The Keith Bellows Award for Excellence in Travel Journalism was established to honor the work of the late long time Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic Traveler who was an advocate for the importance of travel and its power to transform and teach about the world, cultures, people, and economies. The award is presented annually to a member of NATJA who embodies the spirit of Keith’s lifelong work as a journalist and humanitarian, harnessing the power of journalism to create awareness and appreciation for others.
Life was a quest for Keith. His mission was to search the world for new perspectives, ramble into serendipitous situations, ruffle a few feathers along the way, and, above all, seek awe. Keith’s unquenchable curiosity animated his work as an editor and inspired generations of explorers, from button-down journalists to bona fide weirdos, to open their hearts and minds to new experience. If we didn’t return home with a crackerjack tale, we’d best not return home at all. So it’s a daunting charge for me to follow in Keith’s footsteps as the editor of Traveler magazine. Keith gave me my first job out of college and it’s actually gotten harder ever day! All of us at National Geographic have been enriched by Keith. It is a tremendous honor to all of us who Keith encouraged and supported to know that his legacy will continue to sound the call for excellence in travel storytelling thanks to the NATJA award in his name. It’s fitting that Andrew McCarthy, a writer of grace and profound perception, should be the first to receive this prize. He and Keith were a mutual admiration society and everyone who loves travel writing has been a beneficiary of that mentorship and friendship. And it’s touching that Andrew Nelson, who in brilliant and charming ways carries on Keith’s maverick mission in travel, should have the pleasure of presenting this award, from one travel writer to another, in remembrance of a third, who got this whole beautiful, crazy celebration of wanderlust started in the first place.