Part 1: Women of Adventure
I am very excited to join the fabulously talented team of Misadventures Magazine, and thank them for the opportunity to share a little extra adventure with you.
I have been fortunate to travel the world working and participating in explorations and expeditions for twenty years. I believe challenging ourselves can be a catalyst for great things at any age and that travel is not a luxury, but a necessity.
I think that women are intrinsically adventurous, curious, and clever. I don’t think we need to do battle against the boys, but we do need to be our own support system. To achieve our goals should not mean we have to be better than men, it should mean that we have to be the best we can be. Exploring women come in many shapes, ages, sizes, and backgrounds.
Throughout history there have been many great women explorers and adventurers who crossed the globe alongside men on expeditions. They defied rules and traditions and were ahead of their time.
As this is my inaugural story, so I would like to pay homage to all the interesting and historical women that have come before us. These ladies make up a colorful cast of characters who share the indomitable spirit of adventure. It was quite often that women traveled disguised as boys or young men so that they could move about freely and experience a life that was closed off to women in their time.
The following is a very brief description of their amazing lives and stories, but if you are inclined to read more about these intrepid women there are many books and websites awaiting you.
Gertrude Bell, 1868-1926
Gertrude was an explorer, writer, naturalist, and archaeologist who traveled alone through North America, Asia, Persia, and the Middle East. She was daring and adventurous, and did not abide by the constraints that were placed on her in the early 1900’s. She has been referred to as the female Lawrence of Arabia for her time traveling and living in the desert with nomadic peoples. She was born into a prestigious British family, was educated at Oxford, spoke Arabic and Farsi and was an integral part of the politics between the British Empire and the Arab states.
Mary Kingsley, 1862-1900
Mary was a truly unsung heroine of the adventure world. Mary was never given a formal education, although her brother was. She educated herself through her father’s books and dutifully looked after her ailing parents until their deaths. At the age of 30 she set off on her journeys to Africa and authored a controversial book titled, “Travels in West Africa” where she took an empathetic stance towards the tribes she encountered and the way in which the Europeans treated them. The book is a wonderful journey and diary of her adventures, scientific data collection, and travels as an unaccompanied woman into remote regions of Gabon, climbing mountains, living amongst locals, and crossing rivers and jungles.
Isabelle Eberhardt, 1877-1904
Isabelle was a Swiss explorer and writer who was unconventional and free- thinking. She was mesmerized by travel throughout North Africa. She eventually converted to Islam and dressed as a man so that she could continue to travel freely in the region. Her life ended tragically at 27 in a flash flood in her desert home. She was waiting for her husband to join her after an extensive trip and she drowned when everything around her was washed away. Her early family life and the following nomadic years are both fascinating. I recommend the biography by Annette Kobak, Isabelle: A life of Isabelle Eberhardt and The Nomad, Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt by Liz Kershaw.
Annie Edison Taylor, 1838-1921
Annie was an American adventurer and the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel. She may have been a bit of a performer, yet I include her for her spirit. Annie was educated as a teacher, was married, then lost her infant son and then her husband in the Civil War. Upon her husband’s death, she was determined to provide for herself so she moved to Bay City, Michigan to open a dance studio. She then moved to Sault Ste. Marie to teach music, then to San Antonio, Texas, and on to Mexico City to find work. She returned to New York looking for a way to provide for herself and chose a very unconventional (some may even say crazy) way to do so.
Annie decided to channel her inner daredevil by becoming the first person to go over the falls in a barrel. She believed this would bring her wealth and fame. Her story takes a sad turn: she did not meet with good company after the feat and lost all the money she earned from going over the falls. I think it takes a certain degree of chutzpah to decide you will climb into a barrel and go over any body of water, much less Niagara Falls. She never gave up and deserves some recognition for being willing to die trying.
It is important to remember that these marvelous women did not set out to make the history books, they simply followed their hearts and their passions. I hope that Exploring Women has inspired you to head out and travel. A change of scenery can work wonders for the soul and make us feel alive again, so put away your wrinkle cream and put on your traveling boots! Until our next adventure….