Win $15,000 for your First Journey with Atlas Obscura

Entries for First Journey are now closed.

Have you ever taken a real journey? A trip so meaningful it changes not just the way you see the world, but how you see yourself?

To celebrate Atlas Obscura’s 10th anniversary, we’re sending someone on their First Journey. Enter to win by proposing a once-in-a-lifetime trip, telling us what you hope to accomplish, and explaining why the experience is meaningful to you. The winner will receive $15,000 and logistical support, and be featured on Atlas Obscura.

Need inspiration for your journey?

Learn about the life-changing trips that helped inspire Josh Foer and Dylan Thuras to create Atlas Obscura.


  • May 1, 2019 Entries Close
    Submit your entry by May 1 to be considered for the $15,000 First Journey prize.
  • June 12, 2019 Semifinalists Selected
    A team of Atlas Obscura writers and editors will chose 25 semifinalists. If selected, you'll have two weeks to submit a more in-depth proposal, including travel plans and budget.
  • July 8, 2019 Finalists Selected
    We'll choose five finalists. If selected, you'll have two weeks to schedule and complete an interview with our team via video call.
  • July 31, 2019 Winner Announced
    We'll announce the lucky winner at the end of July.

Entries for First Journey are now closed.

Thanks to everyone who entered to win the $15,000 prize. We received thousands of meaningful proposals in 2019. Check back at the end of July to meet this year's winner.

More Info

What is a First Journey?
Most people have been on a vacation. Many have been on a long trip. But few have actually journeyed. A journey is not about relaxing, seeing the sights, or getting from point A to point B. A journey is an adventure from which you return changed and ready to make change.

We're giving away the opportunity to take a trip unlike any you've taken before. Perhaps you’d like to photograph the same constellation from the world's 10 largest deserts, document the 4,500-mile migration of Malaysian elephants, or road trip from the northernmost point of North America to the southernmost tip of South America. Your journey could take you anywhere in the world—to a distant location or somewhere close by. Wherever you go, Atlas Obscura readers worldwide will get to share and be inspired by your experience.
Why are we doing this?
Our co-founders Dylan Thuras and Josh Foer were inspired by their first journeys to create Atlas Obscura. (Read about Josh's cross-country road trip and Dylan's Eastern European adventure.) Someone out there is sitting on an incredible idea for a journey but might not have the means to bring it to life. We hope our $15,000 prize will change that.
What are the judging criteria?
The most important criteria are that your First Journey is meaningful to you and that its story will inspire Atlas Obscura readers across the world. Beyond that, we're looking for proposals that make the most of the $15,000 prize.
When will my journey happen? How long should it be?
You must be available to complete your journey in August, September, and/or October 2019, and your trip cannot last more than 90 days.
Who is eligible?
To win the First Journey prize, you must be 18 or older and a legal U.S. resident at the time of travel. If you propose a trip that takes you outside the United States, you must be legally qualified to travel to your destination before submitting your proposal.
Where can I travel?
We encourage journey proposals that take you near or far. However, Atlas Obscura cannot sanction any journey that involves travel to or through areas where the U.S. State Department currently lists a Level 4 or ‘Do Not Travel’ advisory. Current U.S. State Department travel advisories can be found at
What happens if I'm selected as a semifinalist or finalist?
First, a congratulations is in order! Next, you'll be asked for more information about you and your proposal during each phase of the entry process. For example, as a semifinalist, we'll ask you to provide an in-depth travel itinerary and budget as well as any documentation that might be required to travel. And as a finalist, we'll ask you to complete a video interview with Atlas Obscura staff.
What if my trip costs more than $15,000?
During the entry process, we'll ask you for a detailed budget explaining how you will use the First Journey prize. A key criterion for judging in the semifinalist and finalist rounds will be how realistic and practical your budget is. You must be able to accomplish the journey you propose. If selected, we will ask that you adhere to your budget, even if it's less than $15,000. We will not consider proposals that exceed $15,000.
Can this prize fund an existing project I'm working on?
To win the First Journey prize, you must submit an original project. The prize is not intended as an additional source of funding for an existing project. We won’t consider any journey that’s part of an existing commercial expedition or pre-paid tour, including organized tours that are part of charity fundraising efforts.
Will Atlas Obscura help me plan my trip?
The winning proposal will demonstrate your ability to accomplish your journey on your own. If you win, you will receive logistical support from an Atlas Obscura Trips coordinator.
Who will decide the semifinalists, finalists, and winner?
A panel of Atlas Obscura writers and editors, with significant input from Atlas Obscura's Trips team, will determine who wins the First Journey prize.
Do I have to create something on my journey?
The short answer? No. The First Journey asks you to accomplish something inspiring. There is no requirement to create content, write a story, or make a video on your own. We're here to do that for you. But perhaps you want to, and if that's the case, Atlas Obscura is happy to provide a limited amount of training to help hone your skills before you depart on your trip.
Do I have to travel alone?
You do not. In fact, you might need a companion in order to accomplish your journey. If you'd like to bring someone along, you must explain why their presence is meaningful to your proposal and you must budget for their travel.
What if I have more questions?
Send us an e-mail at We'll be happy to answer any questions you have throughout the process.
Are there official contest rules?