Why You Should Attend the 2023 Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference

There are few skills more important today in global tourism than the art of telling the stories of place — in words and images — and having a meaningful impact through your words while standing out in a crowded digital world.

Sign up to attend the four-day Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference, taking place from August 10-13, 2023, in beautiful Corte Madera, approximately 30 minutes’ drive north of San Francisco, and you’ll take your skills to the next level while mingling with an illustrious group of travel editors, authors and journalists.

I have the honor of serving on the faculty again this year, speaking on multiple panels alongside colleagues.

We’ll network and share our experiences with students of all walks of life who dream of getting published. We’ll listen to their drafts and give feedback on polishing stories for submission. We’ll share insights on navigating social media today. And my favorite of all: Discussing what it means to be a more meaningful traveler and have a more positive impact on the places we visit through our craft.

Conference co-founder, NatGeo editor at large and one of my first travel writing instructors, Don George welcomes conference attendees to the Book Passage Travel Writers & Photographers Conference in 2022.

That’s not even half of what’s on offer at the conference. Why would you want to spend a long weekend at Book Passage? All you have to do is glimpse this faculty list and the tentative schedule.

The Start of My Travel Writing Career

The real reason I’m nudging you to attend is because like many past students, I can trace back the start of my travel journalism career back to this conference.

I first attended Book Passage in 2012, when I was a budding travel writer looking for inspiration and direction. I was eager to improve my craft and anxious to get published so I could share impactful stories. I could not really spare the cost, including the conference fee, the roundtrip flights from Washington, DC, and the four-night hotel stay. But I knew that it would be worth my time and the investment if I wanted to learn from the best and get my foot in the door.

Over the years, I’ve kept my notes from the writing workshop I took with Don George in San Francisco the day prior to the conference, where we hopped on the ferry and spent “a day in the life of a travel writer” in the buzzy North Beach neighborhood. I’ve also applied many of the photography tips I picked up from renowned National Geographic photographer Bob Holmes.

It was also at Book Passage that I met the acquisition editor of Moon Guides in person, after corresponding with her for months on my proposal. On that outdoor terrace at Book Passage bookstore, which hosts the conference, Grace told me in confidence that I would be the next author of Moon Belize, my first guidebook.

The rest, as they say, is history. It’s been an incredible journey since then and a privilege to take up writing about travel and tourism as my career. You all know where that career has taken me, as I continue to focus on sustainability and social impact in this space while sharing my global perspective with my audience, whether on social media, in my articles or my reporting.

When I joined Book Passage as part of the faculty for the first time in 2022, at the invitation of Don George, you can imagine it was a full-circle (and emotional) moment.

The Paul Lasley Scholarship (June 30 Deadline)

What do I look forward to most this year? Aside from reuniting with colleagues, I’m eager to meet all the new students who’ve faced their fears to say: I want to learn how to improve my writing and how tell tourism stories meaningfully.

If you’re concerned about the cost as I was years ago, there’s good news.

For the second year in a row, the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation will offer the SATW Foundation Paul Lasley Scholarship to one student to cover tuition for this year’s Book Passage Travel Writers & Photographers Conference. The deadline for submitting applications is 11:59 p.m. June 30. If you know someone interested in applying, please send them this link. Emerging travel journalists are encouraged to apply.

Lastly, if you’re an introvert like me, no worries: It’s a safe space, and we spend four days casually learning and sharing, while also enjoying time with fellow creatives. Think breaking bread in between (delicious meals organized by our magical conference director and host, Kathryn), coffee breaks… and even karaoke.

Know someone else who wants to be a travel writer or travel photographer, is just starting out in this field, or or perhaps that person is already in tourism and wants to improve their craft: Please forward spread the word and tell them to sign up for the best long weekend of learning and networking they will invest in in this space.

I hope you’ll join us in Corte Madera in a few weeks.


Lebawit is an award-winning, independent travel journalist, author and speaker specializing in global tourism. Her reported stories on sustainability, equity, destination management, hospitality, responsible marketing, and climate action have appeared in consumer and trade publications, including Bloomberg, Skift, and Conde Nast Traveler. Read more about Lily here.

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