Meet Liliia Sokotun – ROAM 2019’s Grand Prize Winner

bring_baby_abroad’s photos are as amazing as her family travels.

By Maryann Jones Thompson

Sure, we began judging the ROAM 2019 Photo Contest by saying our winners weren’t going to be the same ones National Geographic would choose. But when we saw Liliia Sokotun’s photo of her daughter with Himalayan locals in their Tibetan finery, we knew it had to be ROAM’s Grand Prize winner of the best family travel photos of 2019.

“Even though ROAM wasn’t choosing photos based purely on technical quality, Liliia’s photo has a very National Geographic feel,” said contest judge Didrik Johnck, ROAM’s Photographer-at-Large.

Liliia Sokotun DeCos is the mom and blogger behind bring_baby_abroad, an English-language travel blog and an Instagram account in Russian – though her fabulous images need no translator.

“Liliia’s shot was a standout photo – truly in a class by itself,” said contest judge Crystal Engstrom, ROAM’s Photo Editor.  

Originally from Ukraine, Liliia is now based on the Costa Tropical in Spain, and travels extensively with her two daughters and American husband, Jose DeCos – a Culture Honorable Mention winner in ROAM’s contest.

“Thank you so much for the great news!” said Liliia upon hearing she won ROAM’s grand prize. “With your kind words, we feel very inspired to enter more contests :)”

The DeCos family has traveled to more than 100 countries, most recently with their toddlers on a journey through central and southern Asia.  A flip through the Instagram feed of Liliia or Jose shows their three-year-old daughter, Lia with a Iranian women at a mosque, a donkey in Krygistan,a Tajik soldier on the Afghan border, a long-neck Kayan woman in Bagan, her mom in a Jaisalmer alley, her dad in Nepal, and her sister in Sri Lanka.

Lia’s pixieish grin and heart-covered hoodie against the serene timelessness of the Zanskar Valley women was what resonated for me, as a judge. The contest entries I loved were photos like this one – where I could envision the situation and it made me smile.

Read on for the backstory on Lillia’s winning photo and see more amazing shots from her family’s travels in the gallery below. (Rotate mobile to “landscape” to see complete photo and captions.)

Backstory: Smiles in Zanskar

“After 13 hours in a Jeep with our tiny daughters, Jose and I reached the remote Zanskar Valley, a high-altitude region in the Himalayas of Northern India.  We came for the hikes, monasteries, and scenery but found the real reward was experiencing the culture of the region’s ethnically-Tibetan villages – communities left untouched by Chinese influence.

There are few tourists in this area so although we love to interact with locals when we travel, here, they generally keep to themselves. But we were lucky to be in the area for an annual festival at a remote monastery that brought out everyone in their best traditional dress.

There were two professional photographers at the celebration but their tons of gear looked alien and almost intrusive to the local festival. The villagers pushed them into a corner even as they welcomed our family with open arms.

It was amazing to interact with so many locals – and we were even invited for dinner with a local family afterward. None of these experiences would have been possible if we weren’t traveling as a family.

-Liliia Sokotun DeCos, bring_baby_abroad, ROAM 2019 Photo Contest Winner

 Maryann Jones Thompson  – January 2019

ROAM Founder & Editor in Chief   

After a thousand years in publishing as a business journalist and content strategist, Maryann brings her experience traveling as a backpacker, businessperson, expat and mom to writing and editing for ROAM. After traveling with her husband and kids to uncommon spots across six continents, she’s currently focused on finding ANY trip that’ll interest teens, hitting epic scuba spots, and expanding family-travel horizons in her native California and beyond.


© ROAM Family Travel 2019 – All rights reserved


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