Female explorer stood atop a mountain looking across the valley.

Be Inspired

Badass Female Explorers and Travellers

Throughout history, the world has been graced by the remarkable exploits of intrepid explorers and adventurers who have pushed the boundaries of human endeavour. 

At Travel with Abeona we found hidden among these trailblazers are female explorers, women whose travels have not only inspired awe but have also shattered societal norms and stereotypes. 

Women who are truly, incredible. 

Not only were their exploits absolutely mind blowing, many of these women undertook their explorations at times when women simply had no rights. 

During periods, when women were not allowed to be educated to a high level, be trained in any profession, and when their children were deemed the property of their husbands… the list goes on. 

In my mind, this makes them not just truly incredible, but truly badass.

Seven Inspirational Female Explorers

This article pulls together some of my favourite badass female travellers. 

A mix of entrepreneurs, journalists, engineers, aviators and philanthropists. Each from different backgrounds, cultures and periods in time.  

Even by today’s standards, these women would be held up as an inspiration.  

Given the eras in which they were born and the immense challenges they faced in their social, economic, educational and personal lives – there aren’t words to adequately describe just how incredible, brave and badass these women were. 

Jean Baret (1740-1807)

Jeanne Baret,  is the first woman to circumnavigate the globe. 

Disguised as a man, she gained passage to a maritime ship on an expedition commissioned by Louis XV to discover opportunities for trade and colonisation. 

During this time she worked as a valet to the expedition’s botanist and sailed around the world. 

“For centuries, Jeanne Baret’s name and place in history were largely forgotten – yet she was the first woman to sail around the world, and made important contributions to the field of botany on her voyages.” Royal Museums Greenwich 

Isabella Bird (1831-1904)

Isabella Bird was an English explorer, writer, and naturalist who defied convention by embarking on solo journeys to remote and challenging destinations. 

Despite facing scepticism and criticism due to her gender, Bird fearlessly travelled to places like the Rocky Mountains, Japan, Persia, and Tibet. 

Her spirit of adventure continued well into her older years. 

As the Victorian Web recalls that at “Almost seventy now, as if to prove that neither sex nor age was a bar to adventure, in 1901 Isabella next undertook a journey of over 1,000 miles in Morocco, including the Atlas Mountains.”

Her vivid descriptions of cultures and landscapes, documented in numerous books and articles, captivated readers and earned her widespread acclaim.

Louise Bourbonnaud (1847 -1915) 

Louise Bourbonnaud was an accomplished writer, explorer, philanthropist and solo female traveller and is known to have visited India, Sri Lanka, Borneo, Sumatra, Vietnam, China, Japan, Africa, Europe and America. 

Her thirst for travel is documented well in the online translation Saigon Through the Eyes of Early Travellers – Louise Bourbonnaud in 1888, Part 1 by Tim Dolling.

“My principle, while travelling, is that I don’t waste time. I’ve come thousands of miles to see and I can’t wait to see… the new always attracts and seduces me, and I can’t resist the pleasure of seeing it again and again.” 

Her travel writing is astute, detailed, emotional and observational, often citing the preconceptions she faced as a woman travelling the world alone.  

Nellie Bly (1864-1922)  

Nellie Bly, born Elizabeth Cochran Seaman, was an American journalist known for her groundbreaking investigative reporting and daring stunts. 

In 1889, she circumnavigated the globe in a record-breaking 72 days, emulating the fictional journey of Jules Verne’s character Phileas Fogg. 

Bly’s fearless pursuit of truth and her determination to challenge stereotypes continue to inspire journalists and adventurers today.

The National Women’s History Museum provides a great overview of her journalism and life’s achievements. 

Emily Hahn (1905-1997)

Emily Hahn, an American writer and journalist, led an unconventional life characterised by her extensive travels and adventurous spirit. 

She is bold, from the start of her career.

She petitioned to study engineering at the University of Wisconsin, a degree previously barred to women. Successful, she went on to become the first woman to obtain a degree in mining engineering from that institution. 

According to the NY Times “Her career as an author began in 1924, when she took a trip across the country in a Model T Ford, and her letters home so captivated her brother-in-law that he sent them to The New Yorker, which bought some of them.”

During her later travels she explored remote regions of Africa and Asia, often living among indigenous communities and documenting her experiences in books and articles. 

Her travels were often questioned. 

As Encyclopedia.com states:  “As a solo white woman in Africa in the early 1930s, Hahn was a rarity and regarded by most as odd, mad, or perhaps a prostitute.”

Hahn’s fearless pursuit of independence and her refusal to conform to societal expectations made her a pioneer in both literature and women’s rights.

Jean Batten (1909-1982)

Jean Batten, a pioneering New Zealand aviator, captured the world’s imagination with her record-breaking solo flights. 

In 1936, she set a new world record for the fastest solo flight from England to New Zealand, cementing her status as one of the greatest aviators of her time. 

Her adventures were not without adversity. Te ara (The Encyclopedia of New Zealand) recalls: 

“Caught in a sandstorm over Iraq, she lost control and went into a spin. Recovering just in time, she landed in the desert and spent the night sleeping under the wing. The next day, over Balúchistán, she hit another sandstorm and was forced down again. On resuming her flight she suffered engine failure and wrecked the aircraft trying to land near Karachi. Miraculously, she crawled out uninjured.”

Many women would never have flown again. 

Following the end of her aviation career, Batten continued to be an explorer and spent most of her later years travelling the world. 

Batten’s courage and determination paved the way for future generations of female pilots.

Annie Londonderry (1870-1947)

Annie Londonderry, born Annie Cohen Kopchovsky, made history as the first woman to bicycle around the world. 

In 1894, she embarked on a daring journey that took her across continents, challenging gender norms and stereotypes along the way. 

Peter Zheutlin, Annie’s great grand nephew and author of Spin on his website points out “her bike ride between 1894 and 1895 was, the New York World declared “the most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman.” 

Londonderry’s audacious feat shattered perceptions of what women were capable of and paved the way for future female cyclists and adventurers.

Exploration knows no bounds

Each of these stories remind us that the spirit of exploration knows no bounds and that anyone, regardless of gender or background, can dare to dream, break convention and achieve the extraordinary. 

Be inspired to venture out and become your own intrepid and badass female explorer.

At Travel with Abeona, we offer a range of luxury travel experiences for women travelling alone.

To begin your luxury solo female travel journey get in contact with our team of luxury travel planners by email abeona@travelwithabeona.com and we’ll be in touch to hear all about your trip so you can stop dreaming and start planning. 

Written by:

Clare Westwood, Founder of Travel with Abeona, Luxury Travel Expert – empowering women to become fearless global explorers.

Travel with Abeona is a luxury travel planning service dedicated exclusively to supporting female travellers wishing to journey alone but without compromising on style.

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