Famous female travelers and explorers have changed the course of history in many ways – and they’re amazing, badass women we could all learn a lot from!

Progress isn’t made in isolation, it’s made by standing on the shoulders of amazing individuals that have come before us. That thought inspired me to do some research on famous female travelers and explorers that broke records, shattered boundaries, and generally chose to break all the rules.

These woman are incredible: they all undertook adventures of a lifetime and many of them refused to subscribe to the societal “rules” prescribed for females at time of their travels.

Without further ado, let’s get to the list:

1. Junko Tabei

junko tabei

Junko Tabei (pictured here and above, in the featured photo) was a consummate badass. She recently passed away, having lived from September 22, 1939 to October 20, 2016, and was the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest. That’s not all, though – Tabei also climbed the highest peak on every single continent. She founded the Ladies Climbing Club in 1969 with the coolest slogan ever: “Let’s go on an overseas expedition by ourselves.” And she never planned to stop as long as she was living: in a 1991 interview with The AP, she said, “I want to climb even more mountains. To think, ‘it was great,’ and then die.”

Image: Wikimedia Commons and Junko Tabei

2. Nellie Bly

nellie bly

Nellie Bly (real name: Elizabeth Jane Cochran, May 6, 1864 – January 27, 1922) wasn’t just an incredible traveler, she was also a dedicated journalist. While working for the New York World, she went undercover as a mental patient for an exposé. In 1889, she became determined to travel around the world in less than 80 days (less than Jules Verne’s main character). She pitched the idea to her editor, who (like a jackass) told her it was a fine idea but he’d have to send a man. Bly, in turn, basically told him to fuck off, and that she’d make it happen no matter what: “Start the man and I’ll start the same day for some other newspaper and beat him,” she said. Her editor relented and she completed this record-breaking trip within 72 days.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

3. Annie Kopchovsky

annie kopchovsky

Annie Kopchovsky “Londonderry” (1870 – November 11, 1947) was the first woman to cycle around the globe. Like many awesome things woman do, she undertook this adventure because an asshole of a man bet another man that no woman could cycle around the world (a man had done it in 1885). Kopchovsky was all “hahahaha…fuck you” and left on June 24, 1894 – having only ridden a bicycle for the first time a few days before she left from Boston. Of course, she did it. Because women can do anything men can do – often, better.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

4. Amelia Earhart


There’s not many people that don’t know the name Amelia Earhart. Earhart (born July 24, 1897) was the first person to fly over both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans and the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. She also hit a lot of other “firsts,” including being the first person to do a solo trip from Mexico City to Newark. She disappeared in 1937 while trying to circumnavigate the globe, and was legally declared dead two years later.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

5. Gertrude Bell


Gertrude Bell (July 14, 1868 – July 12, 1926) not only traveled for herself, she created maps to help others after her. She traveled extensively through Syria, Mesopotamia, Arabia and Asia Minor, exploring and mapping multiple territories along the way. She also worked for the British government during World War I and is considered to be the person that defined the border between Iraq and Jordan.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

6. Jeanne Baré

jeanne bare

Jeanne Baré (July 27, 1740 – August 5, 1807) is the first woman to have circumnavigated the globe. Here’s the rub: she joined the Louis Antione de Bougainville expedition dressed as a man. She called herself Jean Baret, and got on the expedition as a valet and assistant to Philibert Commerson. Her true sex was discovered on the trip – but that didn’t stop her from going down in history as a badass female explorer.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

7. Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz


Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz (born July 15, 1936) was the first woman to sail solo around the world. Her boat was called Mazurek. She started in the Canary Islands, crossed the Atlantic, crossed the Caribbean Sea and headed to the Panama Canal. She completed her journey in 1978, in a total of 401 days.

Image: KFP

8. Valentina Tereshkova


It’s not just land, air and sea female travelers that are absolute badasses: Valentina Tereshkova (born March 6, 1937) was the first woman to travel into space. Tereshkova was one of four women chosen to be cosmonauts in the USSR’s space program, but she was the only one that went into space. As the craft took off, Tereshkova is said to have called out, “Hey sky, take off your hat. I’m on my way!” She orbited the earth 48 times in just under three days. For a basis of comparison, the first man in space went around the earth once and several astronauts before Tereshkova went around a total of just 36 times. Bad. Ass.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

9. Lady Hay Drummond-Hay


Grace Marguerite Hay Drummond-Hay (September 12, 1895 – February 12, 1946) is the first woman to have circumnavigated the globe via air, in a Zeppelin (a German dirigible airship). Drummond-Hay worked as journalist, and received a lot of attention for her participating in the round-the-world trip, since she was the only woman onboard.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

10. Clärenore Stinnes


Clärenore Stinnes (January 21, 1901 – September 7, 1990) completed another first, like many of the women on this list: she was the first woman to circumnavigate the globe in an automobile. Even before completing this adventure, she was already awesome: she was a German car racer that had won 17 races by the age of 26.

Image: DPA

I’m so glad all these women were brave enough to live the life they wanted – instead of living the life they were told they should live.

Famous Female Travelers Throughout History