Ten Inspirational Women Travelers
Lists: Julia Ross celebrates women who have blazed their own trails
6) Melinda Gates
When you’re one of the world’s wealthiest philanthropists, it’s probably easy to delegate. But former Microsoft executive Melinda Gates is out on the front lines, traveling to places like Kenya and Bangladesh to try to figure out what works in the fight against global poverty and disease. When the co-chairs of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation travel together, it’s Melinda who connects with people in the tuberculosis ward, balancing her husband’s technocratic approach. But it’s her leadership in tackling some of the world’s great transnational threats that makes her a role model for anyone who cares about the plight of people beyond their own back yard.
7) Gertrude Bell
Was there anything this woman couldn’t do? Archaeologist, linguist, writer, diplomat—Bell was a renaissance woman to be reckoned with. One of Britain’s leading Arabists, she spent much of her life roaming the deserts of the Middle East and is credited as being the architect of modern-day Iraq. Interestingly, her letters from that country were being circulated at the Pentagon as recently as three years ago in an effort to make sense of post-invasion chaos.
8) Samantha Power
What to say about the brilliant, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, lawyer and academic? Power’s incisive reporting from places like Sudan, Bosnia and Rwanda has secured her place as one of the world’s leading thinkers on U.S. foreign policy, human rights and genocide. For the rest of us, outside the foreign policy stratosphere, her writing exposes thorny issues that lie at the nexus of politics and culture—issues we debate with ourselves and others as we travel. Power recently took a senior post on the National Security Council, but here’s hoping her journalism sees a second life. The woman’s still under 40, after all.
9) Naomi Duguid
It’s fitting that Canadian food writer Duguid met her husband, Jeffrey Alford, on a rooftop in Lhasa in 1985. She gave up the practice of law that summer, and the two decided to devote their lives to traveling across Asia, photographing and writing about food cultures for a series of award-winning cookbooks. A recent New Yorker profile dubbed Duguid and Alford “culinary geographers,” a role that’s showcased nicely in their most recent book, Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China. Just as the book describes the pulled noodles and flatbreads of China’s minority regions, it examines how these cultures are struggling to survive in the face of massive Han Chinese migration. Given their political bent, it’ll be interesting to see how Duguid and Alford treat their next subject: Myanmar (Burma).
10) Jo Rawlins Gilbert
Never heard of Ms. Gilbert? She appeared in a recent New York Times story on the first group of tourists to visit post-war Iraq. There she was, in the lede paragraph: A 79-year-old retired probation officer from California who said of Baghdad, “If it opened up, I wanted to go.” Googling Gilbert turns up her wonderfully written travel blog, in which she has chronicled recent trips to Mali (camping) and Jordan (digging among ruins) in a wry and practical voice. She’s been to Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen, and says Kashmir and North Korea are on her list. Best of all, she provides cost and tour information for each trip, making even the wildest adventure sound perfectly within reach.