Five shining examples of female explorers living the travelling dream and caring for the planet.
Amanda Breakwell | UNITED KINGDOM
Think of famous explorers and chances are male names will spring to mind: Christopher Columbus, Neil Armstrong, Captain James Cook, Edmund Hillary, and Sir Ranulph Fiennes, to name but a few. In this male-dominated area, it can seem that female explorers are few and far between.
Yet, female explorers do exist. And there are plenty of them out there! Female explorers might not get the same recognition as their male counterparts — and often face more setbacks and challenges to get their story heard — but exploration wouldn’t be the same without a woman’s perspective.
Here are five modern-day female explorers giving their male peers a run for their money.
Liz Clark got a taste for life on the ocean waves as a youngster. She learned to sail aged seven and spent six months on a boat in Mexico at 10-years-old. Consequently, this trip injected a love for the sea into Liz’s blood. But, it also opened her eyes to global environmental issues such as pollution. After a successful spell as a champion surfer, Liz set off to sail the world’s oceans on her boat, Swell.
What I find incredibly inspiring about Liz is that despite racking up an impressive 20,000 nautical miles, she believes that the most important kind of exploration happens within. By following her dreams, living a simple life close to nature and becoming more self-aware, Liz has achieved a huge sense of fulfilment. It’s this internal happiness that continues to propel her dreams, and share her experiences with others to motivate them to follow their hearts’ desires.
Liz’s passion for sustainable living and environmental protection is evident in her involvement with the Changing Tides Foundation. This organisation works with local groups on a global scale to raise awareness of important issues and promote positive change. By collaborating with eco-friendly brands, the Foundation encourages female explorers to adventure with a conscious mind and leave a minimal footprint.
As an award-winning adventure and climbing photographer, Beth Wald has raised the profile of females in this male-dominated arena. Having travelled the world to many off-the-radar destinations, Beth focuses on capturing images of at-risk cultures and environments. Through her work, Beth documents how indigenous mountain tribes in Afghanistan and precarious ecosystems in the Amazon are fighting to survive against environmental degradation and social change. From the icy Arctic, to the dusty heat of African valleys, the peaks of the Himalayas and war-torn regions of the world, Beth has a canny knack of getting to know the locals and understand their world, which she then translates into visual narrative to educate and promote change. Beth has teamed up with organisations such as the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Alaska Conservation Foundation to educate and empower others through her exploration work.
Unfulfilled with her 9-to-5 existence, Bex Band decided to become a full-time adventurer. She’s since notched up visits to more than 40 countries. Standout feats include trekking across Israel and Jordan’s desert, cross-country skiing around the Arctic Circle and sailing from Sweden to the UK.
A keen conservationist, Bex adopts a minimalist lifestyle and travels on a low budget. She’s been involved with marine conservation work and a whale shark eco project. Whilst paddling the width of the UK, Bex collected over 3,000 pieces of plastic rubbish waste. Aiming to spread the love for adventure, Bex has set up a community for aspiring female explorers, called Love Her Wild. She also imparts useful advice on her website that encourages women to fulfil their dreams of a nomadic lifestyle. What enthuses me about Bex is that she describes herself as ‘ordinary’. This gives other ‘ordinary’ gals (or guys) out there motivation and hope to achieve similar ambitions.
To say that Alison Teal had a less-than-ordinary upbringing is an understatement. Raised by ‘free-range’ parents, home to Alison was an assortment of remote, wilderness locations. With her father a renowned National Geographic photographer, Alison grew up accompanying him on his global work assignments. She describes being home-schooled at the foot of Mount Everest or on the back of a camel in the desert. With this kind of upbringing, it was only natural that Alison would become an intrepid adventurer herself.
Alison’s films, photography and blogs are more than just a catalogue of her travels. They tell her stories in a unique and incredibly witty way. Education is important to Alison. It’s her mission to get vital messages across to youngsters on issues of sustainability, survival and happiness. Through her inspiring musings, Alison also unravels ancient mysteries surrounding little-known cultures and traditions. So infectious is her storytelling, that Alison has earned the accolades of ‘female Indiana Jones’ and the ‘Oprah of adventure’.
Alison has a pink surfboard that accompanies her on her trips, but green is a colour that suits her better. Her surfboard and bikinis are made from recycled and sustainable materials. A keen surfer, Alison is passionate about protecting the planet’s oceans. She takes an active interest in the Waste to Waves recycle program and has gained certification from Sustainable Surf.
Although Jill Heinerth’s early ambitions to become an astronaut never came to fruition, she has excelled in her second choice of career as an aquanaut. In fact, Jill has earned some pretty awe-inspiring credentials as a technical diver. Having visited some of the most out-of-the-way, treacherous underwater cave systems on the planet, no other woman has trekked further below sea level than Jill. What’s especially mind-blowing is that more people have stepped on the moon than the watery ecosystems that Jill has visited on this planet, proving just how remote they are. With more than 7,000 dives under her belt, Jill has explored vast water cave systems below the Sahara Desert and inside Antarctica’s icebergs.
As an experienced photographer and filmmaker, Jill has captured amazing footage of secret water worlds. Yet, Jill’s purpose isn’t just to inform; she aims to inspire and educate. Through collaboration with scientists, she hopes her dives will teach others about the environment and safeguarding scarce water resources. To highlight the plight of endangered freshwater resources, Jill undertook a 7,000-mile cycle expedition across Canada. Jill’s endeavours are captured in her documentary We Are Water.
The awe-inspiring work of these trailblazing female explorers prove that anyone with dreams and ambitions can take on the world. Above all, by being environmentally conscious on your travels and reducing your footprint, you can make a difference to the planet, too.