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Women who Travel: Then and Now

by Travelbag on 08 March 2019, 09:03AM

woman at airport

Today is International Women’s Day, so we’re taking some time to think about how travel has changed – and is still changing – for women. It’s fair to say that both travel and equality have moved on a lot since the first woman sailed across the globe 250 years ago. Thanks to technology, the world’s much smaller than it used to be. You can travel further and faster. Compasses and maps have been replaced by phones and apps. And, while you’re away, it’s easy to keep in touch with people – or totally change your plans – with just the touch of a button.

All things considered, it’s hardly surprising that more women are travelling than ever before. From female explorers in the Georgian era, to modern-day solo travellers, we take a look at some of the biggest milestones for women who travel.


1769: Jeanne Baret sails around the world

Botanist Jeanne Baret was the first woman to sail around the globe – and she did it dressed as a man. In a time when gender equality was unheard of, women were totally banned from sailing on French naval ships. But her future husband and fellow botanist, Philibert Commerson, had landed a dream job onboard the first round-the-world French Naval expedition. So Baret disguised herself as a man and enlisted on the expedition as a valet, under the name of Jean Baret. As part of a 300-strong crew, she sailed the world, visiting South America and New Zealand, before finishing her journey in Mauritius. Baret lived there until 1775, when she eventually returned to France.


1889: Nellie Bly travels across the globe in 72 days

In 1888, Elizabeth Cochran Seaman – AKA journalist Nellie Bly – suggested to her editor at The New York World that she should embark on a worldwide trip. She wanted to bring the novel Around the world in 80 days to life, and write about it for the newspaper. The following year, Bly set off on her 40,000-kilometre journey, ticking off England, France, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Japan in the process. Bearing in mind women couldn’t even vote at this time, this kind of adventure was unheard of – but she did it. And it only took her 72 days, rather than 80.

Sri Lanka

1932: Amelia Earhart flies solo across the Atlantic

Amelia Earhart took female pilots to new heights in 1932, when she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. The journey from Canada to Northern Ireland took her just under 15 hours. Nowadays, you could fly from the UK to Kuala Lumpur in that time – and you’d still have two hours to spare.


1975: Junko Tabei climbs Mount Everest

In 1975, Japanese mountaineer Junko Tabei became the first woman to conquer Mount Everest. Her team – known as the Japanese Women’s Everest Expedition – was made up entirely of women, including teachers, mothers and a computer programmer. When she approached newspapers and TV companies asking for sponsorship, Tabei was frequently asked why she wasn’t at home raising children instead. But she defied cultural expectations. As well as successfully climbing Everest, she also reached the top of the highest mountain in Antarctica. And, in 1992, Tabei became the first woman in the world to complete the Seven Summits.

Mount Everest views

2017: Cassandra De Pecol visits every country in the world

Aged just 27, Cassie De Pecol became the first documented woman to visit every sovereign nation on the planet. Starting in July 2015, De Pecol travelled to 196 countries in just 18 months and 26 days. When she completed her trip in February 2017, she not only became the youngest woman to have visited every country, but also the fastest to have done so.


Now: Female solo travel hits record high

When it comes to travelling, more and more women are choosing to go it alone – whether that means taking a quick solo city break, or backpacking for months at a time. The recent Global Travel Survey found that 50% of women globally have taken a trip by themselves, while 75% plan to do so in the next few years. In terms of destinations, the USA, Europe and Australia tend to be the most popular places for female solo travellers.

Going solo doesn’t always mean that you’re alone, either. An increasing number of women are also booking tour holidays. It’s the perfect compromise, allowing travellers to combine independence with companionship – which is particularly comforting if you haven’t holidayed alone before. You never know, it could even be the stepping stone to travelling solo...

woman travelling in Asia

Are you planning a solo trip? Take a look at our fantastic destinations, or call our experts on 0203 944 2201 for some travel tips. Alternatively, book a spot on one of our exciting tours, and start planning your next adventure.

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