Meet Our Featured Members

Meet Our Featured Members

Get to know our monthly Featured Members! 

2019 January Featured Destination of the Month: Visit Pearland
Thursday, January 09, 2020 05:11 PM

Visit Pearland 

Pearland boasts a thriving culinary scene, fabulous shopping, amazing year-round events and affordable hotels. Step inside the only Hindu temple of its kind outside of India and dig into some of the tastiest German food in the country. For the outdoor set, Pearland's variety of habitats make for fantastic bird-watching. If the outdoors do not call to you, enjoy some of Texas' best craft beers and shop like there’s no tomorrow. These are just a few of the many things to do in Pearland. Situated just south of Houston, Pearland is both a destination all its own and the ultimate starting point to exploring the Texas Gulf Coast. 

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2019 January Featured Journalist of the Month: Nancy Besharah
Thursday, January 09, 2020 12:42 PM

Nancy Besharah

Nancy Besharah is a freelance writer and blogger specializing in luxury, adventure, family, and experiential travel. Nancy's work is featured on her Luxe Travel Family blog, and print and digital media channels including the San Francisco Chronicle, Lonely Planet, and Google's new Touring Bird travel site. Nancy is a Lonely Planet Pathfinder, and her stories reach a global audience. 

Riding a road bike to the top of Mont Ventoux the day before the Tour de France pros race to the top, trekking to Tiger's Nest Monastery in Bhutan, and kayaking on Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia are the unique experiences Nancy enjoys when she travels. Nancy is active on social media and shares her experiences with highly engaged and influential followers including TripAdvisor and Expedia.

 

 

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2019 January Featured Journalist of the Month:David Drotar
Tuesday, December 17, 2019 06:37 PM

 David Drotar

David Lee Drotar's journalism and photography focuses on nature, environmental and cultural issues and his work has appeared in USA Today, New York Daily News, New York Post, Toronto Globe & Mail, New Orleans Times-Picayune and many other daily newspapers, magazines and online venues. He is also the author of seven published books including Steep Passages: A World-wide Eco-adventurer Unlocks Nature's Spiritual Truths. His Mideast story "Nomadic Voices" appearing in Perceptive Travel was awarded the 2016 Excellence in Journalism Award from the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association.

 

 

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2019 December Featured Journalist of the Month:Therese Iknoian
Friday, December 13, 2019 08:11 PM

 Therese Iknoian:

Trained as a news journalist, I first spent a decade as a daily newspaper journalist also earning a Pulitzer Prize as a member of the news team at the San Jose Mercury News. Ah, but the independent life called and I launched a freelance writing career, writing articles and authoring several books (and getting my masters in exercise physiology). All the while trotting the globe on news-gathering and reporting trips, that age-old light bulb finally went on with a thunk of my palm against my thick head: Travel! Why arent I writing about travel since everybody always wants to hear my tips and stories?

My writing focus finally turned to travel with the launch of HI Travel Tales with my husband, Michael Hodgson. Today, I combine writing with photography an art I honed as a college student when photos were still developed in a dark room.

Fluent in German, I also run a translation business (ThereseTranslates), working primarily with outdoor and sports companies. A bit of a French speaker, too, I love to learn some of the language wherever I go in the quest for cross-cultural communication.

As a writer, I have authored non-fiction books, including two editions of Fitness Walking, as well as Tai Chi For Dummies and Mind-Body Fitness for Dummies. I have also written for Fitness, Health, Backpacker, Womens Day, Mens Health, Parenting, and Shape, to mention a few, and was the Ask the Coach columnist for Trail Runner from 2003 to 2010.

My mantra on travel exploration stems from my father: Ive been kicked out of better places than this.

 

1. What got you in to travel writing?

I’ve been a writer basically all my life – even started our junior high school newspaper and then won a national writing award in high school as editor of my school paper. Although I balked at being a journalism major (for the life of me now I can’t figure out why), that’s where I ended up. Spent a number of years doing daily newspaper reporting, then freelancing and books (in the fitness/sports genre), and then ran an outdoor/fitness trade news business with my husband, Michael Hodgson. Once that was sold, it came down to, what now? Travel has always been a part of my life, and people were always asking for advice on where to go and what to do, so combining my love of and experience as a writer and photographer with a passion for travel seemed natural!

