Lucas Ackroyd presented with the Alumnus of the Year award
Tracking polar bears in the Arctic Circle, peering into magma-filled volcanoes in Maui, tasting whiskey at Scottish breweries, and rafting the waterfalls of New Zealand. Not your typical list of accomplishments for a writer. But Lucas Aykroyd’s career as an international award-winning travel and sports writer has been anything but typical.
“Everyone thinks you’re on vacation all the time,” Lucas says, “I mean, it’s true, but you’re always working in the background.”By combining his passions and interests with his talents as a writer, Lucas travels around the world writing about anything from his adventures on horseback on Easter Island to the ABBA museum in Sweden to hockey championships and the Stanley Cup playoffs.
While his career in journalism only began to take root in university, Lucas’ affinity for English started as a child growing up in Victoria. An avid reader from the age of four, Lucas normally walked out of the library with his parents carrying a stack of books taller than he was. “Writing was always my forte,” Lucas admits, “In Grade 12, I got the top mark in British Columbia for the English 12 final exam, and barely passed math and physics.” This was a pretty clear indication for Lucas of the direction he should take with his career.
During his undergraduate years at the University of Victoria, Lucas got his first taste of journalism writing album and book reviews for The Martlet. Shortly after, he started covering music for a now-defunct entertainment magazine in Victoria. Lucas had the freedom to attend events of his choosing around the Victoria area, as his every proposal was met with a resounding “sounds good, Lucas” from his editor.
“It was a fun introduction to the business, but it took a while for me to figure out what I was going to do. I was writing poetry during my university years, but I came to realize that $5 per haiku wasn’t going to pay the bills.” After writing his MA thesis on Robin Hood and graduating in 1997, Lucas toyed with the idea of teaching English in Korea or Japan, but ultimately spent a year as a technical writer, something that didn’t fully satisfy his creativity.
“That experience taught me that I should aim to write about topics that appealed to me more – like hockey or travel,” says Lucas, “I realized I could combine the two and create a sort of niche.” So, Lucas set his sights on the European hockey trend in Canada, pitching an article and following the publisher’s style right down to the letter. His pitch was a success, and it didn’t take long before the Vancouver Canucks were onboard as well. Incredibly, Lucas’s very first sports interview was with the Canucks’ captain, Markus Naslund. Not long after in 2000, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) approached Lucas with an offer to take on a role as the editor of the IIHF’s new website.
For the next five or six years, Lucas spent most of his time covering Canadian major junior hockey, the Olympics, the NHL, and the World Championships. “During this time, I also did a lot of music writing and even went into other esoteric writing like fashion, dentistry, and even trivia questions.” His career as a travel writer didn’t begin to pick up until about ten years after completing his degree.
Since then, his travels have taken him around the globe from Moscow’s Kremlin to Peru’s Machu Picchu and back again. He loves the variety and freedom of his career. “I already had an assignment to travel to Tahiti and compare my trip to Fletcher Christian’s mid 18th century mutiny of the HMS Bounty,” Lucas says, “so I realized I could use Tahiti as a jumping off point to Easter Island, which is now one of my favourite destinations.”
Since 2013, Lucas has won a Travel Media Association of Canada award, a Society of American Travel Writers medal, and even five medals at the North American Travel Journalists Association Awards. He has been featured in National Geographic Traveler, the Toronto Star, and The Globe and Mail for his travel articles. In the first half of 2015 alone, he has already lined up trips to Cuba, Sweden, Hawaii, Germany, and the Czech Republic.
“I absolutely plan to keep on travelling in the future,” Lucas says, “I kind of like working and being on vacation all the time. It might not be the perfect job, but really, this is just about as good as it gets.”