I am so very, very, very pleased to tell you that I have been named Travel Writer of the Year 2023 by the Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW)!

The ASTW made the announcement at its awards ceremony in Sydney this weekend, a glittering occasion (not least because I decided to emulate a human mirrorball for the evening). It was one of three awards I received:

  • Best accommodation story; for my review of The Benev spa hotel in Beechworth, in Victoria’s High Country
  • The Jack Butters Award for outstanding contribution to the ASTW; and, of course,
  • Travel Writer of the Year 2023.

The Travel Writer of the Year entry requires submission of three features; I took a turn off the beaten path to include my solo travel in Saudi Arabia for Traveller.com.au, another women-only travel in Islamic countries, for the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age and a third story on journeying through the Malaysian state of Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, for Gourmet Traveller magazine.

The Jack Butters Award is named after the first president of the ASTW, and recognises outstanding service to the ASTW. It’s a tricky one to talk about without sounding boastful – I organise the Victorian events for the ASTW, and in the past have managed its social media, encourage networking and connection within the industry and generally get my hands mucky on the job. I am very proud of this award, as it requires nomination from fellow members. So, thank you to those who thought of me at this time.

I send thanks to my editors, particularly Craig Platt for going out on a limb and running my women-in-Saudi piece on traveller.com.au, and for Anthony Dennis for seeing the need for a cover story on women-only travel in Islamic countries in the Sydney Morning Herald. Neither can be described mainstream topics. And sending thanks to Sarah Maguire, editor of the Explore section of Aust Community Media/Canberra Times/ Newcastle Herald, for indulging my love of raw linen and bush fragrances of The Benev in Beechworth.

I’m equally thankful for the sponsors who make such travel, especially Experience AlUla in Saudi Arabia, North East Tourism here in Victoria, Tourism Malaysia and the countless people who have helped and guided me on my years of travels in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

Thanks also to the sponsors for each award – Virgin Australia who sponsors the Travel Writer of the Year award, and the lovely Victorian company Lancemore Hotels, who sponsored of the accommodation award, and finally, the ASTW itself and in particular, its board and awards committee. Without the ASTW, I would not have the friendships, the connections, the support and encouragement of the many, many talented people in its ranks.

And to end, here are the links for each piece:

Solo woman’s travel in Saudi Arabia – https://www.smh.com.au/traveller/inspiration/visiting-saudia-arabia-as-a-woman-i-went-to-the-notoriously-sexist-country-as-a-solo-female-tourist-20220705-h24v9q.html

Women-only travel in Islamic countries – https://www.smh.com.au/traveller/inspiration/travel-guide-for-women-travellers-in-the-middle-east-tips-and-advice-20220624-h24nad.html

Lore of the jungle: adventuring in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo – https://www.magzter.com/de/stories/travel/Gourmet-Traveller/LORE-OF-THE-JUNGLE

Slow road to a blissful state: The Benev, Beechworth, Australia – https://www.exploretravel.com.au/story/8124768/slow-road-to-a-blissful-state/