2023 April Featured Journalist of the Month: Jennifer Bain

Jennifer Bain is the Canada editor of U.S.-based National Parks Traveler and an award-winning freelance travel writer who wanders Canada and the world in search of quirk. She’s a journalist who started her newspaper career covering breaking news, crime and courts, and then progressed to the kinder and gentler topics of food and travel.

Jennifer has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction and has written 111 Places in Ottawa That You Must Not Miss (2022) and 111 Places in Calgary That You Must Not Miss (2020) — two books that are part of a global series of insider guides. She spent 18 years at Canada’s biggest newspaper as a travel editor, food editor, and Saucy Lady columnist while writing Buffalo Girl Cooks Bison and the Toronto Star Cookbook: More Than 150 Diverse & Delicious Recipes Celebrating Ontario.

When she isn’t on the road, Jennifer lives with her newly retired bison rancher husband and three kids in Toronto, and has a writing retreat on one of the “four corners of the Flat Earth” — Fogo Island in Newfoundland and Labrador.

1. What got you into travel writing?
I became a journalist to travel the world and make sure that every “work” day was different. I spent most of my career at newspapers, starting out as a news reporter but then spending 18 years at the Toronto Star, first as food editor and then as travel editor. When they eliminated the travel editor position, I took a buyout and went freelance because I wanted to keep traveling more than I wanted to keep writing for newspapers.

2. What’s the most challenging part of being a travel journalist for you?
I actually spent the better part of 28 years at newspapers and didn’t realize how lucky I was that every single story I wrote was published. As a freelance travel writer, I struggle with the amount of time that’s spent (wasted?) pitching stories. Now that I’m the Canada editor of National Parks Traveler, I have a home for most of my stories once again (and I am not just limited to Canada), but I do still have to hustle for stories that aren’t related to parks and protected places.

3. What is one thing [equipment or personal item] you can’t go without on the road?
My iPhone. I sometimes haul around a Nikon Coolpix P900 superzoom, but I find that my iPhone is perfect for 99 percent of the photos that I take for my stories.

4. What’s your most unusual and/or memorable travel experience?
Getting matching tattoos with my daughter when she tagged along to IPW New Orleans. It was my third tattoo but her idea. Or maybe it was getting stopped twice by armed vigilantes who wanted to search our minibus for khat in Ethiopia (an otherwise beautiful country).

5. How did you learn about NATJA and why did you join?
I love to write and am an awards junky, so when I discovered the NATJA Awards Competition and realized it was much cheaper to enter as a member than a non-member, I applied. I believe I’ve now won 14 awards and really enjoyed some of the prizes (trips to Detroit and Branson, Missouri).

6. What is the best piece of advice you could give to a rookie travel journalist?
Do it for the love of the story, not the trip. Take notes. Do interviews. Get everybody’s first and last name (my pet peeve is dehumanizing people by calling them “my guide” and not bothering to get their names.

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