 

2. What’s the most challenging part of being a travel journalist for you?

I love to travel, and I love to share what I see and learn. Sometimes it’s hard to travel for fun and not think, oh, this would be a great story and then start taking notes. It’s especially difficult for me to put down the camera since I just love travel/street photography. Sometimes you have to just put it all away and watch and enjoy life.

 

3. What is one thing [equipment or personal item] you can’t go without on the road?

Aside from all that electronic and photographic gear, I’m a bit old-fashioned in that I love having a notebook and pen handy. In addition, we have a huge family of little stuffed friends who have names and attitudes and take turns traveling with us, posing for photos and doing their best to be international ambassadors.

 

4. What’s your most unusual and/or memorable travel experience?

Oh, so many over the years!! Here’s one: Going for a run on a dirt road in the jungle in Mexico many years ago (with Michael) when a big black pickup truck with tinted windows slows down beside us. The window slowly rolls down and a large muscular man with dark sunglasses and a big black moustache says, “My boss would like to see you, follow me.” He pulls ahead and a gate opens on a side road. We think, “Oh sh—, drug lords, we are dead.” But don’t have a choice since if they have mal-intent, running away wouldn’t do us much good either.

 

We run down the road and see a large home still partly under construction sprawling up the hillside among the trees and creeks. Turns out the boss is a well-to-do Mexican man building a gorgeous environmental home in the jungle that blends with and incorporates its surroundings – and he just wanted to show it off! We get a grand personal tour, and then he tells us to go enjoy ourselves on his property and private beach! Long story short: Things are not always what you might think!

 

5. How did you learn about NATJA, and why did you join?

As the HITravelTales.com business grew, the need for increased networking with others was clear. NATJA was a clear choice as a great, friendly, welcoming association. And I’ve met some marvelous folks through it!

 

6. What is the best piece of advice you could give to a rookie travel journalist?

Get the writing (and photography) part down, and don’t just “become” a travel journalist because you want to travel. Travel is just a small part of the business to be honest. Sure, it’s the really fun part, but before the travel comes all the networking and research, after that comes all the writing, and in between it all comes all the ongoing business development and nurturing of contacts. What will set you apart as a travel writer is great, insightful, creative writing with eye-catching photography that is processed well. And you must be a people person with insatiable curiosity. 

 
2019 December Featured Journalist of the Month:Michael Hodgson
Friday, December 13, 2019 05:34 PM

 Michael Hodgson:

Born to British parents in Canada but spending most of my formative years in the United States, I schlepped back and forth across the Atlantic frequently with my mum and dad until heading off to college. In college, I had the opportunity to spend a few months in Kenya and I found myself hooked on discovering cultures, new places, and taking on adventures. Since then, my travels have taken me to all seven continents. As a writer, I have authored more than 16 books and penned many hundreds of feature articles over the years. My travel writing, photography, and videography appears primarily on HITravelTales.com, a website/travel blog I operate in partnership with my wife, Therese Iknoian.

 

1. What got you in to travel writing?

I love to travel. I love to write. I love to take photographs. And I have been writing, traveling and taking photographs all of my life. After selling a successful outdoor and fitness business news website (snewsnet.com) that I ran in partnership with my wife, Therese Iknoian, I relished the opportunity to focus my creative energies in a business focused wholly on travel, also operated with Therese – HITravelTales.com. 

 

2. What’s the most challenging part of being a travel journalist for you?

Taking time to simply travel for travel’s sake and putting the camera and notebook away for a bit. 

 

 

3. What is one thing [equipment or personal item] you can’t go without on the road?

Equipment would be my computer and camera, naturally. Personal item … any one of our many stuffed animal traveling companions. Seriously! I love taking photos with one of our stuffed animals in it, and they are incredible ambassadors of good will and humor. Therese and I have even had other travelers race back to a hotel room or a parked car to introduce their traveling companions to ours. 

 

4. What’s your most unusual and/or memorable travel experience?

Several years ago, walking the streets of Buenos Aries with Therese, we took a brief pause to gather our bearings under a tree by the side of a main boulevard. At that moment very large Argentinean bird decided we were ideal targets for a particularly wet and very stinky poop. I got the worst of it, in my hair and all over my shirt and pack.

A couple who were passing by on the sidewalk immediately rushed over to us with eyes very wide. Their English was pretty spotty, and my Spanish was below remedial level, but it became very clear they were there to help. The woman began pulling handfuls of tissues and a water bottle from her purse as she and her male companion began to attempt to clean me off, dousing me with water while dabbing and scrubbing. They kept apologizing, in between increasing giggles, for what the bird had done and making clear we needed to be more careful when standing under trees.

