School’s out and summer is in full swing. Some of you will be planning a trip to the lake, or perhaps to someplace even farther away. Others, like me, will be settling in for a staycation full of day trips to the beach and all the great summer festivals Winnipeg has to offer. Those of us who aren’t quite so lucky with our travel plans this year can still read about the adventures of those who’ve travelled far and wide. Popular travel memoirs, like Wild by Cheryl Strayed and Tracks by Robyn Davidson, tell the stories of women setting out alone in challenging environments. But many women of past eras also found a unique freedom on their own in unfamiliar places. Personally, I enjoy reading about other people’s explorations while relaxing on a patio with a cold drink!
In her beautifully illustrated books No Place for a Lady: Tales of Adventurous Women Travelers and Dreaming of East: Western Women and the Exotic Allure of the Orient, Barbara Hodgson tells the stories of several women who defied the restrictive Victorian social conventions to become adventurers and explorers in their own right.
The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt is the fascinating journal of Isabelle Eberhardt, a 19th century Swiss writer who travelled widely in north Africa and through the Sahara desert. She scandalized her peers when she started dressing in men’s clothing and converted to Islam.
Englishwoman Isabella Bird wrote many memoirs of her time in America, Korea, Tibet, China, and elsewhere. Her stay in Japan is chronicled in her book Unbeaten Tracks in Japan.
In 1889, reporter Nellie Bly began a race around the world. Travelling in the opposite direction was another journalist, Elizabeth Bisland, sponsored by a rival newspaper. Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman tells of their competition to circle the globe faster than the character in Jules Verne’s novel.
Freya Stark began her extensive travels in the Middle East after World War I. She wrote more than two dozen books about her experiences. The first, The Valleys of the Assassins and other Persian Travels, describes her journeys through western Iran.
So if you’re stuck in the city this summer, pick up a good book and let one these interesting ladies show you the world!