For those with a passion for radio and storytelling, and a genuine curiosity about the world around them, the Journey of a Lifetime Award offers £5,000 to make an original and inspiring journey anywhere in the world. The recipient of the award will receive training in radio broadcasting from the BBC, support from a BBC documentary producer, and will record their journey for a BBC Radio 4 programme.
Established in 2001, the Journey of a Lifetime Award is a collaboration between the Society and the BBC, and is generously supported through a private donation. The award aims to support informed travel and learning, through experience rather than scientific research, and to discover new radio talent. The outcome of each of journey is a BBC Radio 4 travel documentary.
The Journey of a Lifetime Award is not being offered for 2024 and is currently closed for applications.
2023: Chahrazade Douah: 11,000 miles of exile: a journey from Algeria to New Caledonia
In the summer of 2023 Chahrazade Douah travelled from her parent's former home in Algeria across the world to the Pacific islands of New Caledonia, off the east coast of Australia, following in the footsteps of a journey taken by Algerian exiles in the 19th century, forced to leave their homes after uprisings against French colonial rule. The survivors who made it to the Pacific settled and are now part of New Caledonian society. Chahrazade was first drawn to the story of these exiles by the stories told to her by her grandmother. This journey gave her the once in a lifetime opportunity to travel to New Caledonia to begin to understand the complexity of a people trying to establish themselves in exile, with yearnings and memories of a land half a world away.
2020: Lynne Anderson: On a Mission
After a delay of over two years due to the pandemic Lynne Anderson travelled to Salt Lake City, USA, in April 2022 to undertake a unique journey of personal significance. At the age of 21, Lynne served as a Mormon missionary in the city. 21 years on, she returned with a different perspective and outlook to revisit her past experiences, and explore the landscapes and nature of Utah’s national parks and the sense of spiritual peace that these provide.
2019: Redzi Bernard: Lalibela by mule
In May 2019, Redzi Bernard recreated a journey her mother made 50 years ago, crossing the Lasta Mountains of northern Ethiopia on foot. Travelling with a mule between Weldiya and the holy city of Lalibela, Redzi reflected on how life has changed for women in modern Ethiopia - the only African nation to have a female head of state.
2018: Karen Darke: From Source to Sea via Me
Fresh from competing for Team Scotland in the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, Paralympic champion Karen Darke MBE handcycled the course of Australia's longest river - the Murray. Starting in the Snowy Mountians, Karen’s journey took her through the states of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia as she followed the Murray from its source all the way to Lake Alexandria, where the river flows into the Indian Ocean. Along the way, Karen explored the challenges facing the Murray and the people who rely on the river for their livelihoods.
2017: Nicole Bennett-Fite: Tajikistan - Finding the Woman of Stone
For six weeks during May and June 2017, Nicole Bennett-Fite travelled around the small Central Asian republic of Tajikistan and visited the remote Yagnob Valley, home to the last speakers of the Yagnobi language.
2016: Nina Plapp: A Cello in the Desert
Musician Nina Plapp travels to Transylvania and Rajasthan to trace the roots of Roma music. Travelling with a cello, Nina meets the Roma people and the desert nomads and immerses herself in their rich musical culture. Find out more about Nina's journey on her blog and follow her on Twitter @ninaplapp
2015: Rhiannon Adam: Three months on Pitcairn
Pitcairn is Britain’s last remaining overseas territory in the Pacific, the world’s least populous jurisdiction and one of the most remote places on the planet. It is only accessible by sea, measuring just one mile wide, by two miles long. Rhiannon Adam spent three months on Pitcairn, living with the islanders and gaining a unique understanding of this isolated community. Rhiannon also produced a photography project from her time on Pitcairn, entitled 'Big Fence'.
2014: Peter Geoghegan: Wrestling with the Future
Life in Mongolia is changing quickly. As the country’s mineral-rich economy booms, today’s top Mongolian wrestlers enjoy celebrity status and huge financial rewards. But for lesser-known wrestlers, life is still a struggle between work and competition, a choice between the mine and the city. Peter travelled to a training camp for wrestlers in rural Mongolia. Living among them in ger tents, he learnt how to wrestle - and about life in modern Mongolia - before competing himself in a summer competition.
2013: Will Millard. Downstream: A journey by raft through the heart of Sierra Leone and Liberia’s Peace Park
In 2013 Sierra Leone and Liberia combined their portions of the Gola forest to form one of the largest and most ecologically important National parks in West Africa. Will Millard packrafted 100 miles down the remote Mano River, through the heart of the ‘Peace Park,’ meeting the local people, ecologists and unique wildlife on an extraordinary journey at the very frontline of African conservation. Find out more about Will's journey on his Blog or Facebook.
2012: Jas Jhalli. Indians and Cowboys
Jas Jhalli goes in search of Argentina's legendary cowboys, the gauchos, in a horseback voyage to the southernmost tip of the Inca empire.
2011: Jane Labous. The Sand-diggers of Mali
Jane Labous travels to Mali to meet the men and women who face hardship every day as they eke out a living digging and diving for sand and gravel from the bed of the River Niger, for the growing construction industry.
2010: Nick Hunt. From Riches to Rags: Dubai to India
Nick Hunt follows the journey of Indian migrants, from Dubai back home to India, having lost their jobs in Dubai’s construction industry due to the economic downturn.
2009: Dan Box. The Sinking Islands
Dan Box attempts to reach the Carteret Islands where a mass evacuation is taking place as the sea level rises due to climate change.
2008: Emily Ainsworth. The Romance of Reality: Traveling with a Family Circus
Emily Ainsworth travels to Mexico to join a family circus, Circo Padilla, where she becomes dancer Princess Aurora.
2007: David Waldman. From Mountain Tribe to Olympic Gold: Why Kenyans are the World’s Runners
David Waldman travels to Kenya's rift valley to live and run with the Kalenjin, the world's fastest long distance runners.
2006: Jessica Boyd and Bill Finnegan. Deep into the Rubbish with Cairo's Zabbaleen
Jessica and Bill journey to Cairo’s biggest rubbish tip to meet with the Zabbaleen community, originally of rural Egypt, who make money out of Cairo’s waste.
2005: Chris Brown. The high snows of Ladakh
Chris Brown travels to Ladakh and encounters the coldest winter for 30 years. Travelling with nomadic peoples, Chris seeks out a great friend he met on a previous journey.
2004: Luke Freeman. Cattle roads and motorcades
Luke Freeman fulfils his dream to drive a herd of cattle along the old drove-paths of Madagascar and ends up jetting around Africa as chief speechwriter to the President.
2003: Andy Home and Grigori Gerenstein. Land of black snow
Journalists Andy Home and Grigori Gerenstein visit Russia's most polluted town where the snow is black and life expectancy is 10 years below the national average.
2002: Damian Welch. Hoping for a miracle: Tokelau
Damian Welch travels to the tiny atolls of Tokelau in the middle of the South Pacific. He meets with the Tokelauan people, skilled fishermen who run a co-operative so that their catch is shared fairly amongst the population.
2001: Tessa McGregor. By rocket to Tigerland
Tessa journeys into the heart of Sundarbans, the wildest tract of mangrove forest in the world and the only forest of its kind inhabited by tigers.