Travel Inspiration

Inspirational Women Explorers


In celebration of International Women’s Day we take a quick trip through history to highlight some of our favourite bold, daring and truly ground breaking female travellers.

Jeanne Baret  (1740 – 1807)

Back in the late 18th Century, boarding a ship to sail around the world was not something that society deemed a suitable activity for a woman. So Jeanne disguised herself as a man (going by Jean) and joined an expedition lead by Louis Antoine de Bougainville, a French Admiral. She is now recognised as the first woman to have circumnavigated the world – not bad in a time when most women would not even have left their town of birth!

Imagined portrait of Jeanne Baré dressed as a sailor, dating from 1817, after her death By Unkwown – 18th century print.

[Image source: Wikipedia


Lady Hester Stanhope (1776 – 1839)

Born into high society, Stanhope acted as hostess for many years to her uncle – who just happened to be the British Prime Minister – and was renowned for her conversation and beauty. However in 1810 after the death of her brother and reported unrequited love she decided to depart on a sea voyage to Egypt. Unfortunately a storm destroyed the ship and she ended up in Rhodes. Having lost all their luggage she took to wearing male Turkish clothing. A decision she persisted with for many years, refusing to wear a veil throughout her travels from Cairo, through the Middle East, Gibraltar and Damascus. Earning quite the reputation, she became known as Queen Hester in Palmyra. She then travelled to Gaza, based on a map she had obtained which said great treasure was buried there. Her powers of persuasion had not diminished on her travels and the Ottoman authorities allowed her to carry out the first ever archaeological excavations in Palestine. Her later years were spent in Sidon, in what is now Lebanon, where she had almost absolute authority of the region prompting even Generals to seek her council on matters!

[image source: Wikipedia]



Annie Edson Taylor (1838 – 1921)

It is the stuff of cartoons, climbing into a barrel and then going over a waterfall. However in 1901 on her 63rd (!!!) birthday Taylor attempted this feat in real life. Using a custom made oak barrel, padded with a mattress, Taylor climbed in, was sealed up and started her 20 minute daredevil adventure over Niagara Falls. Taylor survived the trip with nothing more than a slight graze on the head. This is one trip we strongly recommend our readers avoid and we think Taylor herself gave the best warning: “If it was with my dying breath, I would caution anyone against attempting the feat … I would sooner walk up to the mouth of a cannon, knowing it was going to blow me to pieces than make another trip over the Fall”

[image source: Wikipedia]


Nellie Bly (1864 – 1922)

Bly started off as a writer, although her investigative articles on conditions for women factory workers (unsurprisingly) annoyed the factory owners so much she was reassigned to the more usual female journalist roles of fashion and gardening. Quickly growing bored with this she moved to Mexico, although had to make a swift exit from the country after annoying Mexican officials with her reporting of imprisoned local journalists. She then faked insanity to report the despicable conditions of the Blackwell’s Island Women’s Lunatic Asylum (a fascinating story in itself!). As if this wasn’t adventure enough, Bly turned her attentions to world travel. World travel in under 80 days to be precise. Taking the title of Verne’s well known book as a literal challenge, Bly boarded a steamer and set sail. Travelling through Europe (meeting Jules Verne), the Suez Canal, Asia (stopping at a leper colony in China and buying a monkey in Singapore) and a rough pacific crossing back to an Francisco she arrived back in New York 72 days later setting a new world record.

[image source: Wikipedia]


Jean Batten (1909 – 1982)

Long distance flights are always a chore… but imagine flying solo from London to Australia…. in 1939. Batten – driven by the urge to beat fellow female aviator Amy Johnson’s time (19 days) – had two failed attempts (including an engine failure from a sandstorm that resulted in a crash landing in Pakistan!) before the  “third time’s a charm” flight of 14 days and 22 hours.  Of course, one record was not enough for Batten and she followed that up with world records for flying from England to Brazil and England to New Zealand and rounded it all off by becoming the first woman to receive aviation’s highest honour, the Medal of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.

[image source: Wikipedia]


Ann Bancroft (1955 – present)

The explorer bug bit Ann early as she convinced cousins to join her on wilderness tours though her backyard at just eight! Obviously a backyard in Minnesota was not enough to satisfy her wanderlust and after teaching for a number of years, Bancroft set her sights on the North Pole. Bancroft and the other five team members reached this by dogsled making her the first woman to reach the North Pole by foot and sled. This was the beginning of her record setting trips, with subsequent mile markers of the first woman to; cross both ice caps, ski across Greenland, lead an all-female team to the South Pole, and (along with fellow kickass explorer Liv Arnesen) ski across Antarctica. Bancoft followed all this up with a 60 day trip down the Ganges and has even more expeditions planned!

[image source: Wikipedia]


Elspeth Beard (1959 – Present)

In 1983 Beard purchased a BMW R60/6 motorcycle, shipped in to New York, packed what she needed in panniers and started her travels in Canada, the USA and Mexico before shipping the bike to Sydney to continue her travels through Australia, Singapore, the Punjab, into Turkey and then back through Europe finishing in the UK in 1984. Even though this was a record breaking feat – the first English woman to motorcycle across the world – she returned mainly to indifference. It wasn’t until 2017 when she wrote her autobiography detailing her travels that she started to receive the recognition she deserves!

[image source: Wikipedia]


Laura Dekker (1995 – present)

Most 14 year olds probably don’t have aspirations to sail around the world solo. However Dekker was not your average 14 year old! After a gruelling 518 days at sea she achieved her goal and at just 16 upon finishing, she also became the youngest person to ever do so!

[image source: Wikipedia]


We LOVE learning about new explorers, so let us know your favourite female explorer on social media #internationalwomensday

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