Memoirs of Ten Women with Wanderlust

Adventures, mishaps, loves and successes on the road of life

By Kelly Westhoff

Women on Wanderlust: Here are ten women writers who will get you charged up for travel!
Women on Wanderlust: Here are ten women writers who will get you charged up for travel!

I have a bad case of wanderlust. When I am not traveling, I think about traveling. I surf the web for deals on airfares. I stare at maps. I hang out in the travel sections of bookstores. While I am there, invariably, I am drawn to travel memoirs written by women.

Luckily, these books are not in short supply. Adventurous and daring women are hitting the road more and more often, and plenty of these trailblazing women are coming home and writing about their trips. Their travels have taken them to India, Chile, the Ivory Coast, China, and Bali. Indeed, women are not staying at home. They are getting out there. They are traveling the world. And they are telling the rest of us what it was like.

Feel a Kinship

When I pick up a travel memoir written by a woman, I feel an immediate fellowship with the author. Perhaps I have never stepped a foot in Moscow, but that doesn’t seem to matter. The woman that was there experienced some of the same feelings and situations that I encountered in Athens, Buenos Aires or Havana. Her mishaps become mine; her perceptions remind me of my own journeys.Women on Wanderlust: Here are ten women writers who will get you charged up for travel!

Landing in foreign city requires pluck and wits, neither of which are lacking in travel tales written by women. The next time your wanderlust kicks in, perhaps a woman’s travel memoir will help satiate your daydreams. Or, if you’ve always wanted to travel but just haven’t done it yet, perhaps a woman’s travelogue will give you the kick you need to start packing.

Here are ten travel memoirs written by women that are sure to keep your mind traveling while your feet are (temporarily) planted at home.

A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena De Blasi

In Venice, Fernando fell in love with Marlena De Blasi at first sight. It did not matter that he was an Italian banker and she was an American chef, or that she was only in Venice on vacation. He pursued her … all the way back to St. Louis where De Blasi finally agreed to give romance with Fernando a whirl. She left her life, job and grown children to marry Fernando and move to Italy, where together, they forged a life together by eating their way through the countryside.

Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris by Sarah Turnbull

Sarah Turnbull fell in love on the road … in love with travel and with a Frenchman. When Frederic asked her to move into his apartment in a Parisian suburb, she jumped a flight to France. Little did she know the transformation she was about to undergo. Almost French follows Turnbull’s struggles as she learns to shop, dress, eat and behave like a Parisian. Plus, if she and Frederic are to stay together, they must each learn to accept the other’s cultural idiosyncrasies.

Avoiding Prison and Other Noble Vacation Goals by Wendy Dale

Wendy Dale traveled to Costa Rica and ended up in jail. Well, she wasn’t actually in jail, her boyfriend was, but she couldn’t just leave him there! Dale works the legal system in Costa Rica to get Francisco released, and then they move to Colombia together. But the bars that once separated them prove too thick; eventually, they part ways. In the meantime, however, Dale treks to Honduras, Bolivia and Lebanon. Plus, she is sure to make you laugh.

Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea by Kira Salak

Kira Salak had guts. She traveled alone to Papua New Guinea where she canoed and walked her way across the island, meeting cannibals, missionaries and shamans. And she met herself. Salak’s physical journey turned into an emotional one as she grappled with the reasons why she wanted to travel to Papua New Guinea in the first place. Her account is a fascinating read about a corner of the world that remains largely unknown.

Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonald

Sarah Macdonald had already been to India once. She remembered the beggars, the filth, the body odor. Needless to say, when her husband accepted a job offer there, she wasn’t thrilled. She went, however, and slowly grew to appreciate modern-day New Delhi. Oddly, she becomes interested in India’s religions despite her claims that she is an atheist. Her writing style is easy to read, honest, vivid and often funny.

Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village by Sarah Erdman

Sarah Erdman was a Peace Corp volunteer in an Ivory Coast village for two years. Armed with a college degree and a few months training, Erdman is supposed to fill the role of midwife, along with other community needs. In the process she forges friendships, teaches AIDS prevention and discovers the village’s view of the world. She leaves the Ivory Coast with a deep understanding of a culture far different from her own.

Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone by Mary Morris

In many ways, Mary Morris paved the way for today’s women writing travel memoirs. Nothing to Declare was published in 1988. It recounts Morris’ time in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. She went there seeking quiet and time to write, which she found. But she also found friendship with Lupe, her next door neighbor. Morris takes many side trips through Mexico and Central America during her stay and often struggles with machismo attitudes and her own emotional scars. This is a classic read for any woman traveling solo.

Somebody’s Heart is Burning: A Woman Wanderer in Africa by Tanya Shaffer

Tanya Shaffer turned down her boyfriend’s marriage proposal and went to Africa instead. She traveled to Mali, Kenya and Ghana. In order to travel cheaply, she volunteered in various communities along the way. Her descriptions of the villages she visited and people she met on the road are compelling. Shaffer has chutzpa and it comes through in her writing.

Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World by Rita Golden Gelman
Rita Golden Gelman was an unlikely backpacker. She was an out-of-shape, middle-aged woman going through a divorce. She wanted a new life for herself, but didn’t exactly know how to achieve it. During a trip to Mexico, that new life took shape: she would travel the world. Tales of a Female Nomad is Gelman’s account of her 15 years on the road. She makes her way through Central America, New Zealand, Bali, Thailand and more.

Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana Stephanie Greist headed to Moscow at the age of 21 because she wanted to study Russian. She ended up spending 4 years on the road. She traversed continents and countries, but Russia, China and Cuba are featured most prominently in this travel account. Greist’s tale is easy to fall into and full of cultural and linguistic mishaps. And she falls in love … twice.