by Carol Canter
The BATW 2023 Rebecca Bruns Memorial Award goes to Lee Daley. How fitting, as Lee’s irrepressible spirit and lust for life has been a reflection of Rebecca’s, with whom she shared both a passion for travel and a commitment to excellence in crafting stories that dazzled readers.
Over 30 years ago, after raising her three children as a single mom and becoming a successful real estate mogul in the Boston area, Lee headed west to Marin County. Once her kids were in college and beyond, she embarked on a “semester at sea” voyage around the world aboard the SS Universe, a vintage cargo ship retrofitted into a floating classroom. The ship stopped in ports in ten countries, from Japan to Spain, Italy, China, and Egypt.
Armed with newfound knowledge of the world and intent on seeing the rest of it, she turned to what was then the infancy of freelance travel journalism, and became one of the founders of BATW. She was Vice Chair of the first BATW board in 1999, when the bylaws were written for the organization. Lee recalls working with Chris Baker, already a noted photographer, who emphasized, “You can’t have a professional organization without standards,” and standards are what those first writers and photographers laid out for future BATW members for decades to come. She went on to serve our group as president for several terms, as well as multiple terms on the executive board.
An award-winning travel writer, author, and photographer, Lee has interviewed Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar and rubbed elbows with the Dalai Lama in Tibet. She has contributed hundreds of travel articles and photographs to in-flight magazines, newspapers, and travel periodicals, from Alaska Airlines Magazine to Country Living, Chicago Sun Times to the New York Times International, and the San Jose Mercury News to the Nob Hill Gazette.
Lee has also produced audio travel documentaries for Travel Radio Productions and appeared on national radio talk shows. Her award-winning travel photographs have been exhibited widely from San Francisco to Dharamsala, India.
Lee produces her personal EpicureanDestinations.com travel site, and along with her husband, former BATW board member, John Sundsmo, she edits TravelExaminer.net. In 2016, the longtime travel blog, Examiner.com, dissolved, whereupon Lee and John reimagined the blog and kick-started TravelExaminer.net, which continues today to feature the work of BATW members and others. Lee and John generously offered an insightful and in depth look at creating TE at a BATW meeting at the Berkeley Art Museum. Their fellow presenter, our late and ever esteemed Lee Foster, gave his own workshop on how to create a website. We members were well served by such guidance.
Lee likes to describe herself as a “gypsy with roots.” I’d like to add a personal note. When Lee and I sang Birch Bottom Blues in many a sauna throughout Finland before plunging into freezing cold lakes, we knew we were kindred spirits. This we had already learned on a 1990 press trip to Puerto Vallarta with Rebecca, Bonnie Kamin and Antoinette May, all BATW members at the time.
The biennial honor – consisting of a plaque and cash award – is given to a BATW member who embodies the spirit of Rebecca Bruns, one of the organization’s founding members and a gifted writer, who died in 1994 at the age of 44.
“Rebecca Bruns, one of our shining stars, had her trajectory cut tragically short by illness. That she remains a muse to many of us is a testament to both her brilliance and her generosity of spirit.” Rebecca’s mother, at the age of 95, donated the funds for the award to keep her daughter’s legacy alive. Previous recipients include Christopher Baker (2005), Patricia Lee (2006), Bruce Whipperman (2008), Lee Foster( 2010), Georgia Hesse (2012), Ginny Prior (2018), and Laurie King and Jim Shubin (2020).
Congratulations, Lee, from us all for this well-deserved award.