How it feels to win Traveller of the Year in India

Lloyd OSM Award, Traveller of the Year, India, blogging, travel, writing, Mariellen Ward, Breathedreamgo

Photo captured by Philippa Kaye.

Thoughts on winning the Lloyd OSM Traveller of the Year Award from Outlook India

LAST NIGHT IN DELHI, I was awarded the Lloyd OSM Traveller of the Year Award from Outlook India. At a gala event that included Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Tharoor, and many other celebrities and notables who’ve embraced social media, I sat in the back row of the reserved section watching the extravaganza with a mixture of amazement and impatience.

Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Tharoor, The Big B, Lloyd OSM Awards, Outllok

Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Tharoor at OSM Awards

Amazement to see social media and digital publishing get this kind of A-list recognition in India. And impatience as it was a very long night and the celebrity-studded first half dominated the program.

Though my award was the second-to-last to be given out, I knew I was going to win. I knew because when I arrived at the venue, I was taken into a photo shoot and asked to pose with the trophy. So I sat patiently and waited with excitement and trepidation.

Overcoming natural shyness and discomfort with being in the limelight (especially these days as I deal with health issues affecting my weight and well-being), I decided to embrace the moment as much as possible. I spent an afternoon shopping in Delhi to buy a smart outfit, and found one that hit the double sweet spot between Indian and modern, and between classy and fashionable. It cost about three times as much as I’ve paid for an outfit for many, many years … but I decided that it was time for me to feel good about what I’m wearing, and to celebrate.

Why winning this award means a lot to me

It may not have been significant to anyone else, but the fact that I was the only non-Indian nominated for any of the social media awards, and then of course the only non-Indian to win, means a lot to me. I’m not sure I could have articulated how much until I spoke with one of the jury members, Vaibhav Vishal (@ofnosurnamefame), on my way out of the event.

My last and frankly most notable moment of the entire event was when Vaibhav told me the jury deliberated a lot about the Traveller of the Year Award. There were some very worthy and talented contenders, such as Shivya Nath and Lakshmi Sharath. In the end, they gave me the award, Vaibhav told me, because they wanted to recognize my love for India.

We wanted to recognize your love for India,” Vaibhav Vishal

That was it, that was my moment. Vaibhav and I hugged, then hugged again.

It all made sense to me in that moment. All the dots in a long and mysterious process that begin in 2004 – and perhaps even earlier, in childhood – suddenly lined up.

Lloyd OSM Awards, Traveller of the Year, India, blogging, travel, travelling, writing, award

I never thought I would be on the same magazine cover as Amitabh Bachchan!

When all the dots finally line up

Long-time readers of Breathedreamgo, my friends and family, know that travelling to India that first time, in 2005, was an extremely important journey for me. It was an attempt to overcome a deeply entrenched depression, a way to get in contact with my unlived creative potential, and the manifestation of a life-long dream. I have often said that travel to India saved my life, and I mean it both literally and figuratively.

I started travel blogging on that very first trip, and I’ve never looked back. I fell in love with travel, with India, and with travel writing and blogging. In 2009, I launched Breathedreamgo and started to pursue this new career as a professional, and with indefatigable passion.

Since then, I’ve been back to India eight times, and now spend half my year here. I’ve published hundreds of blogs, written hundreds of articles, given dozens of interviews, won awards and have been able, more or less, to follow my dreams.

But if I make it look easy, my apologies. It has not been easy.

Mariellen Ward, MW, Delhi, India, travel, Qutab Minar, woman, female, solo

Me at Tiger Fort, Jaipur in 2006, when I first started travelling & blogging

Following your dreams is like walking the razor’s edge

Though winning an award may not be the time for bitter-sweet recollections, it’s important for me to mention that I pursued these passions with very little support, recognition or reward for a long time. The truth is that I have lived so long out of my comfort zone, it’s had some negative effects on me in terms of health and finances, and I’m struggling now to bring everything back into balance.

Has it been worth it? Absolutely. I have had more adventures than I ever thought possible, more success than I ever imagined, and more inner rewards for following my own path than I ever hoped for. It’s worth it, but I have paid a price, and I think it’s important to acknowledge.

We are all encouraged to pursue our dreams and follow our passions. But seldom do people tell us how hard it is. Yes, it is hard to live on the straight-and-narrow, to follow routine and perhaps engage in meaningless work. But it’s also hard to strike out on your own, to take risks, to live without the protection of a job, family, security, and to reveal yourself, and possibly become a target of jealousy or trolls.

Lloyd OSM Award, Traveller of the Year, India, blogging, travel, writing, Mariellen Ward, Breathedreamgo

And all of this is especially true when you embark on something that makes no sense. When you have thrown away all notions of practicality and security to follow your heart. When you are already in mid-life, without the relative advantages of youth; when you are not independently wealthy; not well connected socially; not supported by a family or organization. And when what you are doing is considered by many of the powers-that-be, the people who might be in a position to hire you, or sponsor you, as being too innovative and risky; as something beyond their capacity to understand or value.

