In today’s society, it can be hard to be a woman. And when it comes to travel, women are often told to be careful; not to travel alone and to stay in their comfort zone. In support of International Women’s Day, we wanted to take a moment to appreciate some of the inspiring travel memoirs of female travellers, whose words have made us laugh, cry or encouraged us to seek out our own life-changing global adventure.
We asked bloggers about their favourite female travel memoirs written and how they inspired them, as well as speaking to some of these incredible authors themselves about their compelling stories of travelling the world.
In Search of Silence by Poorna Bell
The first blogger we spoke to was disability blogger and travel writer Carrie-Ann Lightley. The book she holds dear is In Search of Silence, the travel memoir of Poorna Bell she penned after travelling around India, New Zealand and Britain after losing her husband to suicide.
Carrie-Ann found that reading about the rawness of Poorna’s mental and physical journey helped her to face her very own.
“I discovered this book during my own trauma recovery journey – following my husband’s critical illness – and though our stories are very different, so much of Poorna’s writing resonated with me.”
“This memoir shows us travel through the eyes of someone who, rather than trying to escape life, is pushing her comfort zone to learn what she really wants from life. To break her own rules, to forgive herself, and to define what happiness really means to her. To discover that, ultimately, we can’t look to others to fix how we feel inside.
“We can all learn so much from this book, and I feel privileged to be able to say that it’s helped me to find happiness again.”
Check out a preview of In Search of Silence by Poorna Bell below.
Love with a Chance of Drowning by Torre de Roche
A popular suggestion on our list, Love with a Chance of Drowning was penned by Torre de Roche, author and travel blogger at Fearful Adventurer. Torre’s memoir document her time at sea after falling for a man who is about to sail around the world. Terrified of the open water, Torre faces her fears out on the ocean on a thrilling, terrifying and life-altering journey.
She told us the intriguing story of how the book came to be: “Being on a sailboat can be very isolating and lonely, and much of the time I was desperately craving communication with my family. Our satellite phone was too expensive for casual calls, and we didn’t have internet aboard. Writing home to tell my family I was okay – or to confess our latest tragi-comic oceanic mishap – was an involved process.
“First, we needed a sunny day to collect enough solar energy to charge my laptop, and then I needed to write quickly to make the most of the battery life before it died. From there, I’d load my letter onto a USB drive, along with any photos, put it into a dry bag to keep it safe, and row to shore in the dinghy to hunt down the nearest available internet connection. Sometimes the only connection on an island was several kilometres up a hill, in a fancy resort, where internet access cost $30 an hour for a connection more sluggish than 1990s dial-up.
“By the time I’d been through all of that, I figured I may as well just load the letter and images onto a basic website to make it easier to share with family and friends, which is how I came to be titled a ‘blogger’.
“It turned out this little ritual of publishing letters was my therapy and lifeline to home, and after two years I had accumulated enough stories to quantify a book. I never knew I had it in me to write a book, but loneliness and isolation will do this to you!”
We asked Torre what one thing she wanted readers to take away from her travel memoir, and for her, it was the idea that courage was about facing our fears, not being fearless.
“As a person who was terribly afraid of the sea before I crossed most of the Pacific in a leaky 1979 boat, I wanted to dismantle the myth that adventurers are a fearless breed of super-humans. A lot of the sailors I met along the way were fearful, vulnerable and distinctly lacking in super-human powers, which surprised me. My life to that point had been filled with the myth that those who embark on travel adventures are some sort of bold, hardened, Viking-esque species, of which I was not a member. But as it turns out, the sailors I met were just regular people with the same fears as everyone else. What set them apart wasn’t fearlessness, but courage.
“I wanted to show readers this behind-the-scenes world of what it meant to be an adventurer. Sometimes bravery is weeping for half a day straight because you’re exhausted. Sometimes courage is loving with a wide-open heart despite knowing you will lose someone. There is nothing courageous about being closed, apathetic, stoic and fearless. Courage is living fully with your heart wide open, pressed up close to the pulse of life – despite all your very normal, very human fears.”
Torre also told us why she believes it’s important to hear the voices of female travellers: “Travel writing has been white male-dominated, and as such the stories tend to be of the ilk I’ve described above – where the traveller is some sort of bold, hardened, super-human that nobody can relate to.
“Female travel writing tends to be more vulnerable, with a rich emotional vocabulary for describing universal themes like loss, love, desire, shame, oppression, and self-actualisation. Those of us who have bought into the idea that courage means being a hardened, stoic Viking who never cries, mistakenly believe that this kind of writing is fluffy and girly. But sharing your vulnerabilities is a sign of emotional intelligence, and the world needs this kind of openness to better understand itself.”
Miss-Adventures: A Tale of Ignoring Life Advice While Backpacking Around South America by Amy Baker
The second author we spoke to was Amy Baker, who is also a freelance travel writer over at Amy Baker Writes. Amy’s story, Miss-adventures: Backpacking Around South America, looks to break the stigma of being a female solo traveller while encouraging other women to unlock their deepest travel desires, without worrying about what other people think or trying to meet some unrealistic expectations. The book details her travels around South America, while blissfully ignoring the over-the-top advice she received from family and colleagues before her departure.
“What struck me when I decided to go travelling on my own was how much advice people wanted to fling my way - not all of it useful!” Amy told us. “Much of it was a list of reasons to stay at home, all the dangers, diseases and awful people I might encounter. It was nuts! If I hadn't travelled before, I might have been scared off and believed what they’d said, that the world wasn't mine to explore.
