International Women’s Day

Today – 8th March – is International Women’s Day, and I thought that this would be a good opportunity to share stories of some of the women adventurers who have inspired me.

Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent and Jo Huxster (Tuk Tuk to the Road)

This is one of the first adventure books I read, telling the tale of Antontia and Jo driving a custom built tuk tuk from Bangkok to Brighton. As well as being a fascinating read that opened my eyes to the power of doing something out of the normal, its also a book written to raise awareness of mental health. Both writers discuss the role mental health has played in their life, with Jo having struggled with serious depression and both writers having lost friends to suicide. Although I didn’t latch on to this when I first read it, the way that both writers embrace mental health as something normal has had a profound impact on my life.

Anne Mustoe (A Bike Ride)

In 1983, Anne Mustoe, a headteacher of an all girls school, was on holiday in India when she was inspired by a single cyclist enjoying the freedom of the road. Later on the holiday she hired a bike for a day, fell in love, and decided to cycle across India – as part of a bike trip around the world. She had no cycling experience, couldn’t change a tyre, but knew that travelling by bike would allow her to pursue her passion for exploring classical history. She set off in 1987, following some of the great human movements including the Roman road network, Alexander the Great’s march to the Indus, and exploring the route of European pioneers across America. She had to push her bike over most of the mountains, and faced the scorn of men around the world for being a solo female traveller – but she did it, and she did it on her terms. She taught me the value of following your dreams, and not listening to nay-sayers.

Anna McNuff (The Pants of Perspective)

In this book – one of several that Anna has written – Anna heads off the New Zealand, and runs the length of both islands. Anna faces difficult situations with a boundless joy, meeting some amazing people and also openly sharing the challenges of loneliness she faced. It’s the sort of book that makes you want to grab a rucksack and head out the door – that makes you feel like you can do anything.

Dervla Murphy (Full Tilt – from Ireland to India with a bicycle)

Dervla Murphy has written lots of books, but this is the one that stands out in my mind. During Dervla’s journey, she experienced wolves, floods, robbery, broken ribs, crossed glaciers, and much more. She came up with the idea for the journey when she was ten, and kept quietly planning until she set off with a few pairs of spare clothes and a gun (which she had to use to scare off the aforementioned wolves). Dervla set off in 1965, and to ensure a supply of spare tyres she posted them to British embassies along her route. This is an epic adventure, and one which truly shows what can happen if you step into the unknown.

Ishbel Holmes (Me, my Bike, and a Street Dog called Lucy)

This story starts off as a bike adventure, but quickly shows what can happen if you embrace the possibilities. Ishbel tries to help a street dog who is being attacked, and ends up following him to an animal shelter and (eventually – spoiler alert) adopting Lucy. Often adventure books can focus on performance, speed, distance – and so a book that focuses on the joy of love is refreshing.

Helen, Niki, Frances, and Janette (Four Mums in a Boat)

Adventure books can come in all forms but there’s something so charming about this tale. Four mums set out to do something truly extraordinary, breaking a world record, and literally facing death. “We all underestimate middle-aged women. We underestimate ourselves all the time … you are as good as you want to be”.

And finally – it’s not a book, but I want to highlight my cousin Helen as well (who hosts the Inside Tri Show podcast)

Helen is – I think – the first person I met who ran a marathon. She chased her dreams – from reporting on international sporting events for the BBC to competing in Ironman races to long distance bike rides. Helen’s enthusiasm for life is infectious, and she now works in Cancer and Exercise Rehabilitation for MOVE Charity, supporting people who have been diagnosed with Cancer.

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