100 Places Every Woman Should Go

Travelers’ Tales

February 5, 2007

Seeking the tranquility of a Buddhist meditation center? The raucousness of a rumba club? Stephanie Elizondo Griest’s guidebook, 100 Places Every Woman Should Go, will not only inspire but compel you to hit the road – in a group, with a friend, or sola. Discover the world’s best places to:

* commune with the feisty spirits of heroines like Hatshepsut, Sappho, Catherine the Great, and Frida Kahlo
* race a camel, yak, or pony across the Mongolian steppe
* dive for pearls in Bahrain
* take a mud bath in a volcano off the coast of Colombia
* dance with Voodoo priestesses in Benin and urban cowboys in Texas
* roast in a steamy banya with a bottle of vodka (or two) in Moscow

Divided into sections like “Powerful Women and Their Places in History,” “Places of Indulgence,” and “Places of Adventure,” this guidebook includes contact information, resources, and recommended reading. “Ten Tips For Wandering Women” features safety advice plus pointers on how to stop departing airplanes and avoid getting tossed off Trans-Siberian trains for not having your papers in order. The foreword is by Holly Morris, author of Adventure Divas: Searching the Globe for Women Who Are Changing the World.

» Available in paperback and eBook at Amazon.com

100 Places Every Woman Should Go landed in bookstores everywhere on February 25, 2007, and Stephanie traveled to more than 30 cities promoting it. Her efforts payed off: 100 Places won the GOLD PRIZE for Best Travel Book of 2007 by the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation’s Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition. It also won “Best Travel Book” in the 2008 International Latino Book Awards. Currently in its fourth printing, the guidebook has been featured on:

* Martha Stewart’s “Living Today” radio show on Sirius
* ABC News “Satellite Sisters” radio talk show
* Jane Fonda’s Greenstone Media Corporation’s “Radio Ritas” show
* Jean Feraca’s “Here on Earth” Wisconsin Public Radio program
* Yvette Benavides’ “Texas Matters” on Texas Public Radio
* Sandy Dhuyvetter’s “Travel Talk Radio”
* Paul O’Brien’s “Pathways” on KBOO in Portland, Oregon
* KiiiTV-3 Morning Show in Corpus Christi, Texas
* KZTV-10 Noon Show in Corpus Christi, Texas
* KRISTV-6 6 p.m. News in Corpus Christi, Texas
* Judy LaPointe Jenning’s “Healthy U” Show on ESPN 1230AM Radio
* WCSH6 NBC Show “207” in Portland, Maine
* Mary Jones Show on “The Talk of Connecticut”
* Azumano Travel Show with Pat Boyle in Portland, Oregon
* WTOC-11 Morning Show in Savannah, Georgia
* USA Today
* The Boston Globe
* Chicago Tribune
* The San Francisco Chronicle
* O Globo (Brazil)
* The Utne Reader
* World Pulse Magazine
* The Austin-American Statesman
* The Corpus Christi Caller Times
* The Capital Times of Madison, Wisconsin
* The Santa Cruz Sentinel
* The Contra-Costa Times
* The San Antonio Express-News
* The Princeton Packet of Princeton, New Jersey
* US-1 of New Jersey
* The Santa Fe New Mexican
* The Phoenix of Portland, Maine
* The Savannah Morning News
* The Cleveland Plain Dealer
* AOL.com
* Texas Exes’ Alcalde
* Marcela Landres’ March and June editions of “Latinidad”
* WorldHum.com
* “Diva Visionaries” section of TangoDiva.com
* WanderlustAndLipstick.com
* WrittenRoad.com
* DivineCaroline.com
* GoNomad.com
* BeliefNet.com
* Guanabee.com
* Gadling.com
* Commitment.com
* WomenWorking.com
* Rolf Pott’s “Traveling Light” Yahoo Column

Wanderlust pumps through my veins: I’ve explored two dozen countries and all but four of the United States in the past decade, and ache for more. Every place is glorious in its own special way, but now and then, I stumble upon somewhere sacred. It usually takes a moment to recover, and when I do, I scan the room (or wilderness) for a pair of eyes to share it with. No matter where I am—downtown Manhattan or the Mongolian steppe—it is inevitably in the eyes of another woman that I find a similar spark or sense of wonderment. Afterward, I can only describe the place as one where “every woman should go.”