Amy told us her reasoning for writing the book: “I wanted to write a book that encouraged women to get out and see the world, and to give them a glimpse at what they could learn about themselves, during even a short solo trip, if they chose to listen to themselves rather than the opinions of others. There is always going to be someone telling you all the reasons why you shouldn't do something, I wanted to give them some reasons why they should! I also wanted to share a transformative experience - to show people how travel opens your mind, gives you a greater understanding of yourself and the world, and the confidence it can give you.”
When we asked Amy about the one thing she wanted readers to take away from her memoir, she said it was the importance of forming your own opinions on yourself and the world we live in.
“The importance of forming opinions about yourself and the world, based on real, first-hand experiences. We're bombarded with so much information telling us what we should think, be, want and have, that it's difficult to distinguish your own opinions from the opinions of others. Travelling solo really gives you time and space to work out who you are, what interests you and what you care about achieving. It gives you a different perspective on life and a different kind of confidence. Once you know that you're capable of navigating your way around a continent, it opens your eyes up to other parts of life you can be more confident in.”
Lastly, we asked Amy why she felt it was important to have more travel memoirs published that are written by women.
“We all know that the way a man experiences the world is wildly different from how a woman experiences it. Not only in how they are treated, but in how they interpret their surroundings, the people they are drawn to and so on. There are situations that male travel writers put themselves in that would be a lot more dangerous for a woman - or at least require a lot more forethought - so it might be more difficult for female readers to see themselves ever emulating male travel writers, or even relating to their experiences, which could put them off travelling altogether.
“We definitely need more because the more we can read accounts of women's adventures, the more we can see ourselves in their shoes. Reading accounts of female authors opens our eyes to possibilities, shows us how to do it and most importantly, that we've got what it takes!”
Check out a preview of Miss-adventures: A Tale of Ignoring Life Advice While Backpacking Around South America by Amy Baker below.
The Outrun by Amy Liptrot
Travel blogger and book lover Flora The Explorer told us about her favourite travel memoir, The Outrun by Amy Liptrot. At the age of thirty, Amy finds herself moving back to her childhood home in Papa Westray in the Orkney Islands, Scotland after struggling to beat her alcohol addiction. Soon after, Amy starts to find hope and self-forgiveness by exploring the wild lands of her homeland that she hasn’t seen in over a decade.
“Over the course of the book, she meticulously documents her self-imposed estrangement from the modern world while also re-discovering her strong connection to nature, which results in a deeply personal, honest and, at times, rather painful read,” says Flora. “I love Amy’s ability to write evocative travel narrative about a place that’s acutely familiar to her, and to also combine that with her personal struggle. At its heart, The Outrun is both a recovery memoir and a love letter to the raw nature of Orkney – and Amy’s vulnerability and honesty is truly inspirational.”
Check out a preview of The Outrun by Amy Liptrot below.
Tracks by Robyn Davidson
Tracks is the remarkable travel memoir of Robyn Davidson which chronicles her 9-month, 1,700-mile trek across the wilds of the Australian outback in the ‘70s, with only four camels and a dog for company. In between dodging snakes and taking care of her camels when they get injured, Robyn’s story sheds light on self-discovery and transformation.
Dulcie, blogger at That Festival Life, told us why she loved this particular read and why it such an inspiring read for other women.
“Robyn is an absolute feminist icon, a strong spirited adventurer with an enviable single-mindedness and an inspiring motivation for travel. She travels purely for herself, not for fame nor fortune. She undertook this journey back in 1977 and was revolutionary in that time not just as a solo female traveller but also in her progressive views on Australian society. I found the courage she displays and her descriptions of transformational experiences incredibly inspiring and would recommend this book to anyone who wants the motivation to face their fears!”
Check out a preview of Tracks by Robyn Davidson below.
The Shooting Star by Shivya Nath
From her small corner of India to conquering the world, Shivya Nath’s travel memoir, The Shooting Star, outlines her personal journey of change from being a quiet Indian girl to a free-spirited traveller. As well as detailing her transformation, Shivya’s memoir also sheds light on her battles, achievements, relationships, and life-changing adventures while exploring the far-flung corners of the earth.
“I grew up in a protective Indian family in Dehradun, a valley at the base of the Himalayas, and spent my childhood wondering what lay beyond the mountains I could see from my rooftop,” says Shivya, over on her blog.
“In 2011, I decided to take a second chance at life. I quit my 9-to-5 corporate job with a dream of doing something different. Two years later, I gave up my home, sold most of my belongings and decided to travel the world indefinitely. This journey has taken me to 50+ countries across 6 continents, often solo.”
What makes Shivya so inspirational is not only does she encourage others to break out of their shells and travel the world without limits, she is a big advocate of responsible travel, even launching The Shooting Star Collection – sustainable travel-inspired clothing that raises money to grow forests in Uttarakhand, India.
“I believe that our travel choices have an impact on the places we visit. On my part, I try to contribute to the local economy, prefer public transport, avoid plastic bottled water and other single-use plastic, say no to unethical animal attractions, consume no animal products, prefer to eat what grows in the region, ask for permission before photographing people and try to form my own opinions of the places I visit and the people I meet.”
Inspiring female travel memoirs:
- In Search of Silence by Poorna Bell
- Love with a Chance of Drowning by Torre de Roche
- Miss-Adventures: A Tale of Ignoring Life Advice While Backpacking Around South America by Amy Baker
- The Outrun by Amy Liptrot
- Tracks by Robyn Davidson
- The Shooting Star by Shivya Nath
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