As a woman living in the 21st century, I have often read accounts of courageous women of the past who have inspired us and set goals for the generations to come. In 1888, Nellie Bly took a trip around the world to turn the fictional 'Around the World in 80 Days' a reality. She travelled around the world solo and came back to New York on the 72nd day. The inspiring stories of dreamers are not a thing of the past.
Here's a list of female explorers of our time making history and inspiring every woman of this world to set out and chase their dreams.
1. Sarah Marquis
At 16 sixteen this Swiss explorer took up her first job with a European Train Company so that she could travel for free. The hunger to explore the unseen space led her to Turkey when she turned 17 where she crossed the Central Anatolia Region riding a horse.
Her incredible expeditions include a 4-month long walk around United States, a 17-month long walk across Australia and a 3-year long solo walk from Serbia through Asia, later took a boat to Thailand and crossed Australia. In 2014 Sarah published a detailed account of her expeditions in her book, Sauvage par Nature ("Wild by nature").
Image Credits: Sarah Marquis
2. Kira Salak
Expeditions of Kira Salak have inspired millions to choose involvement of low-tech and seek respite in the primitive methods of exploration. Salak has travelled to every continent on the map and her journeys are projects of purpose. She received PEN Award for journalism for reporting war in Congo. She was also the first woman who traversed Papua New Guinea.
She also became the first woman to kayak 600 miles solo to Timbaktoo. Talking about her expeditions on Nat Geo Traveller, Kira Salak said, "I get a lot of raised eyebrows from the men. But on my trip down the Niger River, the village women crowded on the shore and raised their hands in a cheer. They yelled out, 'Femme forte' [strong woman] and cheered for me as I paddled by."
Image Credits: Kira Salak
3. Tania Aebi
At the age of 18 Tania Aebi's father offered her an alternative to college education. She was challenged to sail 27,000 miles around the world on her 26-foot sailing boat, Varuna. In 1985, she began her journey from South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan with a cat as the only companion.
Tania stopped at 23 countries on this expedition around the world and crossed the Caribbean, South Pacific, Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea and North Atlantic Sea. This circumnavigation of the globe at the age between 18 to 21 made her the youngest person to sail around the world.
Image Credits: Tania Aebi
4. Ellen MacArthur
Ellen sailed for the first time when she was 4 and this adventure gave her the freedom she wished for. The story of her life has inspired many people where she saved for 8 years to buy a tiny dinghy and left school at 17 to begin apprenticeship in sailing. She first garnered the media attention when at the age of 24, she finished second in the solo round-the-world sail, being the youngest competitor to complete the voyage.
On 28 November she began her attempt to break the solo record of sailing non-stop around the world. She completed her voyage around the world in 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes 33 seconds which stands as a world record for the 27,354 nautical miles (50,660 km) she covered.
Image Credits: Ellen MacArthur
5. Helen Thayer
This Kiwi explorer is known to travel without guides or support teams. Pulling her own sledge without any resupply during her expedition to North Pole, Helen became the first woman to travel alone to any of the world's poles at the the age of 50. She talks about her expedition in her book, "Polar Dream: The First Solo Expedition by a Woman and Her Dog to the Magnetic North Pole."
This notable explorer and motivational speaker is also the first woman to walk 4,000 miles across the Sahara from Morocco to the Nile River. In another expedition at the age of 63, Helen walked 1,600 miles across the Gobi Desert.
Image Credits: Helen Thayer
6. Premlata Agarwal
At the age of 37 Premlata first ventured into mountaineering. Since she wanted her daughter to get into adventure sports, Premlata Agarwal met the notable Indian mountaineer Bachendri Pal who later became her mentor. In the year 2000 she completed her basic mountaineering course and climbed Mt. Everest in 2011, the same year her daughter got married.
Continuing to be an inspiration for the women all across the world, at 50 Premalata is now a Limca Book of World Record holder for climbing 7 seven peaks in 7 continents which include Everest, Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro, McKinley, Elbrus, Vinson and Carstensz Pyramid.
7. Michelle Kakade
At 35 Michelle rediscovered herself and told her destiny that she was ready for the glorious run ahead in life. 11 years later, this mother of two, is now the first Indian to complete the 4 Desert challenge and holds the record for the most ultra-marathons run by any Indian. This 46-year-old desert marathoner hails from Pune is now better known as the Queen of Endurance.
She is the only Indian to win membership into the Elite 4 Desert Club and she is also the Limca Book Of Records holder to be the first woman to run 171.2 km for 25 hours on a treadmill. Michelle is currently walking across India for the Great India Quadrilateral Run where Michelle will be covering a distance of 6009.5 km, going through 59 major cities of India.
Image Credits: Michelle Kakade
8. Junko Tabei
Junko Tabei was the first woman to climb Mt Everest. The recognition she received inspired her to form the "Ladies Mountaineering Club' in Japan. She led a team of 15 women to Annapura III in 1970 where most of the climbers where not professional climbers. Motivated by this feat, she planned to lead an expedition to Mount Everest.
The bigger task before this team of women climbers was to get sponsors and the financial support. Under the leadership of Junko, the team members sewed their own sleeping bags with cheap goose feather they purchased from China. The expedition that started in May 1975 saw a dreadful end where Tabei along with all the women expeditioners lost their lives when an avalanche struck their camp.
Tabei's courage and resilience still inspires millions of women across the world who are slowly venturing into the field of mountaineering which was perviously a largely male dominated arena.