Thursday Traveler: 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.

I met David during my 2016 trip to Greece where we spent a couple of weeks touring the Corinthian Riviera. He’s a phenomenal writer and someone that I truly look up to. I’m proud to now call him ‘friend’.  This fall we will return to Greece to tour the Island of Karpathos.

What inspired your desire to become a travel writer?

I work in several genres and have published 7 books and hundreds of pieces in newspapers, magazines and online.  I became interested in travel and found that the literary journalism format worked well for me.  I was able to use a strong narrative voice while conveying a central theme from the trip.

My career choices also had roots back in my college days, inclucing a specific class and professor . Dr. Helen Buckley Simkiewicz’s class on children’s literature (and a follow-up advanced level class on writing children’s literature) sparked my interest in writing and the children’s book genre, in particular.

I majored in biology and chemistry and developed a strong interest in environmental issues.  Soon I found myself writing about nature and the outdoors in many of my stories.  

What has been your favorite travel destination?

I get asked my favorite destination a lot.  It’s hard to choose just one, so I’ll give you two.  The  Galapagos Islands are truly a magical place in the best sense of that overused adjective.  The wildlife has evolved without any contact from predators so they have no fear of humans.  You can walk right up to a bird in a tree and say hello.

Greece is the other destination that I have a special affinity for.  I was there as a young backpacker in 1982 and twice the past two years on writing assignments.  (I’ll be going back yet again later this year.). The islands, sea and mountains are stunningly beautiful.  Returning several times now, I have become more familiar with the geography and culture.  The wonderful thing about the Greeks is that they are very philosophical and can always laugh about themselves and life.

What is your #1 Travel Bucket List Destination?

I’ve been to all continents except Australia and Antarctica.   I probably have logged in excess of one million miles by now but somehow haven’t yet traveled there. So I would have to say Australia is #1.  My small literary press, Brookview Press published the memoir, Chasing Dreamtime by Neva Sullaway, and it was such a transformative book that it made me want to travel there all the more.

As a travel professional, what has been your greatest success?

This is an interesting question.  Surely the most prestigious award has been receiving the 2016 Excellence in Journalism Award from the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association for my Mideast story, “Nomadic Voices.”  Whereas some organizations offer multiple awards (gold, silver, bronze) in many categories, the Excellence in Journalism Award is the ONLY award that the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association gives.  I felt very honored and was told that the competition was extremely tough that year.

While it’s great to have been published on the front page of every major travel section newspaper in the U.S. and Canada, nonetheless some of the work that I’m proudest of was done as a correspondent for several small upstate New York newspapers.

Who is your greatest travel inspiration?

I was very inspired by the work of my friend and colleague Jackie Craven and her pioneering work in travel journalism for the Providence Journal.  Her stories captured the essence of a place in narratives that you couldn’t put down.  

Where will your travels take you next?

The Greek island of Karpathos in September 2018!

I love sharing inspirational quotes with my readers. What quote would you share with someone inspiring and motivating them to not only ‘Be the Change’ but to also see the world?

Here’s a paragraph from my Jordan story that I think captures the essence of the desert and its people:

At sunset, I finally shook the sand out of my keffiyeh while a juvenile raven’s cries of hunger echoed through the barren, Mars-like landscape. We soon satisfied our own hunger with a zarb dinner of lamb and potatoes cooked in coals buried in the sand. The stars appeared and grew brighter as the campfire grew dimmer, but eventually I shuffled into my tent with a sense of the freedom that I suspected only the Bedouins truly knew.

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