Meet Nikki Vargas, and read all about her journey, motivations, and vision for the future of the travel industry.

Did you know that Wanderful started as a travel blog back in 2009? From those early days of diary-like posts to a thriving global community of women who travel, we are keenly aware of how influential travel writing is for the travel industry.

That’s why we celebrate travel writing at the annual Bessie Awards, with an award dedicated to the Most Impactful Piece of Writing.

The Bessie Awards honor women and gender-diverse people of impact in travel, particularly influencers, creative entrepreneurs, marketers, and other representatives who have contributed unique voices and work to the travel industry.

Originally from Bogotá, Colombia, Nikki Vargas certainly qualifies as a woman of impact in travel. 

She is the author of the bestselling book Call You When I Land, a Senior Editor for Fodor’s Travel, the author of Wanderess, and the Founder of Unearth Women, a women’s travel publication set on championing women’s stories and spotlighting women-owned businesses. 

Nikki’s travel memoir, Call You When I Land, earned her a place as a finalist for the 2024 Bessie Award for Most Impactful Piece of Writing. This award category highlights an inspiring, engaging, and community-oriented piece of writing that has encouraged dialogue and interaction in the last year.

Nikki shares insights into her journey, motivations, and vision for the future of the travel industry.

Photo of Nikki Vargas
Photo courtesy of Nikki Vargas

The Winding Road to Travel Writing

For Nikki, the path to becoming a professional travel writer was anything but linear. In her twenties, she fell deeply in love with the idea of travel writing, embarking on a dogged pursuit that traversed various industries. 

“It was a winding road that took me from industry to industry but eventually found me in my first on-staff position at a travel publication in New York City. The rest, as they say, is history. I cover this career evolution—all the highs and lows, ebbs and flows—in my travel memoir, Call You When I Land,” Nikki explains.

“Publishing my travel memoir is truly one of my proudest career moments,” Nikki says. “Not only is it a privilege to have my memoir published by HarperCollins, but to see how the book has been warmly received since hitting bookstores in November has been a humbling experience.”

Call You When I Land has already received accolades spanning the travel and literary industries, including praise from Cheryl Strayed (bestselling author of Wild) and mentions in Cosmopolitan, Good Morning America, Glamour Magazine, Shondaland, Real Simple, and more.

Now, Nikki’s memoir has landed her further recognition as a finalist in the 2024 Bessie Awards.

“I am truly grateful for this nomination, which I did not anticipate nor see coming,” Nikki tells us. “As a writer, the highest compliment is that your writing can have an impact and leave a lasting impression on a reader. To know that my memoir not only resonated with readers but also inspired a nomination for a Bessie Award is such a wonderful feeling.”

Nikki Vargas on The Awesome Responsibility of Storytelling in Travel Writing

Nikki’s travel writing has evolved over her years in the industry, which she delves into in her memoir. “I’m motivated by the awesome responsibility of simply telling stories, helping to usher stories into the world, and helping other people tell their stories,” Nikki tells us. “As an author, my job is to tell my story. But, as an editor, my role is to help others tell their stories, which is something I do not take lightly.”

As creatives often do, Nikki’s next professional step includes a shift away from her travel writing — although not entirely. “I plan to continue down this road of being an author and am already in the early stages of working on my third book, a fiction novel,” she explains. “At the same time, I look forward to continuing to grow as a travel editor and helping to not only bring to light wonderful stories but also offer guidance and advice to aspiring travel writers.”

She certainly understands the role she plays as an editor and gatekeeper to stories being told. “I am constantly inspired by the diverse voices that approach Fodor’s Travel and the honor I have of helping to bring their stories to an audience of millions,” she tells us.

Nikki Vargas on Sourcing Inspiration in an Evolving Industry

“There are a lot of things unfolding right now that will change how we travel and cover travel,” Nikki offers. “Climate change is redefining how we move through the world. As travelers, grappling with the impact of travel on the environment is something that challenges each of us to be more mindful of how we travel.”

Beyond climate change, Nikki sees AI as another aspect that will change the travel media landscape.“[It’s] something we are already beginning to see signs of. It will be interesting to see how the industry adapts,” she says.

We ask who inspires her in the travel industry today. “Can I say Beth Santos?” Nikki asks.

“I truly admire Beth for her kindness, tenacity, and ability to balance so many fantastic projects and businesses with motherhood,” she continues. “Oftentimes, people are precious with their connections and resources out of fear that helping a peer might somehow take something away from themselves. Not Beth. Beth is always supportive and there to lift her peers up, offering assistance in any way she can.”

That support and kindness go a long way in this ever-evolving travel industry. In the years since COVID-19 stopped all travel and the industry faced a reckoning, collaboration among travel writers and content creators has proven to be invaluable.

While we all adjust to this ever-evolving landscape, we know we can anticipate ever more contributions to the travel writing world from Nikki Vargas.

As a finalist for the 2024 Bessie Award for Most Impactful Piece of Writing, Nikki’s impact on the travel industry extends well beyond the pages of her book, echoing through the diverse voices she amplifies and stories yet to be told.

We can’t wait to read more!