Rebellious, unconventional, badass, determined, or passionate, call these women whatever you want to, but you cannot deny them being legends. These female explorers truly reflect the spirit of womanhood, and thus, enlisting them on this blog is an honour for me. We all want inspiration in our lives, and reading the inspirational stories of these women travellers who were unapologetically quirky is definitely the need of the hour. So without further ado, let me take you through the lives of some of the most adventurous women to inspire your wanderlust.
Heard of a woman who disguised as a male circumnavigated the world once? Well, she is identified as Jeanne Baret. Jeanne was initially a housekeeper and later a personal nurse to naturalist Philibert Commerson who was invited to join Louis Antoine de Bougainville’s round-the-world expedition. During that time, women were not allowed in the French Navy ships, therefore, Jeanne Baret had to disguise as a man to accompany Philibert Commerson. Not only was Baret successful in entering the navy ship, she made a record for being the first woman to circumnavigate the globe.
Gertrude Bell is a fine example of what determination and passion result into. British writer, political officer and an archaeologist, Bell is known for her pivotal role in shaping the modern-day Iraq and setting up of their national museum which was (prior to 2003) reckoned to be the world’s greatest collections of Mesopotamian antiquities. Gertrude spent several years travelling across the globe but her attention was majorly drawn by the Middle East which she travelled extensively. Due to her immense knowledge of the Arab world she was even recruited by the British Intelligence service in Cairo. This one of the most influential travellers also worked with famed T.E.Lawrence in supporting Hashemite dynasties.
While you are busy figuring out what you want from life and how you can earn through your travel, Harriet Chalmer Adams went ahead and created history to inspire us all. An American explorer, writer and photographer, Harriet has a record of completing 100,000 miles in her lifetime. She even contributed her travel adventures to the National Geographic society and managed to make a living through travel as well.
A 19th century English explorer, Isabella Bird has the record of being the first woman inducted into the Royal Geographical Society. Bird is known for her extensive travel around the world and writing of subsequent travel books like Six Months in the Sandwich Islands, A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains and Unbeaten Tracks in Japan. Isabella made several voyages to United States, Australia and Hawaii, parts of Asia, including China, Japan and Malaya. This imposing woman traveller is also lauded as a photojournalist for capturing life in China in the 19th century.
Holding the record for travelling around the world in 72 days, American journalist, Nellie Bly is a source of inspiration for all women travellers. Nellie began her 24,899 miles journey in 1889 in which she covered England, France, Egypt, the Pacific and United States. Her journey was documented by the New York World. Bly also published her book in 1890 titled Around the World in 72 Days.
You must know about Lady Hay because she is particularly famous for being the first woman to travel around the world by air. A journalist by profession, Lady Hay worked for the Hearst press organisation which gave her the opportunity to fly in 1928 with five other reporters who were all males. In fact, she was also the second woman to fly across the globe.
Say Geronimo to Louise Boyd who became the first woman to fly over the North Pole in 1955. Louise is known for her extensive exploration of Greenland and the Arctic from where she collected hundreds of botanical specimens, which were later catalogued by the American Geographical Society. She also visited the Polish countryside as a delegate to the International Geographical Congress in Warsaw and travelled by car, boat, train, and on foot. Her pictures were published by the American Geographical Society in 1937. Louise was also awarded Department of Army Certificate of Appreciation for her service of working on secret assignments during World War II.
Aware of a woman who climbed peaks in her 80s? Well, you must know if you still don’t about Annie Smith Peck. Considered a rebel since she climbed in trousers, Annie is one of the first female initiates of the Royal Geographical Society. She was also the founder of American Alpine Club. As a feminist and a suffragette, she planted a flag championing votes for women atop Mount Coropuna in Peru. Annie was also the first person to climb the north peak of Peru’s Huascarán which was later named Cumbre Aña Peck in her honour.
Women on a two-wheeler has something sexy about it, isn’t it? Well, we thought, only the modern-day girls were unconventional, alas, we were wrong. In 1895, Annie Londonderry became the first woman to bicycle around the world leaving behind a legacy. She left home to journey across North America, Europe and Asia which she completed in 15 months. What makes her story even more intriguing is the fact that she had never before ridden a bike in her life. Annie also made money while she travelled, in fact for going by the surname Londonderry, New Hampshire’s Londonderry Lithia Spring Water Company paid her $100.
