A Q&A with Lottie Gross, the 2020 Travel Media Award Young Travel Writer of the Year
We spoke to Lottie Gross, who was the 2020 Travel Media Award Young Travel Writer of the Year. If you’d like to enter your work in this category — or any of the other 21 categories — it’s easy and free to do so here. Entry closes on 7 May so don’t delay!
What does it mean to you to win this award?
Winning Young Travel Writer of the Year 2020 was a huge surprise – a delightful one at that! The competition was so incredibly stiff and I was completely convinced it was going to go to one of my nominated peers. I feel very fortunate to have had some amazing adventures that could translate into award-winning articles. I’m also hugely grateful to my editors at The Telegraph for the commissions and their expert edits on my stories — they played a big part in this. Winning this in the middle of a pandemic — and just before I become “too old” to enter — has been a real confidence boost.
How did you first get into travel writing?
I knew I wanted to be a travel writer from my time at university. I interned at places like APL Media and managed to get some accidental work experience on the Rough Guide to Kenya when I was still studying. I saw a brand new role come up on the web team at Rough Guides so applied for that after university and managed to snag the position out of 500-odd other people! I worked my way up at Rough Guides for a few years, then moved onto Love Inc before going freelance.
How have you coped with the challenges of being a travel writer unable to travel during the Covid-19 crisis?
To say it has been hard is an understatement. I lost all my work back in March/April 2020 and it was a huge blow to my confidence and self worth. I decided I needed to diversify a little, so began writing features for The Telegraph on my experience as a vaccine trial volunteer, and I penned some op-eds and a few random non-travel features for the paper.
I’ve managed to keep a toe in travel, though, and took the opportunity to revisit old trips and pitch stories I’ve been sitting on for ages. The Telegraph Travel’s digital team has kept me busy reporting from London Heathrow, and they’ve even let me write op-eds about how much I dislike Grant Shapps, so it hasn’t been all bad. As soon as travel was allowed last year I hit the road again, and will keep doing so as and when it becomes safe.
What makes a destination a great place to write about?
For me, it’s always the people. Telling human stories – whether current or historical; individual or collective – is my passion, and so it’s the people who live in a place that make it interesting to write about. That’s why I’ve long championed destinations like Derby, Birmingham and Hull. They’re great destinations in their own right, but it’s the people who make an impression on you.
Do you think travel writing is going to change when we can travel again?
I hope so! There has been a lot of navel-gazing over the last 12 months while we’ve all been grounded, and lots of us have unearthed desires for change within the travel industry. While I’m sceptical that travel habits will actually change, I do hope travel media finds more ways to encourage it, and more of a spotlight will be shone on sustainability – not just environmental, but societal sustainability, too.
What destinations are on your travel wish list for the future?
I’m likely going to be grounded in Britain for a while longer yet, as I’m about to embark on a rather chunky project focusing on England, Scotland and Wales. But once I can get abroad again I am desperate to find my way to Catalunya in Spain to hang out with the human towers teams again, and I’ve still got flight vouchers for a trip to Savannah, Charleston and St Pete/Clearwater that need using up, so I expect the US will be on my radar once travel there is safe.
Tell us about your Talking Travel Writing newsletter.
The newsletter had been percolating in the back of my mind long before the pandemic, but the bizarre nature of last summer accelerated the idea and brought it into fruition. It felt like it was the right time to launch a publication that would help travel writers, and those outside the industry, to keep up with and excel at this job. It was such a difficult time, it felt like we needed a proper community more than ever, and now I have almost 2,000 writers receiving the emails every month. The newsletter is all about demystifying travel media – which can often be a bit of a closed-book and cliquey place sometimes. We cover all sorts, from the ethics of travel writing to the actual craft of writing good copy on destinations, and we offer advice, tips and pitch call-outs to help writers – aspiring or experienced – keep getting those commissions.
If you’d like to enter your work for this year’s Travel Media Awards, it’s straightforward and quick — visit the Travel Media Awards website to see a full list of categories and more information on how to enter.