Wise words from some of our travel heroines to help you celebrate International Women's Day 2012
March 8 is officially International Women's Day. Women around the world commemorate their struggles and celebrate their achievements.
From Freya Stark and Isabelle Bird, through to the travel heroines featured below, brave, remarkable women have always forged new paths and inspired others to follow in their footsteps.
Today we're celebrating the remarkable achievements of some of our favourite women travellers over the last 12 months.
Author of 23 books and one of the great adventurers of our time, Dervla Murphy recently turned 80. Hilary Bradt had the rare chance to chat with Dervla and found her in a typically feisty, self-deprecating mood.
Dervla talks about the only time she feared for her life, the most terrifying toilet she has ever encountered and the moment her work became more serious.
“Writing the Three Mile Island book sort of percolated through to all subsequent books,” she says. “I think, anyway, you become more politically aware as you get older. You can’t just go on writing about jolly adventures.”
The good news is that turning 80 doesn't seem to have slowed her down. Dervla's only concession to old age is a wheelie-bag. And even then, it's only because the surgeon who replaced her hip insisted.
'I can’t bear it!' she says. 'It’s the biggest disadvantage for me in old age. Not being able to wear a rucksack.'
Speaking of Hilary Bradt, she is something of a travel legend herself. Co-founder of Bradt Guides, writer and occasional sculptor, Hilary was awarded an MBE for her services to travel. Her passion for travel is undimmed and she continues to raise awareness for the charities and issues she believes in.
Hilary has started writing a series of blogs for us that are at once useful, controversial and hilarious. From phallic obsessions in Bhutan, through to the joys of hitchhiking and taking risks, there is no area of travel that Hilary hasn't explored. And isn't afraid of exploring again.
“Stuff happens – and can happen anywhere,” she says. “ So the point is, if there’s a country or region you really want to see, just do it! Spend time on your homework, learn what the potential risks are, then take the plunge. It’s like dropping out of that aeroplane. A moment of fear at what you’ve set out to do, then pure exhilaration, followed by a bit of smug boasting when you make it safely home.”
Renowned chef Christine Manfield spent five years travelling around India collection heirloom recipes from every region of the country. The resulting book, Tasting India, is at once an extraordinary cookbook and a detailed social document.
“I didn’t want it to be just a recipe book,” says Christine. “I wanted to look at food in the context of its culture. I think that background is going to give you a much greater insight and understanding and appreciation of how food fits in India and why it’s different across the country.”
Tasting India has proved a huge hit around the world, particularly India. India Today was so impressed that they called for it to replace Camellia Panjabi's venerable 50 Great Curries as the gift to give newly-wed couples heading off to live overseas.
If you love India, if you love Indian food, you must read about how Christine put this extraordinary book together and her plans for the future.
In a world where male adventurers are tweeting every time they flex a bicep, it's nice to know that there's a girl out there quietly going about the business of having adventures in some of the most challenging countries in the world. Single, determined and unassuming, Marie Javins is proof that gender need not be an issue if you want to travel to every corner of the globe independently.
You may already be following Marie's adventures on our Wander Woman blog. You'll know all about her encounter with the Fish Head Men on the Mauritanian coast or the time she was propositioned in a distinctly Gabonese way on the bus to Mouila. The good news is that her journey is far from over.
Marie's last dispatch came from Pointe Noire. The rest of Africa – and Asia – awaits.
Considerably younger than Dervla Murphy, Sara Wheeler has none-the-less become something of an institution in the travel writing genre. Her books about the Poles – both North and South – are regarded as classics.
Over the past twelve months she has turned 50 and released a collection of her writing to commemorate the occasion. From meeting George Best during an unlikely family trip to Moscow to essays about her travel heroines, Access All Areas is a celebration of her life in travel to this point.
The occasion was also marked with an in-depth interview with Wanderlust. Sara spoke of her inspirations, the impact having children has had on her travels and the importance of putting a figure in the landscape.
“I think the interaction between people and landscapes is very interesting,” she says. “I’m deeply moved by landscapes but I think the reason I’m not a nature writer is that really, in the end, it’s people that I’m interested in.”
International Women's Day is now an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia.
In China, Madagascar and Nepal IWD is a holiday, but for women only.
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