So for all these reasons and more, winning this award is very significant to me. Others may be cynical or dismissive of such awards, but at this point in my life it is a much needed pat-on-the-back by the people who I have always cared about the most. It matters greatly to me that I write about India with care, insight, understanding and respect.

With this award, you have told me that embarking on a digital career, following my heart, and sticking to my values was the right path to take after all.

Lloyd OSM Awards, Traveller of the Year, India, blogging, travel, travelling, writing, award

Thank you all!

Thanks to everyone who voted for me, all of the jury members, the entire Outlook India group, plus the many supportive sponsors. And thanks to my friend Philippa Kaye of Memsahib in India for being there for me, and fellow winner Ajay Sood for your support. And finally thanks mostly to all my friends, my followers, my readers and my family. I love you all.


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35 Responses to How it feels to win Traveller of the Year in India

  1. Mridula October 6, 2016 at 11:26 am #

    Congratulations Mariellen! Wishing you many more.

    • Mariellen Ward October 6, 2016 at 11:37 am #

      Thanks so much Mridula! Likewise — I think all the wonderful digital storytellers of India, like yourself, deserve much more reward and recognition. Especially reward 🙂
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..India in a Day reveals beauty, diversity, humanityMy Profile

    • Barbara Beveridge October 8, 2016 at 3:05 pm #

      Congratulations Mariellen!!!

      As you well know, it was your blog that helped me tremendously as I prepared for my 3 month trip in India.

      And then I was fortunate to meet you and hang out together at the ashram.

      I wish you all the best with your writing and your life.

      Take care. Big hugs to you…

  2. Lesley October 6, 2016 at 12:47 pm #

    Wonderful news Mariellen so well deserved after all your hard work and setbacks. Your articles have inspired and certainly influenced my travel plans ano long may they continue. Very happy for you Mariellen..

    • Mariellen Ward October 6, 2016 at 1:09 pm #

      Thanks so much Lesley, and thanks for coming along with me for such a long time.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..A seven year anniversary and a big announcementMy Profile

      • Lesley March 21, 2017 at 12:06 am #

        This reply is from another Lesley but your honesty has moved me. I find myself in a situation… I feel the allure of wanderlust. I’m 47 years of age working piece work and wanting more from life. Your experiences inspire me but I realize that it’s not without a price!

  3. Helen October 6, 2016 at 6:28 pm #

    Congratulations Mariellen! How fitting and wonderful that love (your love for India) conquered all in the end. May Breathedreamgo continue to grow and prosper for many, many years with wonderful opportunities and friends from all over.

  4. Tarun October 7, 2016 at 8:17 am #

    Hi Mariellen,

    You deserve every bit of this award and more. Proud to have you here and write about India the way only you can. I am so happy that we Indians were finally able to recognize your immense love for India. Celebrate this occasion with every breath that you put in to make a reality.

  5. Dorene October 7, 2016 at 9:03 am #

    Congratulations Mariellen! What an honor! After reading many of your blog posts for our own trip plans to India, it is very evident the love you have for this special place. Wishing you continued success, Dorene and Troy
    Dorene recently posted..Last months of 2016: Do you have task plans or life plans?My Profile

  6. Shirley Hollick October 7, 2016 at 2:06 pm #

    Big congrats Mariellen! We writers/bloggers/journalists work very hard with almost no recognition, usually for years and years. It’s really nice to see that some of us do get a reward for the unseen days, weeks and hours of trying to give our readers something of value. Celebrating with you, Shirley

  7. Mariellen Ward October 7, 2016 at 2:22 pm #

    Thanks for understanding Shirley. I think in my case, this feeling was exacerbated by a series of painful losses I experienced before I started travelling and travel writing. Both my parents died, we lost our family summer home, and my fiance left me. I was feeling very alone to begin with, which didn’t help.
    Mariellen Ward recently posted..India in a Day reveals beauty, diversity, humanityMy Profile

  8. pinaki October 7, 2016 at 11:32 pm #

    Dear Marillen

    This is my first response to your blog which I have been reading for two years but never put a response as I am not very web-savvy.
    However great to see you getting well-deserved recognition for your work.
    More than a travel writer I would like to look at you as a compassionate soul whose sensitivity keeps flickering through her experiences in these times of insanity.
    Your humanity is your greatest asset. Flower and prosper always

    • Mariellen Ward October 8, 2016 at 12:35 am #

      Dear Pinaki, Thank you so much for your comment, it is one of the best I have ever received in 11 years of travel blogging. You are very kind.

      I agree with you that retaining a sense of humanity is of utmost importance, perhaps now more than ever. India has the wisdom traditions to excel at this, and I hope will come forward and lead the world in this way.

      Rather than “Make in India,” I think there should be an “Awake in India” revolution.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..India in a Day reveals beauty, diversity, humanityMy Profile

  9. Thomas Beautiful Alleppey October 9, 2016 at 11:57 am #

    Hi Mariellen

    First of all, I like to congratulate for this award. I can feel your love toward India. Really you deserve it.

