Best Women’s Travel Writing

Travelers’ Tales

February 2010

Travelers’ Tales award-winning series, Best Women’s Travel Writing, has been showcasing the world’s finest female travel narratives every year since 2004. In the 2010 volume, editor Stephanie Elizondo Griest spotlights 27 stories set in the most far-flung of places, from an icy Ecuadoran volcano-top to a cozy Persian kitchen. Join our intrepid writers for such adventures as:

  • Witnessing a theatrical act of rebellion in Burma with Shauna Sweeney
  • Drinking tea with a former Mujahideen in Kabul with Diane LeBow
  • Learning the proper etiquette of a Chinese Communist Party banquet with Kellen Zale
  • Searching for ancestral roots in Pakistan with Maliha Masood
  • Nurturing the street dogs of Rajasthan with Erika Connor
  • Romping through the Wadi Rum with Diane Caldwell (and her Bedouin lover)

Readers will be inspired to either book their first trip–or continue exploring the globe with wit, soul, and verve.

Best Women’s Travel Writing 2010 won the gold medal in the 2010 Independent Publisher Book Awards for Best Travel Book, and has been featured on:

* The Iowa Press-Citizen
* The Daily Iowan
* The Lit Show

My great-great uncle Jake was a hobo who saw all of America with his legs dangling over the edge of a freight train. My cowboy cousins chased cattle across the Wild Horse Desert of South Texas. My father drummed his way around the globe with a US Navy Band. Growing up, I dreamed of someday telling stories that rivaled those of the men in my family:

“Once, in Marrakech….”

“I’ll never forget that time in Burkina Faso when _______.”

But how? I could envision buying a ticket and boarding a plane, but what would I do after it landed?

Then, my senior year in high school, a neighbor triumphantly returned home after a semester abroad and introduced me to the magical world of hostels, backpacks, and Lonely Planets. She was only a few years older than me and—unlike my other adventure role models—female. If she could roam in foreign lands, perhaps I could too. When I enrolled in college that fall, I studied the language of the farthest country I could fathom (Russian) and then jetted off to Moscow. Thirteen years later, I’m still feeding my travel addiction. My sleeping bag has been unfurled upon a Kyrgyz mountaintop, the Mongolian steppe, and the dungeon floor of a renown Chicago dominatrix. I’ve marched with Zapatista rebels, belly danced with Chinese Uighurs, and sipped mojitos with Cuban hip-hop artists. Though I’ve explored thirty countries and all but three of the United States, I ache for more.

This is why Travelers’ Tales publishes an annual anthology of women’s travel writing: so we can prove to each other that yes, we can do this. We don’t have to wait until our college loans are paid off, or our kids are grown, or our bank account is stabilized (because really—will that ever happen?). We don’t even have to wait until the perfect travel companion strolls along. We can quit our jobs (yes, even the one with dental insurance), kiss our beloveds goodbye, and fly. And this anthology showcases how supremely we capture the adventures that ensue.

Our journey begins and ends in Ecuadoran wilderness: Mary Caperton Morton takes us for a treacherous climb up an icy volcano, while Marisa Handler fills our glass with rum and sends us dancing around a table. In between, we assist a live birth in Bali, befriend a Mujahideen in Kabul, create edible art in Tehran, and watch a dissident performance in Mandalay.

Myriad reasons inspired these adventures. Johanna Gohmann wanted to make a special contribution to the English art world, while Erika Connor wished to nurture the street dogs of Rajasthan. Maliha Masood, Jennifer De Leon, and Valerie Conners hoped to unearth their ancestral roots in Pakistan, Guatemala, and Italy. Alison Stein Wellner aimed to find a food so hot, she’d ignite on contact (as she once watched her grandfather do). Diane Caldwell sought another kind of heat involving a desert and a certain sexy Bedouin.

Although many of our authors left home with a carefully set intention, they discovered something else entirely. One came to terms with being lesbian. Another tossed out the shoulder pads that previously lined the B-cups of her bra. A third realized that yes, she really is Jewish, no matter how seductive New Age practices like channeling and energy healing may be. They all learned to walk the world’s passageways with ever more confidence, and returned home with a renewed sense of wonderment.

So maybe you’re stuck in a can’t-quit job, or you have an especially needy family. Maybe the economy has dealt a nasty blow, or you’ve gone back to school for another degree. These stories will speak to you as well. They demonstrate how we can take whatever fate crosses our path. If Kellen Zale can survive that never-ending Chinese Communist Party banquet with a host whose English consists entirely of Madonna lyrics; if Kendra Greene can swallow that caterpillar; if Mary Caperton Morton can crawl to safety with three cracked ribs and two ruptured spinal discs; then we can probably handle our grouchy boss/unruly child/ill and aging parent, too.

Revel in these stories, then plan your next journey. Mother Road is waiting.


Stephanie Elizondo Griest

The Suffer Fest
Mary Caperton Morton

Not-Surfing New Zealand
Colette O’Connor

The Heat-Seeker
Alison Stein Wellner

In the Half-Light
Jen Percy

Design a Vagina
Johanna Gohmann

Bosnian Blues
Landon Spencer

Chopping Herbs, Grinding Saffron
Beebe Bahrami

Woman in the Wild
Laura Katers

The First Day
Jennifer De Leon

Winter with the Dogs
Erika Conner

Angel of Repose
Marcy Gordon

Megan Lyles

To Italy, for Family
Valerie Conners

The Moustache Brothers of Mandalay
Shauna Sweeney

Breaking Frontiers
Maliha Masood

Language Lessons
Christine Buckley

Holy in the Land
Deborah Milstein

White Lady Scrubbing
Sara Bathum

An Ode to B-Cups
Heather Poole

Bali Birth
Liz Sinclair

Tea in Kabul
Diane LeBow

I Regret Eating the Caterpillars
Kendra Greene

Desert Queen
Diane Caldwell

Madonna and Mr. Hu
Kellen Zale

Riding the Rails with Mother Theresa
Laurie Weed

Elisabeth Eaves

Viajera Loca
Marisa Handler