14 Books Every Solo Female Traveller Should Read

Online searches for the "best" or "most inspiring" travel stories are likely to yield books by Bill Bryson, Jack Kerouac, Paul Theroux and other male authors. As much as we admire their tales, we want to spotlight the women who paved the way for modern solo travel and penned the travelogues that have us packing our bags and crying out for an adventure.

Inspiring stories from women who dared to travel

A House in the Sky

by Amanda Lindhout

Lindhout backpacked through countries such as India and Syria before working as a reporter in the Middle East. On a trip to war-torn Somalia in 2008, she was abducted and held captive for 460 days. Her gripping memoir documents her conversion to Islam, a dramatic escape and how her travel memories lifted her spirits during her darkest moments.

Read now

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding

by Kristin Newman

Consider this the single woman's travel manifesto. While everyone around her shacks up and spawns, Newman embarks on international escapades and masters the art of the "vacationship". The author is a sitcom writer, and this book is a good laugh.

Read now

No Hurry to Get Home

by Emily Hahn

Hahn was ahead of her time. Born in 1905, she majored in mining engineering, walked across Africa, lived alone in the Belgian Congo aged 25, became the concubine of a Chinese poet and bore a child with the head of the British Secret Service. First published in The New Yorker, these vivid essays document the people and places she encountered.

Read now

A Woman Alone: Travel Tales from Around the Globe

Edited by Faith Conlon, Ingrid Emerick and Christina Henry de Tessan

Gathering the voices of women who have ventured solo across the world, this anthology is at once relatable, inspiring and great for short bursts of armchair escapism. Our favourite entry is that of Faith Adiele, a black Buddhist nun who enters a deserted train station at 3AM in a Thai village controlled by armed bandits.

Read now

Searching for Zion: The Quest for Home in the African Diaspora

by Emily Raboteau

Where is the Promised Land? Ten years in the making, this is the story of a biracial woman's search for "home". Fusing memoir and cultural history, Raboteau grapples with questions of identity and displacement as she travels from Israel, across Africa, to the American South.

Read now

Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback

by Robyn Davidson

"I experienced that sinking feeling you get when you know you have conned yourself into doing something difficult and there's no going back," begins Davidson, who travelled across Australia's Red Centre to the Indian Ocean with four camels and a dog. Her journey is one of love and grit, as she falls for the landscape that so challenges her mind, body and spirit.

Read now

Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London

by Lauren Elkin

Tracing the footsteps of notable women such as artist Sophie Calle and filmmaker Agnès Varda, Elkin walks across the world's most bustling metropolises. Musing on the idea of the "flâneuse", she spotlights cities' creative potential and the liberating power of a good ramble.

Read now

My Journey to Lhasa

by Alexandra David-Néel

Whisking readers to Tibet of the 20s, David-Néel was a French explorer, spiritualist and anarchist who became the first western woman to enter the forbidden city of Lhasa - using a disguise of yak hair extensions. Expect hikes through chest-deep snow, lots of butter tea and a scene in which she becomes so hungry that she eats her leather boots.

Read now

All God’s Children Need Travelling Shoes

by Maya Angelou

The fifth volume in Angelou's autobiography, All God's Children sees her emigrate to Ghana, where she exposes the myth of "mother Africa". "Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry," she writes. "But by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends."

Read now

Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle

by Dervla Murphy

Ride with the inimitable Murphy and her bicycle, Roz, across an icy Europe, through Afghanistan and over the Himalayas to India. Donnish yet dauntless - she uses "unprintable tactics" to escape an attempted rape - this is a rallying cry to travel for the love of travel.

Read now

Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found

by Cheryl Strayed

"I am a free spirit who never had the balls to be free," writes Strayed in this cult retelling of her 1,100-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. A cocktail of drugs, death and divorce had previously led her to rock bottom; step by step, she heals.

Read now

Unbeaten Tracks in Japan

by Isabella Lucy Bird

A pioneer of solo female travel (and a bestselling writer), this Victorian adventurer was the first woman to be elected fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. In this tome, she travels from Yokohama to Hokkaido where she lives among the indigenous Ainu tribe. Like this? Try her Six Months in the Sandwich Islands, in which she immerses herself in Hawaiian culture.

Read now

A Field Guide to Getting Lost

by Rebecca Solnit

This isn't so much a travelogue as a philosophical meditation on wandering - not the easiest read, but one that's well worth the effort. Reflecting on the past while scouring the soul, Solnit explores the idea of transformation, asking what it means to be lost and found.

Read now

The Valleys of the Assassins: and Other Persian Travels

by Freya Stark

The OG female vagabond, Stark explored the destinations that few would dare to venture in the 30s, or perhaps even today. A trained cartographer, she renders an intimate portrait of the Middle East. Stark writes: "How widely scattered in the world are goodness and courtesy and the love of immaterial things, fair blossoms found in every climate, on every soil."

Read now

Discover More
24 Books that Will Change the Way You See the World