

First prize is $500; second prize is $150; third prize is $100; and runners-up get $50. All get published in “Transitions Abroad” print and webzine. Deadline is April 15.

It’s always a good idea to check out what won in the past. Last year’s winner was “A Foreigner in the Middle Kingdom: Living, Working, and Studying in China.” My personal favorite was the practical and insightful “A High School Summer in Egypt Studying Arabic: Practical Advice and Tips.”

Thanks to the excellent online writing newsletter Writing World for bringing this to my attention. Check out their site for tons of free advice of value to aspiring and experienced writers.

[Photo courtesy Sarah Rose]

Books by Gadling bloggers

Gadling bloggers are a busy bunch. When we’re not posting the latest travel news or accounts of our adventures, we’re writing for newspapers, magazines, and anthologies. Many of us have written books too.

David Farley takes the prize for weirdest subject matter with An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church’s Strangest Relic in Italy’s Oddest Town. So what’s Catholicism’s strangest relic? Nothing less than the foreskin of Jesus!

Some of us have jobs other than writing and this is reflected in our work. Talented photographer Karen Walrond has published the only photo book so far by a Gadlinger, The Beauty of Different: Observations of a Confident Misfit. Flight attendant Heather Poole is coming out with Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet in March 2012. Foodie Laurel Miller is coauthoring Cheese for Dummies, coming in 2012.

Sean McLachlan will become Gadling’s first novelist when his historical novel set in Civil War Missouri, A Fine Likeness, comes out in October. When he isn’t traveling he’s writing history. His military history books for Osprey Publishing include American Civil War Guerrilla Tactics, Ride Around Missouri: Shelby’s Great Raid 1863, Armies of the Adowa Campaign 1896: the Italian Disaster in Ethiopia, and Medieval Handgonnes: The First Black Powder Infantry Weapons. He’s done three books on Missouri: Outlaw Tales of Missouri, Missouri: An Illustrated History, and It Happened in Missouri. He dipped into medieval history with Byzantium: An Illustrated History.

Given that we’re all travel writers, it’s no big shocker that we have a slew of travel guides between us. Andrew Evans wrote the Brandt guides to Iceland and Ukraine. Pam Mandel wrote the Thomas Cook guide HotSpots Hawaii. Matthew Firestone is a Lonely Planet regular. His titles include Costa Rica, and Botswana & Namibia. He’s contributed to several other titles. McLean Robbins contributed to the Forbes (formerly Mobil) Travel Guide (Mid Atlantic). Melanie Renzulli shares her love of Italy with The Unofficial Guide to Central Italy: Florence, Rome, Tuscany & Umbria and Frommer’s The Irreverent Guide to Rome. Libby Zay has coauthored three VIVA Travel Guides: Quito, Ecuador; Macchu Picchu & Cusco; and Guatemala.

Don George takes the cake for travel writing. Not only has he given us all some good tips in Lonely planet’s book on Travel Writing, but he’s edited a long list of travel anthologies such as Lonely Planet’s Lights, Camera, Travel!, A Moveable Feast, The Kindness of Strangers, By the Seat of My Pants, Tales from Nowhere, and A House Somewhere. Besides his LP titles, he’s edited’s Wanderlust and Travelers’ Tales Japan.

So if you in the mood to read something offscreen, pick up a title from one of these talented authors!

[Image courtesy Yorck Project]

Talking Travel with Brad Olsen, Sacred Stomper

Brad Olsen is the founder of CCC Publishing, the Consortium of Collective Consciousness, based in San Francisco. He is a man who wears many hats — publisher, writer, photographer, producer and artist. He’s also a seasoned world traveler and author of the new book Sacred Places Europe, the latest title in CCC’s series of travel guides focusing on spiritual journeys. Brad researched and wrote the book, and also provided all the photos and maps that appear throughout. Oh yeah, did we mention he dabbles in cartography too?

His strong interests in history, culture, spirituality and humanity have lead Brad down a career path full of creative pursuits and plenty of travel. I caught up with him recently via email for a quick chat about travel, the Sacred Places series and some of his other artistic projects.

How did you first getting started traveling?

It was an innate and insatiable curiosity to see the world in the days of my youth. And with many youthful indiscretions, partying with the opposite sex on the opposite side of the world had its draw.

When did you first begin writing about travel, both personally and professionally?

