Growing up poor, I saw my mother skip meals. I saw my father pawn everything he loved. I saw our cars repossessed. I never saw France or London. I didn't even see an airplane up close until I was a senior in high school and won an Al Neuharth-sponsored trip.
The older I get, though, the more I appreciate not having money. Working as a journalist in Mississippi for a handful of years, I found my past connected me to so many people. Crafting racially charged stories, I saw myself in the eyes of interviewed after interviewed. No, I didn't know what it was like to be perceived as scary because my melanin shaded me darker. But I knew what it was like to wear out-of-style clothes and want the shoes and cooler lunches that others had. As a lesbian, I knew what it was like to feel out of place.
Moving to Columbia, MO, to earn my master's, I've lost some of my soul. The city is a predominately white, mostly middle-class generally quaint town. The fury of Mississippi almost like a dream now, I've been reading voraciously articles about the poverty Palestinians sink into daily. I find, years later, Kevin Carter's Pulitzer-winning photo of a starving Sudanese girl and the vulture who stalks her, and I long to be a part of it. I consider the allegations against Carter--was he helping, just photographing her?--and I want to know those journalistic decisions for myself.
What moves me to be a journalist? It's been a career goal so obvious to me for such a long time that the question had ceased to be asked. This semester, almost muted by theory studies, I have returned to it often. I keep a binder of stories that remind me, though: Anne Hull's portrait of gay America, Andrea Elliott's story about an imam in Brooklyn saddling two worlds, Rick Bragg's Pulitzer-winning tale of Alabama inmates plagued by old age who still find beauty in flowers, Jacqui Banaszynski's Pulitzer-winning delve into the lives of two gay men, farmers who fell in love and physically fell apart because of it. I have a distinct want (it's a thirst and a flame, all at once) to create these stories myself--not for the Pulitzers, but for the reaching outside of myself, to break people's hearts so adeptly that they move into action.
The electricity that comes from crafting seeing the way journalists do--cataloguing every movement, sound, feeling, inference--is what continues to spark me. And by no means have I exhausted the stories that are to be done in America (or even Columbia, MO, in all its quaintness). But I so desperately want to leave this country and know more. I've never thought of myself as provincial, but this year, reading on the tension between the two Koreas, swallowing Rushdie's Pakistan and India, inhaling the French riots, I realize how insular my life has been. My tour of the Southern states has left me unable to fully discern what lies beyond.
But I want to.
I want to learn by seeing. I feel deeply, and I know journalism. I'm strong, and have no need for 5-star hotels or other luxuries. In person, I'm charming and sweet and considerate, but still bold and fearless. The trip you're offering is an experience that should merge experience and inexperience, skill and desire for more. I have these qualities.Continue reading the main story
TransitionsAbroad.com invites you to enter its 2016 Narrative Travel Writing Contest with a $500 first-place prize and no fee for entry.
Please read our contest guidelines below very carefully, as understanding and following our yearly theme is one of the most important factors in our final decision.
Professionals, freelancers, and aspiring travel writers are invited to submit an article that describes how traveling in a slower manner and attempting to adapt to the space and time of locals, their culture, and land has deepened your experience of both the people and the destination. One of the results of a slower form of immersion travel is the experience of epiphanies through the senses and spirit that change one's perceptions of others, of oneself, of the interrelationship, and of the world as a whole. We urge you to translate one or more such transformative moments into a narrative.
Transitions Abroad has always observed that more experienced travelers and travel writers seek to engage deeply in a destination by staying for a longer period and thereby immerse themselves in the culture and homes they are fortunate enough to visit as guests. Learning to attempt to communicate by any means, ask questions, share stories sad and humorous, cook, work on the land, volunteer, and participate in other daily activities or sacred rituals and festivals is one way to deepen the travel experience and transform it into a two-way street in the process. The Slow Food movement born in Italy and the aesthetic and ethical spirit of the Slow Movement are a manifestation of the urge now felt by more and more travelers to participate in the daily lives of the host community and not simply as consumers of their culture and land.
We are not looking for destination pieces that describe in flowery "amazing" terms your experience, moralistic essays on the pros and cons of a postmodernist view of travel, nor are we looking for travelogues or blog-like posts that are often too overly personal and self-involved to resonate with others on their own paths of discovery. We are looking for evergreen well-written inspirational pieces that will lead others to experience the sense of engagement as a global citizen.
Accompanying photos that enhance the narrative are highly preferred, as strong visuals often adds a substantial component to a travel narrative on the Web. Photojournalistic essays or accompanying videos will also be considered, and gentle (self)irony or humor is always appreciated.
Please include an optional bio of 1-3 sentences that reference your websites, blogs, books, and contact information in the body of the submission. We can include 1 link in the final winning version. A headshot is optional.
TransitionsAbroad.com will publish the top three winners' entries as well as those of the selected runner-ups. See past contests for examples.
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