Since the 19th century, inspiring women have made this leap and went out there to discover the world. Along their way, they have shaped a world that favors individual and communities’ empowerment. Let’s hear their stories.
When the first woman to go around the world left Europe in 1766, she was disguised as a man. Most Navies prohibited women on their ships back then, but that did not stop Jeanne Baret. She bound her breasts with linen bandages, became Jean Baret and sailed with the world expedition of Admiral Louis-Antoine de Bougainville for three years.
She was the first of a line of inspiring women from the 19th and 20th centuries who proved wrong the prevailing opinion that adventure travel was for men. Figures like Isabella Bird (1831-1904), Louise Boyd (1887-1972) or Freya Stark (1893-1993) rode thousands of miles, climbed mountains, pioneered unexplored routes, took hundreds of pictures of undocumented places and wrote travel books at a time when women were not even allowed to have a job without their husband’s approval.
Their explorations changed history as these women were also greatly engaged in improving the lives of the people they met along their journeys. To take but one example, Mary Kingsley (1862-1900), renowned European explorer, championed the rights of indigenous people in Africa and her works helped shape perceptions of African culture and of imperialism.
However, the number of women participating in adventure traveling has always been relatively minor, until very recently. In the past few years, their number increased incredibly fast. Active travel agencies now report much higher women’s enrollment rates than men’s .
And this is a great thing! First for you ladies who wish to discover yourself and the world: adventure traveling is a learning adventure, enabling self-discovery and personal empowerment. Outdoor activities also tend to bond travelers. The latter plea is for women’s empowerment worldwide as women travelers tend to include social responsibility in their decision process.
To inspire you and perhaps make you take the plunge, let’s hear the story of Sigrid, author of the travel blog mytravelsecret.
WakaWaka: Hi Sigrid! You’re an adventure traveler and you’ve been exploring the world for years. Can you tell us a bit more about the places you’ve visited? What are the most fascinating cultures you’ve encountered and the most breathtaking sceneries you’ve seen?
Mytravelsecret: I’m a huge Asia lover, so I travelled a lot through (South-East) Asia the last 10 years. For example, I’ve been to Nepal, India, Indonesia and Myanmar. Last year I also travelled through Central-America, which was great. I definitely want to go back one day.
The most fascinating place I visited were the Mentawai Islands near Sumatra (Indonesia). On the main island, Pulau Siberut, I spent a few days with the Mentawai tribes. This tribe lives there for more than thousand years and is famous for their tattoo culture. I also spent some time with the Dayaks in Kalimantan, which was amazing. They are still fighting against Kalimantan biggest threat, deforestation. The most amazing landscapes I experienced in Nepal. Nothing beats the mighty Himalayas.
WakaWaka: Keeping on riding roads is very appealing but for many of us it also seems quite complicated to combine with daily life’s responsibilities. How do you make it work?
Mytravelsecret: It’s all about planning and compromises. I travelled a lot for more than 10 years while having a fulltime job. I just had 25 vacation days a year but was lucky to save time for time at my corporate job. Every hour that I worked overtime I saved for trips, so in the end I could make a few trips a year. I also got the chance to take unpaid leave a few times. All money I had I saved for traveling. I didn’t spent money on clothes or fancy diners.
I realize that I was very lucky to get this chance. Not all bosses will agree on this, but my tip is to talk about it. What’s the worst that could happen? Probably there’s more possible than you ever expected.
WakaWaka: Tourism also has its serious drawbacks in developing countries: degradation of landscapes, endangerment of biodiversity, culture clashes, creation of dependency, etc. Do you manage to make a positive impact and protect the environment when traveling to low-income countries?
Mytravelsecret: For me, the most important thing when traveling is to support local communities. Spend the night in homestays, book excursions with local companies and eat and shop local. Always respect local customs and the environment. Treat others like you want to be treated.
My blog and Instagram account @mytravelsecret is mainly focused on wildlife and nature. I want people to be aware of the abuse on wild animals in the tourism industry. A lot of bad things are going on 🙁 I also share my tips on sustainable wildlife experiences. Which is my biggest passion.
WakaWaka: Would you say you’re a different person now that you were when you left for your very first solo travel? What are the best things you got out of all these experiences?
Mytravelsecret: Travelling changed me completely. My whole perspective on the world switched 180 degrees. The local people I met along the road and all those amazing travel experiences taught me what is important in life. For me, it’s not about having a lot of stuff and a big house, but it’s about the little things and being extremely grateful for the chance I’ve had to live my dream life. After 10 years I sold my house and most of my stuff and it felt great. I do not earn a lot of money, but enough to survive and that’s fine. The freedom it brought me is priceless.
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