20 Books By Fearless Female Travelers To Inspire Your Own New Year Adventure
Updated: Jan 18
With a new year and new travel adventures beckoning, what better way to get inspired to explore new places and cultures than to dive into some exciting female travel memoirs? When taking a leap into a new experience, reading words by fearless kindred spirits have the ability to spark waves of inspiration that can take you on a journey you never thought possible. These memoirs reflect resilient, curious, brilliant independent women reaching beyond themselves, in an effort to connect with the wide world before them, and collecting many lessons about themselves along the way. Some contemporary, some historic, these books never cease to inspire and one can only hope they will lead to even more diverse female voices from around the globe for future memoirs. (*After writing my children’s book “To Be We”, I am finally working on a book collection of road trip essays across America so wish me luck!) You can SHOP these picks in my Amazon Store
- “My Life On The Road” by Gloria Steinem. An acclaimed feminist, Steinem has spent her life on the road on which she shares accounts of how her early years led her to live a transient kind of life, traveling, listening to people, learning, and creating change.
- “I Might Regret This” by Abbi Jacobson. Know for her popular series “Broad City” Abbi writes of a solo cross-country road trip she made following a break up, resulting in a hilarious collection of personal anecdotes, observations and reflections.
- “The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost” by Rachel Friedman. A literary hit, Rachel wrote about randomly booking a ticket to Ireland for four months following college graduation, which lead to a yearlong journey that took her to three continents.
- “What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding” by Kristin Newman. Kristin’s humorous storytelling reflects her profession as a sitcom writer, as she captures her many globetrotting adventures through her candid reflections.
- “It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War” by Lynsey Addario. As a revered photojournalist, Lynsey finds a way to work and travel with a purpose, reflecting on experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, the Congo and beyond, as she set out across the world to face the chaos of crisis.
- “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed. A beloved book (and Reese Witherspoon movie), Cheryl’s tale of losing her mother and marriage led her to impulsively solo hike — without training — more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State.
- “Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. The cult classic (and Julia Roberts fan film favorite) continues to captivate new and old readers alike, connecting those who seek themselves after significant loss. Elizabeth’s sojourn just happened to span a year in Italy, India and Bali.
“The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World” By Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, Amanda Pressner. A lighthearted romp, three friends quit their high pressure media jobs and leave behind everything familiar to embark on a year-long backpacking adventure around the world.
“Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman” by Alice Steinbach. Steinbach seeks to move beyond what others expect or define her as, and instead rediscovers herself in some of the most beautiful and exciting places in the world, from Paris to Milan.
- “Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana” by Stephanie Elizondo Griest. As a young journalist, Stephanie Elizondo Griest leaves Texas for adventures in Russia, and eventually a twelve-nation Communist bloc tour that shattered her preconceived notions.
- “Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback” by Robin Davidson. Recounting her perilous journey across 1,700 miles of hostile Australian desert to the sea with only four camels and a dog for company, Robin overcomes insurmountable obstacles on her quest.
- “Honouring High Places: The Mountain Life” by Junko Tabei. An unbelievable collection of personal stories and reflections based on Juno’s memoirs, as the first woman to climb Mount Everest and the Seven Summits.
- “Gertrude Bell: Queen of the desert” by Georgina Howell. Not her memoir through she was a writer, this “female Lawrence of Arabia” left a privileged British upbringing behind, instead departing for the Middle East, becoming an archaeologist, spy, Arabist, linguist, author, poet, photographer, and legendary mountaineer, all while traveling the globe several times. A film based on her life, starring Nicole Kidman, is currently streaming.
- “Around the World in Seventy-Two Days” by Nellie Bly. A renowned American journalist of her time, Nellie’s infamous investigations eventually led her to pitch her editor at the New York World that she take a trip around the world, attempting to turn the fictional ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ into fact. She chronicled details of her 72-day trip around the world in this 1890 book.
- “Out of Africa” by Karen Blixen. The line “I once had a farm in Africa…” might be ringing in your ears from the gorgeous Oscar-winning film starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep, but Danish novelist Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen writes beautifully of her years in Africa from 1914 to 1931, on a coffee farm near Nairobi.
- “West with the Night” by Beryl Markham. Well ahead of her time, Markam was an aviator and racehorse trainer writing about her life and adventures in and around the Kenya in 1920s and ‘30s.
- “The Discovery of Jeanne Baret” by Ridley Glynis. While this tale predates the popular concept of a travel memoir genre, Jeanne’s extraordinary story was later recounted in detail, recognized as the first woman to have completed a voyage around the world having disguised herself as a man to join Louis Antoine de Bougainville’s expedition in the 1760's.
- “A Woman’s Journey Round the World” by Ida Laura Pfeiffer. An Austrian solo traveler and author, the perspective may feel dated but Ida was one of the first female explorers, whose popular books were translated into seven languages during the early nineteenth century.
- “My Journey to Lhasa” by Alexandra David-Néel. A Belgian–French explorer, spiritualist, Buddhist, and writer, Alexandra was known for her 1924 visit to Lhasa, Tibet, when it was forbidden to foreigners.
- “All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes” by Maya Angelou. Maya writes about her experience living among a group of Black American expats in West Africa and her personal revelations regarding home, belonging and ethnic identity.