I started writing my first book World Stompers: A Global Travel Manifesto within the first week of getting my sponsored-visa job to teach English in Kyoto, Japan. That book was in the works for over three years, and has now gone into five editions. When I landed the job, I knew my dream of a self-financed backpacking trip around the world was going to happen. And it did.

Where did you go on that backpacking trip, and for how long did you travel?

I was out of the country for three years solid. I was in Japan for 14 months, Australia for 5 1/2 months, India for 5 months, Indonesia for two, plus Nepal, Thailand, China, Vietnam, Egypt, Israel and a dozen European countries in a month. See my online travelogue Stompers.

How did the idea for the Sacred Places book series first come about?

After a half dozen years publishing travel guides I started looking deeper into the demand of guides and saw an opportunity. From the beginning it was clear I needed to do a whole series on the subject. Besides, during my three-year trip around the world I found myself drawn to sacred places and I had a strong working knowledge coming into the first book.

What are the other titles in the series?

In order, we’ve published: Sacred Places Around the World: 108 Destinations (now in 2nd edition); Sacred Places North America: 108 Destinations (currently being rewritten into a 2nd edition); Sacred Places of Goddess: 108 Destinations (written by Karen Tate) and our latest, Sacred Places Europe: 108 Destinations.

Can you tell us a little bit about the destinations featured in the new Europe book?

It’s a collection of prehistoric megaliths, sacred mountains, pilgrimage destinations, obscure Christian shrines and other lesser-known locales. Some examples: In France, the book features sites like the caves of the Dordogne region and Carnac’s megaliths. In Central Europe, there is Rila Monastery in Bulgaria, Tipova in Moldova and The Visocica Valley Pyramids in Bosnia, to name a few. Special Christian sites pervade the European landscape. There are sections of sacred site listings for Scandinavia, Germany and the Alps, Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain and Portugal too.

One place included in the Great Britain chapter is the assorted monuments around the small village of Avebury, among the most important Neolithic ruins in England. They include Europe’s tallest artificial hill, the skeleton of a monumental stone circle much like Stonehenge, several underground passage chambers, and the remnants of two 1.5-mile (2.4-km) long stone avenues. The Avebury monuments were not just a concentration of elaborate ruins, but also a prehistoric staging ground for seasonal rituals and courting dramas.

Can you share with us a few of your personal favorites from the book?

Like Avebury, the Neolithic sites of Europe really blew me away, both on my first backpack trips across the continent, and during my three-month research trip for the book in 2004. In Holland, the “hunnebeddens” or “giant’s beds” are charming and delightful just like the Dutch people themselves. Ireland is loaded with Neolithic sites like Hill of Tara, Loughcrew and Newgrange.

Why 108 Destinations?

If you were a Hindu or Buddhist, 108 would be one of the most familiar numbers you know. It is sacred for any number of reasons – and fully explained in all my books!

So what was your methodology for choosing the locations you did?

Of course, this is subjective to my own system of qualifying a site. There are some we would all agree upon: Stonehenge, the Scottish stone circle Callanish, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Great Pyramids. For the secondary tier, I look for what the locals consider a sacred place, and which locations have the best story to tell. I don’t report on battlefield or holocaust sites, nor haunted houses or anything like that.

Have you visited all of them?

Close to 80 percent.

“Sacred travel” and things like “metaphysical tourism” and “spirituality tours” have been growing in popularity. To what do you attribute this trend?

People are looking for more in their vacations besides sipping mai tais by the pool. Why not venture off the hotel grounds and check out some of these sites? After all, they are the places that define the very best of the civilizations that preceded us.

More and more travelers are booking their vacations with the expressed interest of experiencing the power of a sacred place. Taking a pilgrimage is not a new idea, but this type of trip seems to correspond with a growing trend in seeking spirituality on a more individual or secular level — all while having an enjoyable time on an educational and invigorating vacation!

Will there be another title in the Sacred Places series in the future?

Either Sacred Places Southeast Asia: 108 Destinations or Sacred Places Central America and the Caribbean: 108 Destinations. What do you think? Can we take a poll?

Sure, Brad, here’s a handy poll for readers who want to make their pick:


So what’s next for you on the travel horizon?

I’m leaving for a camping and music event up at Mount Shasta, California. We are doing a Peace Tour event in the shadow of the holy mount to see if we can activate the consciousness grid. Go to to learn more.

Sounds like another sacred destination worth visiting. Good luck Brad, and thanks for chatting with us.