The Fourth Annual I Must Be Off! Travel Writing Competition -- The Longlist!

If you need unquestionable confirmation that global warming is real, look no further than the entries to the 2016 I Must Be Off! Travel Writing Competition. Hundreds of the 647 entries this year began with the broiling sun, oppressive heat, sweltering temps and lots of, well, sweat. The world is getting hotter, and so are the entries to the I Must Be Off! contest. Or people have stopped taking trips in winter.

We slogged up mountains with you, harrowed dives and dangerous drives. We got lost with you (and a few times robbed with you) on lonely roads and in sprawling urban jungles; but you also led us through a few real jungles--and up a few volcanoes. The adventures this year have been intense and often a bit scary.

But also funny. You sent us your snafus and blunders and lapses of judgment. You invited us to laugh with you, sometimes even at you. Some of you invited us to laugh at your husbands or wives. We enjoyed that. And we enjoyed learning from your (husband's) mistakes. In the end, we enjoyed learning something about life with you.

We accompanied you on your road trips, your train trips, your cruises and your flights. Whether you took us just around the corner or around the world in 20 days, we felt every bump--on Route 66, on your South African safaris, through the quaint towns of Bavaria and the bustle of Beijing. We rode with you through Ireland and India, Peru and the Philippines. We got lost in London and found in Finland. We loved your love-hate relationships with touristy destinations and your catty censure of places that just aren't what they're cracked up to be.  

We also felt your pain. Stories of loss, of war-torn regions and personal tragedy were represented in no small number this year. Sometimes we forget that we don't always travel for enjoyment; sometimes travel is a pilgrimage, a time of self-discovery and reassessment, a time for remembering a bitter past now whitewashed by trendy shops and pizzerias. 

You sent us animal stories. Lions, tigers and bears. Oh my. But also turtles, camels and cats, rhinos and elephants, horses and sea creatures, monkeys, buffaloes, bulls and birds (so many birds) -- and of course the dreaded mosquito. We loved them all. The most frequent animal of all, though, was the unpredictable -- sometimes gracious but often inhumane -- human.

Thank you to everyone who entrusted us with your work. We read it carefully. The overwhelming majority of entrants this year came from the United States, but a good number hailed from the United (for now) Kingdom and India. Africa and Oceania were also well represented. In fact, we received entries from every continent except Antarctica, who has snubbed the contest from the very beginning. And sadly, we did not receive one entry from American Samoa despite our repeated pleas. There's always next year.

LONGLIST ENTRANTS: As the judging is still in process, please refrain from announcing your elation on social media if you see the title of your entry on the list below. Of course tell your friends and family, but remember that the judging of this competition is blind and that this year's judge, Paola Fornari, must make her decisions without knowing the writers' names.  

From the four corners of the planet and out of 647 entries, here is the 2016 I Must Be Off! Travel Writing Competition Longlist in alphabetical order:

A Day Out on the Death Railway
A Glimpse of the Future Coming from Behind
A Kiss of Oranges and Myrtle on Crete
A Mountainous Garden of Blossoming Delights
A Period of Time in a Place in Time
A Thousand Cranes
A Thousand New Friends: Free. Knowing your City: Priceless
A Very Cuban Lesson in Kindness 
Back there Somewhere in Iceland
Bear Spotting in the Kackars
Broader Horizons
Bukasa Bites
Changing Course in the Arizona Desert
Close Encounters of the Wild Kind
Counting Turtles
'Courage et Sang-froid' in Burgundy 
David and the Girl
Eye Contact
Fight for Survival
Finding Atlantis
Finding Muses and Magic in Monet's Giverny
Heavenly Pursuits
Hunting with the Hadzabe
Just a Day in the Land of High Passes
Lost and Found in Russia
Lucky Locks of China 
Maximum Tranquillity
Miser on the Move 
Muerte! Muerte!
My Ancestral Quest to a Remote Spanish Village
My Last Five Dollars (Withdrawn. Accepted elsewhere. Congratulations to the author!)
Nepalese Bean Time
On the Edge of Green Island
Out of Place 
Rising from the Ashes 
Shakespeare Slipped through my Fingers 
Shooting the Old Men of Durres
Somewhere, I Belong
Spirit Nation
Swimming in Iran: Isfahan
Swimming with Julius
The Bakalarities of Summer
The Chase
The Fabric of India
The Fairies of Faerie Glen
The Glaciers are Melting
The God of the Mountain
The Good Times Roll
The Great Out-There
The Heart of What Matters
The Land of the One-Horned Rhinoceros 
The Ramblin' Rose of Kingman, Arizona
The Seven Headless Dwarfs
The Third Story 
The Woman at the Border
This is Jalala
To See Anew
Too Fast
Turtle Watch in Culebra
Twerking with my Muslim Sisters
Unaccompanied Baggage
Vladi's Castle
Welcome to Plav
Whooping it Up and Down Sumatra
Wild Encounter

Congratulations to every writer on this list! First and foremost, your work is on this list thanks to a very high quality of writing. 

To the hundreds of you who will not find your title on this list, please know that all competitions are in some way subjective. What doesn't make it here may make it to the top somewhere else--so keep working, and keep sending out your work. We appreciated the opportunity of reading ALL of your stories. And we hope you keep traveling and keep sharing your adventures with us.

Keep an eye on I Must Be Off! for the shortlist of the top 30 entries. Soon.

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Juked, Eclectica Magazine's 20th-Anniversary Speculative anthology, Indiana Review, Night Train, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and over a hundred other great places. Read his book reviews in [PANK], Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, The Lit Pub, and others. His creative non-fiction has appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Bootsnall Travel, and lots of other fine places. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net, the storySouth Million Writers Award, and the Pushcart Prize. He is the 2015 recipient of Ginosko Literary Journal's award for flash fiction and in 2016 took third place in the M. Margaret Grossman fiction award given by Literal Latté. Allen is the managing editor of SmokeLong Quarterly. 


  1. What an opportunity for travel writers, memoirists, and essayists you provide through this competition. I just found you; I'll be entering next year.

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Rhonda! Yes, please do enter next year.


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