  10. Pinaki October 10, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

    Hi Maryellen
    Flying out for a business trip to shanghai but felt quite compelled to reply.Despite being an Indian by birth and settled abroad my country defies all logic. One of my friends said that the pantheons of our three million Gods must be very kind to have allowed us to perpetuate for 5000 years. Do not know if we own any special right on wisdom but know for sure that every pretence of wisdom hides a painful frailty. India is wise yet stupid ,eternal yet superficial. Dont you think?

    • Mariellen Ward October 11, 2016 at 9:22 am #

      Hi Pinaki. A few years ago, I asked a spiritual leader in India why so many people come to India for spiritual awakening; why do seekers see India as the ultimate destination? He said it’s because in India you see the entire range of human experience, from the highest light to the darkest degradation. This is what makes India the soul of the world — the extremes. It seems like the best answer I have heard yet!
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Namaste India, The birthplace of YogaMy Profile

  11. Bahtiyar October 11, 2016 at 9:02 am #

    Hello, Mariellen. Congratulations for winning the award. It is a really great achievement. You deserve it. Your travel blog is one of the best on the whole Internet.
    Thanks, Mariellen. Keep sharing your travel experience with us!

  12. Chitvan October 12, 2016 at 4:35 am #

    Congratulations Mariellen! You really deserve it. Best wishes for future.

  13. Renuka October 14, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

    Many congratulations and hugs to you, Mariellen! 🙂 I wish I could be there to give you a hug the moment you win it. You deserve it, totally!

  14. Mariellen Ward October 14, 2016 at 7:51 pm #

    Hi Renuka! Thanks so much. Right now, I’m at the Travel Writer’s Conclave in UP. I remember so well how we met here last year. Hope all is well with you!
    Mariellen Ward recently posted..Almost perfect: Kairali Ayurvedic Health ResortMy Profile

  15. Tiffany October 25, 2016 at 11:23 pm #

    Congratulations Mariellen, you sure deserved this and everything more. I love your posts on meaningful travel and am so, so drawn to India just like you. Travelling deeply changes everything! Also travel blogger and fan – Tiff
    Tiffany recently posted..In Pictures: One Day in Yosemite Valley (Part 2 of 2)My Profile

  16. Soumya Nambiar October 30, 2016 at 2:01 pm #

    Congratulations Mariellen. Like Vaibhav said, I feel that you should be recognised for your love for India and hence you deserve this award.
    Soumya Nambiar recently posted..Tata Hexa: My First ImpressionsMy Profile

  17. Triptoli November 7, 2016 at 4:12 am #

    Hello Mariellen,

    When i first read your article regarding “Advice for first-time visitors and women traveling to India”, i don’t know that you are a traveler and blogger because i read it on some other platform. Today, when i was searching about “first time traveler in India” then i landed here and now recognized that i have read it before. I read many articles on your blog recently and find them all worth reading as a traveler (specially travel safety tips and incredible India). You truly deserve this award. Keep Writing 🙂
    Triptoli recently posted..Top 5 festivals of JaipurMy Profile

  18. Jonathan November 11, 2016 at 4:41 am #

    Your blog is cool, I really, really appreciate your time and efforts for writing such a quality article.
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I am also a blogger & SEO guy. If you’d like to check my work, you are always welcome.


  19. Sonal of Drifter planet November 15, 2016 at 1:11 am #

    Congratulations Mariellen. You are an inspiration to me and many other girls in India. You are awesome. Sending you loads of hugs.

  20. Kerry (Goodtrippers) November 16, 2016 at 11:11 am #

    Congratulations Mariellen! Even though travel blogging is a fantastic living in itself, it must be great to be recognised for your efforts too!
    Kerry (Goodtrippers) recently posted..Sleep in an igloo on brand new Arctic adventure holidayMy Profile

  21. Viral Patel November 21, 2016 at 6:12 am #

    Many Congratulations Mariellen ! Your blog posts are very rich in content and I enjoy reading.

    Keep up your work !
    Viral Patel recently posted..Lyrics Jag Ghoomeya Thare Jaisa Na Koi Sultan Rahat Fateh Ali KhanMy Profile

  22. Ajay Sood December 7, 2016 at 10:39 pm #

    Hey, didn’t see this post earlier! OSM post from an OSM winner! Congratulations, fellow winner! When do we celebrate?
    Ajay Sood recently posted..Avoid Sea View Club Room, The Leela Grand, KovalamMy Profile

  23. Satya pal chopra March 6, 2017 at 4:28 am #

    Dear Marriellen,
    Congratulations for the award. Your love for India and your spiritual personality and your vivid imagination get acknowledged by Indian diaspora.Nice knowing you

    Chops we met at ashram

  24. Travel Myanmar March 13, 2017 at 12:41 am #

    Congratulations Mariellen! I love India and your posts make me understand more about the country of India

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