When Travelers’ Tales approached me with this project, memories of these places surged forth. I scribbled down half the list in half an hour, then started calling my girlfriends (and a few select boy friends). Nearly one hundred interviews later, this book was born. Within its covers, you’ll discover places where women made history, where we battled for our rights to rule, to speak, to vote, to be free. You’ll find places of inspiration and enlightenment, such as the 88 Sacred Temples of Japan, and places of purification and beautification, such as the mud bath volcanoes of Cartagena, Colombia. Looking for a little adventure? There’s surfing in Costa Rica, mountain trekking in Pakistan, canyoneering in Utah, pearl diving in Bahrain. Or do you just want to indulge? Choose between white-sand beaches in Zanzibar, champagne tours in France, and chicken tamales drowned in black mole sauce in Oaxaca. For every site of struggle on this planet (Rwanda, Beirut, Cambodia, New Orleans) there is a site of celebration (rumba clubs, full moon haflas, flamenco festivals, Carnivale).

In short, this book documents places where being a woman is affirmed and confirmed; where you will be energized and impassioned.

Perhaps you are wondering: does this mean there will be no men? Not a chance: in some locales—Rio de Janeiro, Havana, Bali—they are a main attraction! But we all know how catcalls from street corners and wandering hands in crowded subways can tarnish an otherwise fabulous trip. So pains were taken to include places populated by men who are at least somewhat respectful to foreign women. Of course, not all women are similarly received on the open road. A Bulgarian friend of mine, who has dark Mediterranean features, strolled across southern Italy without incident, while a busty blonde American friend got harassed at every turn. Our perceived race, class, religion, and sexual orientation can have just as much—or more—impact abroad as at home.

Another initial goal was to choose only places where local women, indigenous people, and the environment are treated with kindness, but it was nearly impossible to find 100 of them: inequities are too omnipresent. Instead, I tried to highlight the work of local community activists so that if you, like me, feel guilty downing a glass of Chardonnay in Napa Valley while undocumented farm workers are hunched over in the sun, you know where to volunteer or send a check afterward.

These destinations can be visited with your girlfriends, your mother, your daughter, or your partner. But hopefully you’ll someday travel to at least one alone, to take on Mother Road on your own terms and experience what she has to offer. Be forewarned that she will push you to your physical, spiritual, and psychological limits—then nudge you a few steps further. But at the end of the journey, you’ll be more self-reliant and selfassured, and ever more the woman.

May your travels take you far and wide! And if you discover yet another place every woman should go, please drop me a line. It just might make it into our next edition.

— Stephanie Elizondo Griest, December, 2006

“This is a veritable encyclopedia of destinations that appeal to women in some way, however vague… [and it] reaches into unexpected corners of the world. Whether urging women to submerge in a bubbling crater of mud outside of Cartagena, Colombia, go pearl diving in Bahrain or visit New York for a pilgrimage to the birthplace of women’s rights, the thoughtful narratives come from an active intelligence that sparks inspiration.”

— The San Francisco Chronicle

“If you prefer concrete destination options, and especially if you are looking for a female slant to your journey, you will find more than a lifetime of ideas in “100 Places Every Woman Should Go.” Categories include places of adventure (the Amazon River basin), purification (an onsen or Japanese hot springs or bathhouse), indulgence (famed chocolate sites), celebration and womanly affirmation (belly dancing sites), struggle and renewal (New Orleans), and inspiration (Bhutan). The most women-centric trips are in the chapter on powerful women and their places in history, from sites of Madonna sightings in several countries to Sappho’s home in Lesbos, Greece. Lesser-known spots include County Mayo, Ireland, to follow in the footsteps of pirate queen Grace O’Malley, and a tour of the “lady ghosts” of Savannah, Ga. While you are out and about, writes Griest, “return the Good Sister Karma. Be nice to female travelers you encounter at home, and try to help out your local sisters abroad.”

