The Fifth Annual I Must Be Off! Travel Writing Competition

It's that time of year again! Time to type up those travel articles, travel anecdotes and travel reflections. We want to read about that place that changed you, about the experiences you can't wait to share with other travelers. Whether your work is humorous, informative, quirky or profound--send it in. This year, submissions are free until May 31; afterward there will be a nominal charge (see below). The purpose for this is twofold: to prevent what happened last year (300 submissions in the last two weeks) and to perhaps add a bit of money to the prize pot. All proceeds from entry fees will go towards the prize money.


Previous Winners and Placers:

"Wild Encounter" by Graham Mercer (UK, Tanzania)
"The Seven Headless Dwarfs" by Matthew Wolfe (US)
"A Kiss of Oranges and Myrtle on Crete" by Mihaela Lica Butler
"A Leaf on the Wind" by Joel Hindson (UK)
"Burning My Boots in Cabo Fisterra" by Gabriella Brand (US)
"Discovering Hến Rice in Central Việt Nam" by Chris Galvin (Canada, Vietnam)
"Oh, Calcutta" by Paola Fornari (Tanzania, now Ghana)
"The Scarlet Mile" by Gillian Brown (Scotland, now France)
"Bodrum, Turkey's San Tropez" by Jack Scott (Australia, now Turkey)
"The Children of Chitwan, Nepal" by Hannah Thompson-Yates (UK, now Hong Kong)
"God's Own Country" by Saahil Acharya (India)

Graham Mercer
The 2017 Judge -- Graham Mercer

Born in St Helens, England, Graham Mercer won the BBC Wildlife Magazine’s “Award for Nature Writing” in 1988 and has published 15 books, including two coffee table editions and guidebooks to Tanzania’s major national parks and to Zanzibar. Mercer has also published many magazine articles, mostly on Tanzania’s parks and wildlife, and has won or been runner-up in nine writing competitions, including the 2016 I Must Be Off! Travel Writing Competition in which he took first place.

Mercer is a member of International MENSA and a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society.

He and his wife left Tanzania in 2012 to live in Cheshire, England, where he is presently writing his “safari memoirs” and adjusting, with glacial slowness and the aid of four heavy sweaters and a succession of long johns, to the northern English climate.

Read an interview with Graham Mercer for some tips about travel writing.

Submission Guidelines:
  • Maximum 1000 words
  • Edited for spelling, grammar and punctuation
  • Up to three photos may be submitted with your entry. Photos are not necessary to win.
  • Previously unpublished work only! Blog posts are considered published.
  • No entry fee until May 31. FREE ENTRY PERIOD IS CLOSED. To enter the competition from June 1 to July 31, follow these easy steps: 
    • Using PayPal pay €3 fee to
    • Email your travel article and your 50-word bio in the body of the email or attached to the email. Please put TRAVEL WRITING CONTEST in the subject field. Email address:
    • You will receive a confirmation from I Must Be Off! that your submission has been received and that you have been entered into the competition. This is not an automatic notification, so please be patient if it takes a few hours.
  • Open to anyone worldwide, but you need (access to) a PayPal account if you enter after May 31 and in case you win.
  • Entries must be in English
  • From June 1 to July 31, you may enter as many times as you like. Each entry must be accompanied by an entry fee, €3 each.
  • Deadline for submissions: July 31, 2017
  • Entries will be read blind by this year's judge and travel writer, Graham Mercer. It is not necessary to delete identifying information from your entry. If your name appears anywhere, it will be removed before it's forwarded to the judge.
  • Word doc, docx and rtf files only.
  • Simultaneous submissions accepted but please contact I Must Be Off! immediately upon acceptance elsewhere. Entry fees cannot be refunded. 
  • Finalists announced in mid-September. Winners announced and published in autumn 2017.

The Prizes: 
  • The Top entries will be published at I Must Be Off! with authors' permission. Authors retain copyright.
  • First place prize: €200
  • Second place prize: €50
  • Readers' Choice Award: €50 based on unique hits and comments tallied on October 30.
  • All proceeds from entry fees will be added to these amounts. 

Good luck and happy writing!

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 FRiGG, Eclectica Magazine's 20th-Anniversary Speculative anthology, Indiana Review, Night Train, Juked, SmokeLong Quarterly: the Best of the First Ten Years anthology, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, [PANK] blog, Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel, Chicken Soup for the Soul and lots of other good places. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen is a multiple nominee for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, storySouth's Million Writers Award and others. In 2017 Allen was both a finalist (as translator) and semifinalist for The Best Small Fictions. 


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