March 6, 2019

“It’s more dangerous for girls to travel.” Such ceaseless comments, coloured by gendered stereotypes have been aggravating women for generations—since the 30s when the first woman flew solo across the Atlantic, even the 60s when the first woman went to space, right up to the 21st century when the first woman safely and successfully explored every country on the planet. To every Y chromosome-challenged, wanderlust-afflicted dreamer out there, here is some inspiration to take the step and leave your bubble this International Women’s Day.

Amelia Earhart

A legendary name like Amelia Earhart is hard to forget, not only because she was the first female pilot to cross the Atlantic Ocean on her own in 1932, but also because her death and disappearance in July 1937 remains one of the most intriguing mysteries the world has ever encountered. Yet, this mystery—where she vanished while flying over the Pacific—may overshadow and undermine her bravery and achievements as an aviator, magnifying the fears of women to push the boundaries and travel solo.

At her peak, Earhart was breaking records, left, right and centre. In October 1922, she took her iconic yellow bi-plane (named The Canary), and became the first woman to fly to an altitude of 4,300m. She also piloted the fastest nonstop transcontinental flight by a lady, covering 3,939 km in 17 hours and 7 minutes.

Valentina Tereshkova

A Russian cosmonaut who is still alive and kicking at 82, Valentina Tereshkova never enjoyed the level of fame Earhart did, despite being the world’s first space-woman. It was 1963 when she stepped into the Vostok 6 spacecraft and blasted off from Kazakhstan into the stratosphere. What’s more, she was only 26. Orbiting Earth a stunning 48 times over three days, she ended up spending more hours alone in space than all of her male American counterparts combined.

After returning from her historic mission, she continued her adventures on land and travelled the world. The women’s rights activist often spoke against how spacesuits and spacecraft systems were designed by men for men, saying, “Human space flight cannot develop any further without the active participation of women.” Eventually, she settled into politics as a member of the Russian Federation to enforce real change.

Marie Colvin

Take one look at Marie Colvin, and you’ll know she’s an absolute badass. An American journalist who wore a pirate’s patch (from losing her eye in Sri Lanka after a grenade blast), Colvin wasn’t some foolhardy globetrotter. She was a frontline correspondent who chased after stories that placed her in precarious situations, stories that needed to be told. Reporting mainly for The Sunday Times, she covered war-torn countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and East Timor, risking PTSD as she ran towards the heart of danger.

While her appearance resembled that of a hardened renegade, behind closed doors, Colvin battled fear, self-doubt and indecision as much as the next person, writing, “What am I doing?” in emails to friends. The only difference was that she never allowed those feelings control her actions. Although her story was cut short in 2012 when an airstrike in Syria killed her, she continues to inspire valour, proving one’s gender is not an excuse to stay in and sit back.

Cassie De Pecol

Cassie De Pecol’s story starts in July 2015 when she flew to Palau. But she wasn’t there to bask in crystal clear waters and feed the sea turtles. The now-27-year-old was on a mission to be the fastest and youngest person (not woman, person) to visit every country in the world. At the time, the last guy to hold the world record took more than six years to hit 194 countries. De Pecol only needed 18 months and 26 days to cover the 196 sovereign nations.

The entire expedition set her back US$200,000 (with a few sponsorships), but rather than fame and vanity, it was all in the fame of promoting peace and sustainable tourism. In her travels, she also collected water samples for Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, and acted as an ambassador for the International Institute of Peace Through Tourism. Considering that she came back in one piece, it’s safe to say that women need not stay away from unpopular destinations and taking the less beaten path.

Terra Roam

Further driving home the point is Terra Roam (an apt last name), who walked 17,000km around Australia with nothing but a barrow of essentials. The mammoth walkathon (which raised AUS$20,000 for crisis support non-profit Lifeline) concluded in May 2018, but saw the 47-year-old braving harsh climates, dislocated bones, several bouts of depression, and even pneumonia.

This wasn’t her first sojourn though. In the 28 years she’s been solo trekking, although she has been chased by feral dogs and nearly murdered by a truck driver, she once bumped into the Dalai Lama on the road and travelled with a theatre troupe. Clearly, it’s not always rainbows and sunshine, but she came out of everything with enough stories to last an eternity.