— The Boston Globe

“….A whirlwind of exotic escapades. The author gets a bikini wax in Brazil, drinks chocolate in Mexico’s Oaxaca, pats the belly of a manatee in Florida, and watches women dive for seaweed and shellfish in the East China Sea. Destinations in “100 Places” are logical (Seneca Falls, N.Y., birthplace of the women’s rights movement), remote (Rouen, France, where Joan of Arc died), sacred (Mount Kailash, Tibet, a pilgrimage point for Buddhists and Hindus) and virtual (the Museum of Menstruation at www.mum.org). The book also is a way to learn, briefly, about whirling dervishes in Turkey, flamenco dancing in Spain and the Holy Ganges in India. Less specific, geographically, but most poignant is the Motherlands chapter. “At some point in life,” Griest writes, “return to your ancestral home, be it a specific neighborhood or an entire continent, to learn from the roots within you.”

— The Capital Times (of Madison, WI)

“For many women, the open road beckons. But where — they might wonder — can they find adventure, inspiration, empowerment, and renewal? Stephanie Elizondo Griest’s new book, 100 Places Every Woman Should Go (2007, Travelers’ Tales), reveals treasures far and near. Griest suggests female travelers try seeking enlightenment in any of the 66 temples of Luang Prabang, Laos; race yaks across the Mongolian grasslands; or pay homage to pharaoh Hatshepsut, who Griest writes, “is widely regarded as history’s ‘first great woman.’” The book also offers tips on safety, how to fend off unwanted male advances, and, perhaps most importantly, the advice to support fellow female travelers and local sisters abroad. “Your money will almost certainly go where it is needed most.”

— The Utne Reader

“The benefits of traveling solo are well documented. Going it alone means no arguments over itineraries, directions or timetables. Solo travelers can better soak up their surroundings. They’re more approachable. They may be more open to new experiences. Moreover, solo travel builds character. [Griest’s book is]… all over the map — literally — in its brief recommendations on go-to spots from Antarctica to African game parks.”

— USA Today

“If adventure and renewal are what you crave, pick up Ms. Griest’s newest offering and get together with your favorite travel buddy. Intimate, fun and packed with intriguing ideas, an hour with this book will help you outline an ambitious world tour or a unique weekend getaway. No mere list of destinations, the compact collection is brimming with places to nurture body, mind and soul in the world at large. Whether you’re looking for new destinations or already have an itinerary planned, 100 Places will point you toward don’t-misses and must-sees that will guarantee you’ll return with your own amazing travelogue.”

— World Pulse Magazine

Stephanie Elizondo’s Griest’s first book, “Around the Bloc,” about her travels in Beijing, Moscow and Havana, garnered so much critical acclaim that she was approached by small press Travelers’ Tales to write another travel book — this time about destination recommendations for the fairer sex. The result is her latest publication “100 Places Every Woman Should Go.” In a recent interview, the Corpus Christi native said that she has traveled to about half of the places catalogued in the book. Friends and fellow travelers provided the information and insights for the other 50 places. The book is divided into sections related to history, adventure, indulgence, celebration and inspiration, among others. Although Griest recommends traveling far and wide, she also acknowledges that the one place women should travel if they cannot make the trek to the 100 places listed in her book is New York City. She asserts that by going to the Big Apple, “You can literally go everywhere.” Griest adds that in Brooklyn one can “roast in a banya with a roomful of sweaty Russian women and pop open a bottle of Soviet champagne” or “get your palms tattooed with henna and slip into a sari sewn for a princess in Jackson Heights in Queens” or “Samba with boys from Rio” in Williamsburg. Griest also offers women readers tips for everything from packing to safety to fending off the advances of overly friendly male locals. She recommends women wear “fake wedding bands” or carry photos of “hulky men they call husbands to ward off advances.” Griest herself has experienced unwanted attention from men more than once during her many travels and insists that a woman must be loud and firm in rejecting the male offenders and that “public guilt and humiliation are the best way to deal with men who molest.” This is a light and breezy book. Entries are concise but clear in the information they provide about each place Griest recommends. She also offers numerous Web sites and suggestions for further reading about these destinations. Griest provides more than just descriptions of places; readers can learn about activities to take part in as well. Travelers and adventurers can camel-race in Bahrain, whale-watch in British Columbia or pearl-dive in South Korea. Ironically, giving in to her wanderlust has given Griest a sense of roots. About traveling, she says, “It has just completely built within me this foundation.” She finds it a wholly “nurturing and incredibly informative entity,” and adds perhaps the best endorsement for getting away from it all: “When I travel is when I really, really feel alive.”

