A Chain Around the Earth – Acknowledgements

Nellie and her bag“To so many people this wide world over am I indebted for kindnesses that I cannot… thank them all individually.  They form a chain around the earth. To each and all of you, men, women and children, in my land and in the lands I visited, I am most truly grateful. Every kind act and thought, but if an unuttered wish, a cheer, a tiny flower, is imbedded in my memory as one of the pleasant things of my novel tour.” Nellie Bly 1890

I’m with Nellie. My trip couldn’t have been so successful … or even ever happened…without the ‘kindnesses’ shown by so many. I send my heartfelt thanks to the countless people en route who helped me along the way and also to all those who generously donated to UNICEF  through my Footsteps of Nellie Bly page.



I must first acknowledge the support from my husband David Stanton and daughter Acadia. David helped me design my itinerary, plot the flights and pack my small suitcase so everything fit. Best of all they both believed in what I wanted to do.

My Chain Around the World

WIJlogoAlso on the home front, thank you to Anna Barfield and Janet Goodman for the lovely bubbly send-off at Heathrow. Barbara Richardson, Liz KhanSusan Lacy, Christina Watson, Vicky Webster, Dinah Nichol and Patsy Puttnam also spurred me on, as did everyone in my freelance writing course at City Lit led by Susan Grossman. Alan Taylor contacted our RGS logofriend Nikhil Hirdaramani who introduced me by email to his lovely friends in Colombo. I am delighted that Women in Journalism endorsed my trip and the Royal Geographical Society registered it.  Many thanks to  Michael Blunt, Vice-President of Corporate Communications at oneworld Alliance who asked his airline colleagues en route to offer assistance if necessary. Happy to report that I never needed to call on them because everything went smoothly. Nellie Bly herself travelled with a similar ‘letter of introduction’  from ocean liner officials.


Peat O'Neil (r) and David Stanton at the Newseum, Washington DC.

Louisa Peat O’Neil (r) and David Stanton at the Newseum, Washington DC.

Louisa Peat O’Neil gave me good advice from the start. She’s alwaysnellie-bly-daredevil-reporter-feminist been an inspiration. Back in 1980, she embroidered Rainbow of the Road on my bright yellow backpack and sent me off.  Alice Robbins-Fox, a terrific travel companion who keeps me on track, met me in New York City to share the journey and her birthday. Sally Emery made connections there and helped us plot urban itineraries. Victoria Fulmer offered to come around the world with me…as long as it was on a private jet. Pat Streifel and Vim Maguire helped pave the way. Dolly McCo80days_cover_largey and Arnold Blystone took me to explore Nellie’s birthplace in Cochran Mills, Pennsylvania. Donald and Marilyn Schlief kindly offered their apartment in Washington, DC so we could visit the Newseum that features Nellie Bly. Kristina Heintz‘ birthday card to me featured a dancing girl with the words ‘she could no longer deny the gypsy in her soul.’ Perfect. My trip was enriched by the writing and research of Brooke KroegerNellie Bly: Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist  and Matthew GoodmanEighty Days.


The Stapels family and guide at the Royal Botanical Gardens.l

The Stapels family and guide at the Royal Botanical Gardens.

Thanuja Kanchana Camlo Lanka Tours met me at the airport in Colombo and managed to extract my credit card from the machine that swallowed it – rescuing my source of funds for the rest of the trip.

Lakmini, Jevon and Devin Raymond; and Steffi and Moahan Balendra pulled out all the stops to show me the best of Colombo. Nushka Nafeel wrote about Nellie for the Sri Lanka Daily News.

The Stapels family — Bernie, Redda and Julia from Germany — invited me to join them and their guide in Kandy and together we visited the Royal Botanic Gardens that so impressed Nellie.

Adler Hostel (r) in Singapore's Chinatown

Adler Hostel (r) in Singapore’s Chinatown


Folks at the Adler Hostel  helped me to map out itineraries taking in all of Nellie’s sites. Stephen Wang at the Your Singapore Tourist Information Office provided tons of history and organised a tour of the Fullerton Hotel with Florence Minjout who shared her knowledge about Singapore in the 1890s.