Reckoned to be one of the first female mountaineers in the world, Fanny Bullock Workman has to herself numerous records in climbing. An American explorer, Workman in her youth travelled extensively around the world owing to her wealthy background. Later in her life, Fanny got the opportunity to visit India and the Western Himalayas, where she realized her passion for mountaineering. Workman explored the Karakoram range extensively, climbed several peaks, and mapped glaciers. She was recognized by Royal Geographical Society for her subsequent publications and became the second woman to give a talk there.
This phenomenal British explorer is known for carrying out the first modern excavation in the history of Holy Land archaeology. She was indeed a woman with a plan as her excavation was conducted on the basis of a textual source that affirmed the presence of a treasure beneath the layers of the earth. However, only a 7-foot marble statue could be found in this well-planned excavation that somehow brought disappointment to Lady Hestor. Nonetheless, this excavation did help her create a record that history will remember forever.
Karen Darke is like a phoenix that rises from its ash. Paralysed from chest down after a fall during rock climbing at the age of 21, Karen’s adventure would have been over if it wasn’t for her never giving up spirit and support from friends. She lives an extraordinary life which is made of ventures that will surprise you. In 2007, this woman adventurist traversed Greenland’s ice cap on a sit-ski using her arms to propel her. Later, she also covered 1,000 miles by sea kayak from Canada to Alaska and hand-cycled over the Himalayas. This most inspirational woman traveller has also won a silver medal in the London 2012 Paralympics and became Paralympic Champion in Rio 2016. We’re so proud of her.
The OG wayfarer Sarah Marquis is indeed one of the greatest women travellers in the world. This Swiss adventurer is known for an unparalleled venture in which she travelled alone from Russia to Australia crossing Siberia and Asia covering a total distance of 10,000 miles. Her journey included encounters with dangerous animals, drug smugglers and tropical diseases. National Geographic named her one of 2014’s Adventurers of the Year. This one of the most famous solo women travellers has been on a plenty of inspirational talks including TED talks. She is truly a woman of substance.
Meet the woman who travelled more than 20,000 miles over the period of 5 years circumnavigating the entire Northern Hemisphere in what is considered as the longest unsupported run in all of history. Rosie Swale Pope decided to raise awareness about prostate cancer after her husband lost his life to the disease. Her adventure brought her close to several dangerous situations as she was stalked by a wild wolf, an axe-wielding man, and the Siberian winter. She has also run several marathons and has a record of running 27 marathons in 27 days. She is a popular motivational speaker.
Say hello to the first documented woman and fastest person to travel to all 196 Sovereign Nations – Cassandra De Pecol. At the age of 25, this young woman traveller set out on a mission to travel to all the countries in the world in a span of 18 months and 18 days breaking the previous record by half the time. During her journey she even collected water samples around the globe for adventurers and scientists for conservation. Now that’s one of the top travel influencers we all want to look up to.
Having the record of being the first woman worldwide to conquer the Explorer Grand Slam, Cecilie Skog is indeed one of the greatest woman travellers in the history. A Norwegian explorer Cecilie is majorly known for crossing both the poles and climbing the highest peaks in each of the continents. She and a friend have record of completing unsupported 1700 miles of cross-country skis in Antarctica. Cecilie is indeed one of those people who inspires women to travel the world.
Some people are made of stardust and you have to believe it. Born to two Olympian parents, Anna McNuff is certainly the one made of stardust. This inspiring woman traveller has been named as one of the 50 most influential travellers of our time by Condé Nast Traveller. Anna has been inspiring children get outdoors and explore. In her venture, she cycled solo and unassisted through each state of the United State and covered 11,000 miles on her pink bicycle. She even visited schools and raised £11,000 for global charity Right to Play. Anna also spent 5.5 months running New Zealand’s 1,911-mile Te Araroa trail. She visited schools here as well and raised £7,000 for The Outward-Bound Trust. Her recent adventure was to cycle along the spine of The Andes where she ascended over 100,000 metres.
Sara Melotti has an incredible message to give to the world about beauty. A fashion photographer by profession, Sarah spent three years photographing models but then something struck her – it wasn’t the authentic beauty her work was reflecting. So, the next thing she did was to resign from his job, take up as social project ‘Quest of Beauty’ and hit the road to find the true beauty. Sara was able to break the conventional fashion photography trend and while doing it, she was able to send across a powerful message to women around the world.
Women around the world have been making records, breaking the norms and taking challenges, not to prove that we are better than the other gender but to convince that both the sexes are equal. After all it is always about passion and taking life by the horns. Do you feel inspired, did these stories give you goosebumps? Do tell us in the comment section below.
Also keep coming back to this section of ours where we will be sharing tips for women who travel and share more stories on how travel inspired some of the popular women globetrotters.
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