— San Antonio Express News

“100 Places offers tips for traveling women, and is chock full of useful Web sites and recommended readings. In the chapter on Lesbos, Greece, we learn that poetess and lyricist Sappho, often assumed to have been a lesbian because she came from the island of Lesbos (from where the term lesbian comes from), was, in fact, married to a man, although she dedicated much of her sensual words to women. Regardless of orientation, Sappho was the first Greek poet to write in the first person.
Ms. Elizondo Griest’s book visits the cobalt blue home of artist Frida Kahlo in Coyoacan, Mexico, (“For the Frida Kahlo look, fly to Oaxaca, Mexico, where you’ll be greeted in the street by women carrying mounds of rebozos, or shawls, slung over their shoulders) and tells how to apply for a job in Antarctica, because that is the best way to visit it. There’s even a chapter on the Museum of Menstruation, although these days it exists only on the Web, and one on lingerie shops in London, Rome, Paris and New York. In the end, if you can’t hit all these wonderful international destinations (including Beirut and New Orleans), the author recommends visiting New York City where you can experience them all, including soaking in a banya with a room full of sweaty Russian women in Brooklyn. Ms. Elizondo Griest quotes a New York cabbie: “Anything you can’t find anywhere else in the world, this city has two of ’em. And if you can find it somewhere else, we’ve got five of ’em.”

— The Princeton Packet

“Compiled by award-winning author Stephanie Elizondo Griest, the book points to places of inspiration, enlightenment, adventure and history, where heroines battled for the right to speak, vote, rule and be free.”

— Santa Cruz Sentinel

[“100 Places”] is the brain trust of an intrepid traveler who lashed on her estro-lens, filled a few passports, and is now handing over all the juicy liner notes so others can engage the world in a similarly spirited, pro-woman way.

— Holly Morris, author of Adventure Divas

An amazing feat. Reading the book is like catching the colors of a tropical sunset, a whiff of an almond tree in bloom, a hint of a melody from a late night jazz bar. My only complaint? I will never get to go to all of these alluring places!

— Elizabeth Lesser, cofounder of Omega Institute

A chat with Stephanie Elizondo Griest (circa 2007)

1. How did you start traveling?

My great-great Uncle Jake was a hobo who saw America from the peepholes of boxcars, so you could say that wanderlust is encoded in my DNA! My own journey began my senior year in high school when I attended a journalism conference in Washington DC that featured a keynote by a rockstar foreign correspondent for CNN. He’d covered the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, and his stories of revolution marveled me. (The only thing people take to the streets and shake their fists about in my South Texas hometown is football.) When he finished, I ran up to the microphone and asked how I could be a foreign correspondent just like him. “Learn Russian,” he said. So I did. In 1996, I jetted off to Moscow for six months. I haven’t stopped traveling since.

2. Tell us about some of your travel adventures.

In Russia, I volunteered at a children’s shelter and mingled with Mafiosi. (My boyfriend’s best friend was a freelance hit man.) Next, I won a Henry Luce Scholarship to Asia, and spent the year polishing propaganda at the English mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing. Then I went to Cuba, where I belly danced with rumba queens and hung out with hip-hop artists. Those adventures are the subject of my first memoir: “Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana” (Villard/Random House, 2004). From there, I spent a year driving across the United States, documenting its history for a website for kids called The Odyssey (www.ustrek.org). I logged in more than 45,000 miles! My last big trip was seven months in Mexico in 2005, where I rallied with Zapatistas, sneaked into Oaxacan prisons, and interviewed scores of undocumented workers and their families. I’m currently compiling those stories into a memoir that will be published by Simon & Schuster in 2008.

