Two terrific stories of contemporary women adventurers/explorers:
Dutch teenager Laura Dekker succeeded in sailing solo around the world. I’ve been following her story since 2009, when the Dutch government denied her permission to set out on this journey at 14, citing child welfare issues. Given what lots of kids endure just by virtue of turning up at school, I find it difficult to sympathize with their position on this. But all’s well that ends well, and Laura’s been able to complete her journey at last. Her website is here.
Also: Felicity Aston has become the first women to cross the Antarctica solo, in fifty-nine days. I have a real fascination for tales of Antarctic exploration, although personally I loathe being cold. A few years ago I had a brief period of fantasizing about working down at McMurdo Station after reading Jerri Nielson’s Icebound (sadly, she’s since succumbed to the cancer that first surfaced while she was working there) before coming to my senses. Antarctica’s on my long list of places to visit someday, but I don’t expect to be particularly adventurous or ground-breaking in the attempt.
There are still too few women travellers and adventurers as role models, although if we scratch below history’s surface they certainly exist. (Try eleventh-century Japanese lady-in-waiting Lady Sarashina’s As I Crossed the Bridge of Dreams for one of the earliest surviving accounts of a woman traveller.) When I was a child, I used to wish I’d been born a boy, because as far as I could see, boys got to do things and girls didn’t. I hope that is less the case for kids today, but I’m not sure it is; Bella Swan came after Buffy, not before, which makes me think that old gender stratification is in many ways as pernicious as ever.
*From The Boke of Margery Kempe, the account of another medieval woman traveller (and mystic). In Modern English: For she should then make all the world to wonder on her.