The lesson of the day was not lost on me … travel often brings out the best in people, no matter where you are in the world. That, and without a sense of humor, travel can sometimes turn shitty. 

 

5. How did you learn about NATJA, and why did you join?

Knew about it through my involvement with the Adventure Travel Trade Association. I’ve always been a believer in professional development and joining professional associations that are relevant to my writing focus. I was a board member and past president of the Outdoor Writers Association of America so know the value of professional associations in helping writers network, discover new places, and continue to develop their craft. 

 

6. What is the best piece of advice you could give to a rookie travel journalist?

You are only as good as your last article, your last photo. It is not about awards, likes, followers, subscribers or even fans. You have to be confident yet humble. You have to be insatiably curious. And then you have to travel always with an open mind and an eagerness to learn. Travel writing, good travel writing, is about connecting with a place – its rhythms, its people, its culture, its hidden sides – and then sharing that with your readers in a personal, meaningful way that helps them discover it through your words, your photographs. And finally, at the end of the day, you have to remember always this is a business and your words, your photographs are your products. Meaning, you have to be good at selling your products too or you are just writing for yourself. 

 
2019 November Featured Journalist of the Month: Beth Arnold
Thursday, November 07, 2019 03:53 PM

 Beth Arnold:

I'm a journalist and award-winning writer, who has written for such print venues as Rolling Stone, GQ, InStyle, Self, American Way, Premiere, and Mirabella. In 2002, I became an early blogger, chronicling my husband's and my great adventure of selling our house in Arkansas, putting everything in storage, and uprooting ourselves to France into an online series and book called "Jours Of Our Lives," which is a companion book for his volume"Chasing Matisse." We lived in France for 10 years.

I was a regular blogger for The Huffington Post, and I've written for Salon.com, Vogue.com, and others. My prime journalistic topics are culture, travel, art, politics, and people. My online commentary has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, The Hotline, Der Spiegel, BuzzFlash, The Satirical Political Report, Daily Kos, AlterNet, Democratic Underground, PoynterOnline, and USA Today. "Black Entertainment Television--BET--used my video of election night in Paris during President Barack Obama's inauguration.

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2019 November Featured Journalist of the Month:Randy Sharman
Monday, November 04, 2019 07:33 PM

 Randy Sharman:

I have been the Host and Producer of The Informed Traveler Radio Show for almost 10 years now. It's heard every Sunday morning at 8am MST on 770CHQR Calgary, at 3pm PST on 980CKNW Vancouver, Canada and 6pm MST on 630CHED Edmonton. The Informed Traveler is a weekly travel program dedicated to bringing you the latest travel news and information. Each week we provide insight traveling to interesting destinations and amazing resorts plus useful travel tips to help you along the way.

 

 

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2019 November Featured Destination of the Month: Fredericksburg Regional Tourism
Friday, November 01, 2019 01:25 PM
Fredericksburg Tourism Regional
Nestled an hour outside of Washington, D.C., the Fredericksburg, Va. region boasts picturesque downtowns, outdoor adventure, and culinary delights. Rich with American history, the region is home to two U.S. Presidents, including George Washington and James Monroe. From battlefields to historic homes, visitors can experience the day-to-day life of Mary Washington or get a lesson in medicine by physician Hugh Mercer. With more than 8,000 acres of preserved land, this region is filled with opportunities to study nature, hike or enjoy the water. Crows Nest Natural Area Preserve is a feat in conservation with 750 acres of marshes and wetlands perfect for paddle boarding or bird watching. Lake Anna, one of the largest freshwater inland lakes in Virginia, is perfect for day trips or vacations with family and friends. Whether youre sipping on grapes at Potomac Point Winery or kayaking down the Potomac river -- There is so much to enjoy in this Virginia region.
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2019 October Featured Destination of the Month: Visit Central NY
Wednesday, October 16, 2019 08:00 AM

Visit Central New York

Welcome to America's craft brew destination! With more than 65 breweries, hard cider, distilleries, craft-focused pubs and wineries, you'll have days worth of tastings and tours to experience. Just over a century ago, this central region of New York state represented the hop capital of the country. Brew Central puts the region back on the map with a growing constellation of producers and pubs that make up more than just a beverage trail.

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