3. Tell us about the process of writing “100 Places Every Woman Should Go.”

Every place is glorious in its own special way, but now and then, I stumble upon somewhere sacred. It usually takes a moment to recover, and when I do, I scan the room (or wilderness) for a pair of eyes to share it with. No matter where I am – downtown Manhattan or the Mongolian steppe – it is inevitably in the eyes of another woman that I find a similar spark or sense of wonderment. Afterward, I can only describe the place as one where “every woman should go.” When Travelers’ Tales approached me with this project, memories of these places surged forth. I scribbled down half the list in just one sitting, then started calling my girlfriends (and a few select boy friends).

4. Did you have any criteria in mind when selecting each place?

Pains were taken to include places populated by men who are at least somewhat respectful to foreign women. After all, catcalling from street corners and wandering hands in crowded subways can tarnish an otherwise fabulous trip. Another initial goal was to only choose places where local women, indigenous people, and the environment are treated with kindness, but it was nearly impossible to find 100 of them. Inequities are too omnipresent. Instead, I tried to highlight the work of local community groups and activists so that travelers know where to volunteer or send a check. Finally, I searched for places of significance to women: where we made history (i.e. the church where Joan of Arc stood trial), created works of art (i.e. Frida Kahlo’s studio), and performed miracles (i.e. the fields of Fatima, Portugal, where Madonna once made the sun do a swan dive over the sky). Also, places where goddesses reside within, like the volcanoes of Hawaii.

5. Have you visited every place in the book?

I wish! Sadly, I’ve only visited half. The other half came highly recommended by travelers I trust. (I interviewed more than one hundred while researching this book.) This was actually quite gratifying: not only did I get to share treasures I’ve personally discovered, I learned of so many more. I can’t wait to float down the bywaters of Kerala, India in a houseboat, or dance with voodoo priestesses in Benin.

6. You strongly advocate that women travel alone at least once in their life. Why?

So we can better hear Mother Road. She is one of the most formative teachers around. She will push you to your physical, spiritual, and psychological limits — then nudge you one step further. She will teach you to be self-reliant and self-sufficient, which will in turn make you self-confident. These are all lessons best learned alone.

7. But isn’t it scary?

Fear certainly does hold a lot of women back. Fear of our safety. Fear of getting lost. Fear of being alone. Yet, women never really travel alone. We are constantly becoming someone’s daughter, mother, sister. We elicit the empathy — and curiosity — of the people of the planet. There is always extra shelter or food for us.

8. Does that mean you’ve never been afraid?

Getting chased down a dark alley by a pack of drunk Russian men in Moscow was mildly terrifying, yes…. But that also happened once when I was living in Seattle.

9. So how do you stop a departing Trans-Siberian train?

Cry. While I hate to encourage women to rely on their perceived fragility or weakness to get by, in my experience, tears are mighty effective. There is just something about a lone woman crying that opens the doors, wallets, and hearts of the people of this planet. It is how I got all of my stolen documents replaced in Istanbul in record time, without penalty or rush fees. It is how my friend Daphne evaded costly traffic violations across Africa and literally stopped a departing airplane in Angola. Use only as a last reserve, but if you’re going to do it, go all the way. If you’re trying to avoid an exorbitant fine, jail sentence, or getting thrown off the Trans-Siberian train in the middle of the night for not having your papers in order, think: Oscar. Drop to your knees. Convulse. Make such a scene, passersby get involved. If the situation is truly critical, consider fainting — but only if you’ve gotten enough sympathetic people involved that your oppressor can’t just toss your body off the train! I personally find crying quite empowering: it gets things accomplished.

10. Any final advice for women travelers?

Return the Good Sister Karma. Spread the love. Be nice to female travelers you encounter at home, and try to help out your local sisters abroad. Make it a point to support female artisans, vendors, tour guides, and taxi drivers wherever you wander. Your money will almost certainly go where it is needed most.

100 Places has been translated into Portuguese, Spanish, and Korean.