This special issue is the culmination of American Way’s second annual Road Warrior Search. More than 8,000 readers entered the contest, answering numerous questions and penning thought-provoking essays to prove they are ultimate Road Warriors who’ve mastered the art of travel.

Here’s a little behind-the-scenes scoop: The challenges of orchestrating such a contest, from determining the questions, prizes, and judging criteria, to sifting through thousands of entries to choose just five winners, to planning and producing this special issue, pale in comparison to the nearly impossible logistics of coordinating the hectic travel schedules of those five fiendishly busy winners for a whirlwind photography session at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.

They came together for one day from all over the country to meet with makeup artists, stylists, and wardrobe consultants before stepping in front of the camera to be photographed for American Way. I’m still impressed that our staff pulled it off, and even more impressed with our winners, each of them smart and savvy and not a bit jaded from all their globetrotting.

The photo shoot probably sounds more glamorous than it was: Lee Anne Tait had to “nonchalantly” breeze through a revolving door 50 times as the photographer clicked away to get just the right shot, while Raj Joshi wryly noted that he was photographed at the baggage carousel even though he never checks bags. But our winners took it all in stride as they regaled us with more travel tales and proved worthy of their winning titles.

I’ve pored over thousands of entries since launching this contest two years ago and have learned much from the wit and wisdom of our readers — namely that a positive perspective is essential in travel, and in life. Since this is my last issue as editor of American Way, I’ll take that wisdom with me in my new role as editor of Celebrated Living, the luxury publication for American Airlines’ First and Business Class customers. I’d still love to hear from you; write me at elaine.srnka@aa.com.