Windy and I at the Umbrella Seat

Windy and I at the Umbrella Seat


Sanford Lee, Windy Chiu and Chung of the Hong Kong Tourism Board based at Victoria Gap joined my quest to find the umbrella seat where Nellie rested on her way to the peak. Windy and I trekked to the top and found it!


Jenny at the Hilton near Yuexi Park

Jenny at the Hilton near Yuexi Park

With the generous help from the team at the Customs Hotel, I was able to find obscure Nellie sites.  Business man Joe Yang not only gave me directions, but delivered me to the Nanyue King’s Tomb Museum. Jenny at the Hilton Hotel near Yuexiu Park gave me a map, advice and sent me off in the right direction.



Yoshihisa and Yoshie Togo in Hakone.

Yoshihisa and Yoshie Togo whisked me off to Hakone with spectacular views of Mount Fuji and Kamakura with the Great Buddha Diabutsu.

In Which Nellie Bly Poses on the Great Buddha’s Thumb

Diabutsu is Nellie's time

Diabutsu in Nellie’s time

There were only two places in my entire journey where I could be certain that I was standing where Nellie stood. The first was the in home of Jules Verne in  Amiens, France where I shared his salon, study and winter garden with Nellie.  The second was inside the belly of the Great Buddha of Kamakura, Japan.

Diabutsu, 50 feet high with a waist circumference of 96 feet, was built in 1250. The size of a 5-story building, he commands the entire region. Diabutsu has survived earthquakes and wars that devastated many parts of Japan. He is one of the country’s greatest icons.

When Nellie visited, she could climb a ladder straight “up into Diabutsu’s eye and from that height view the surrounding lovely country.”

I had to be content with narrow steps into his hollow tummy. Once inside, along with the graffiti, there are illuminated drawings of how this massive bronze Buddha was cast in 30 separate stages –an amazing feat for the time.

“I had my photograph taken sitting on its thumb with two friends,” wrote Nellie. “One of whom offered $50,000 (equivalent of  $1.2 million today) for the God.”

Diabutsu's sofa-sized thumbs. Nellie had her photo taken here.

Diabutsu’s sofa-sized thumbs. Nellie had her photo taken here.

I’d so love to find that photo.  Now we must admire Diabutsu’s sofa-size thumbs from a distance.  A Buddha-sized bowl of fresh-picked fruit and a spray of autumn flowers lay at Diabitsu’s fingertips.

He sits ‘in a verdant valley at the foot of two mountains,’ Nellie wrote. Today the valley —  little more than an hour outside Tokyo — isn’t quite as verdant as pilgrims and tourists alike flock to one of Japan’s most popular destinations.

I might not have been one of them without the kind invitation of Japanese friends from UNICEF Yoshie and Yoshihisa Togo.

Yoshihisa and Yoshie Togo in the Fujiya Hotel dining room.

Yoshihisa and Yoshie Togo in the Fujiya Hotel dining room.

When I told them that Japan was on my Nellie Bly itinerary, they immediately suggested an overnight trip to the countryside, never knowing that Nellie had been there before me.

By the time I reached Japan I was half-way around the world. I’d spent 13 days and nights relentlessly tracing Nellie’s epic journey. I was more than ready to join friends to discover the country she so adored.

View of Mount Fuki from Hakone National Park

View of Mount Fuji from Hakone National Park

With Yoshie and Yoshihisa, I travelled to stunning Hakone National Park with its forest-carpeted hills and to-die-for views of Mount Fuji. We stayed in the wonderfully retro Fujiya Hotel built in 1891 featuring onsens (Japanese hot spring baths), a glorious garden with a waterfall, and real live bellhops complete with round caps.  The hot spring water flows straight into your bathtub; but I relaxed in the onsen and swimming pool, both reflecting another, more gentle, era. Just being in the lavish dark-wood dining room at the Fujiya was a pleasure; not to mention the Silver Star service and yummy French, yes French, dishes. Savouring Coquilles St Jacques in a period Japanese restaurant with dragon flourishes was wonderfully surreal, especially after a series of in-room picnics on paper towels . My first break from Nellie in two weeks was a welcome one.

Bellhops look after you at the Fujiya Hotel.

Bellhops look after you at the Fujiya Hotel.