adventure travel

Exploring Female Adventurers at London’s Women of the World Festival

Sunday 13 March, 11.30 a.m.  SOUTHBANK CENTRE, London   

wow logo 4As part of the Women of the World Festival 2016,  I am inviting women to ignite their own adventurous spirits through the journeys of  women explorers — past and present — who defied convention, pushed limits and travelled into the unknown.

In this era of shrinking comfort zones and glitzy role models, I’ll be celebrating women adventurers — women who take a walk on the wild side and explore the world. I’ll be paying tribute to those before us who left inhibition at home and journeyed through a man’s world on awe-inspiring voyages;  as well as today’s ‘adventuresses’ who challenge themselves on foot, bikes, skis; in boats, vans, planes…in the true spirit of adventure.

Today's female explorers (l to r) Felicity Aston, Rosie Stancer, Jacki Hill-Murphy, Lois Pryce, Ann Daniels and Arita Baaijens at the Women's Adventure Expo 2015.

Today’s female explorers (l to r) Felicity Aston, Rosie Stancer, Jacki Hill-Murphy, Lois Pryce, Ann Daniels and Arita Baaijens at the Women’s Adventure Expo 2015.

The stories of yesterday’s  women adventurers are often lost in time — let’s get them ‘back on the map’ as role models for women in the 21st century —  Women of the World like Lady Hester Stanhope, the first Western woman to cross the Syrian Desert; writer and explorer Mary Kingsley; and of course, crusading journalist Nellie Bly who beat Phileas Fogg’s fictional Around the World in 80 Days record 125 years ago.

Today’s women adventurers are not only rowing around Britain (Belinda Kirk), skiing alone across Antarctica  (Felicity Aston MBE), and reaching the North and South Poles (Ann Daniels), but also following  the footsteps of their predecessors like Isabella Bird, Mary Kingsley and Isabel Godin (Jacki Hill-Murphy), to name but a few.  Female explorers are true Women of the World.  Join me for a 15 minute WOW Bite on women explorers  Sunday 13 March at 11.30 a.m. at the Women of the World Festival.

Nellie Bly: Top of the Lists

Nellie Bly is top of the lists.

Nellie Bly is top of the lists.

Nellie Bly is ‘back on the front page’ as a chart-topper in the historical, convention-busting, inspiring and feminist leagues.

Just in time for International Women’s Day 2015, The Guardian  and The Observer named Nellie as one of the 10 best feminists.  Here’s what the article’s author Helen Lewis said:

“No one but a man can do this,” Nellie Bly’s editor told her when she suggested travelling round the world in less than 80 days. She would need a protector, he said – and how would she ever carry all the luggage a lady would need on such a trip? Bly didn’t worry too much about the first quibble, and travelled light, crushing all her belongings into a single handbag. She made it home in 72 days. That wasn’t the first time the pioneering American journalist had attracted attention through her work – a year earlier, in 1887, she faked madness to go undercover in an asylum, exposing its poor conditions and abusive staff.” Here’s the entire list of 10 Best Feminists

Nellie Bly's biography by Brooke Kroeger

Nellie Bly’s biography by Brooke Kroeger

In 10 Books About Innovative Women You Should Know More About, Kathleen Culliton names Nellie Bly: Daredevil. Reporter.Feminist by Brooke Kroeger.  This is what she says on online site Bustle:

“Here’s what I love about stories of women who innovate: they’re two stories. First you’ve got the story of the brilliant idea, or the world-changing artifact, the traveling of the globe, the charting of the star, the rallying of the people. Then, you’ve got the story of how the hell a woman got people to listen to her in the first place. These are stories not just of human beings who were crazy-smart, but women who were as tough as nails… Journalist Nellie Bly faked insanity to get committed in an asylum. She reported on its atrocities as she experienced them. When that was done, she circled the globe.”

Brooke Kroeger wrote this book because she could not find a single reliable source that accurately captured the story of Nellie Bly. Instead of a credible biography, she found brief encyclopedia entries and children’s books. And she was baffled because Bly not only had a major impact on journalism, but a fascinating life. In an age that relegated women reporters to the ‘Homes and Gardens’ section of the newspaper, Bly faked her own insanity to gain admission into and report on one of the nation’s most notorious insane asylums and effectively invented stunt journalism.”
Here’s the full list of 10 Books about Inspirational Women You Should Know More About.

Nellie Bly

Nellie Bly

Online worldwide news site Buzzfeed named Nellie Bly as one of  the Top 12 Historical Women Who Didn’t Give a ‘you know what’.

“Nellie Bly was a daring and influential investigative journalist who wrote groundbreaking stories about political corruption and poverty. She once faked madness in order to report undercover from an abusive mental institution in New York City, which led to outcry and reform. Her jealous peers referred to her investigations as “stunt reporting”, but Nellie, of course, didn’t give a  x*!x*!  about those whiny little x*!x*!     Oh, and she once travelled around the world in a record-breaking 72 days, just ‘cause.  Here’s the post.

She was named among the top 7 of inspiring ‘convention-breaking‘ women by Mother Nature Network who said:

Nellie exposed the abuses taking place inside the Women's Asylum.

Nellie exposed the abuses taking place inside the Women’s Asylum.

Nellie Bly was an investigative journalist who went undercover in a mental hospital to secure a job at a newspaper when she moved to New York City. She wrote about her experience spending 10 days in a mental ward: “What, excepting torture, would produce insanity quicker than this treatment? I would like the expert physicians who are condemning me for my action, which has proven their ability, to take a perfectly sane and healthy woman, shut her up and make her sit from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. on straight-back benches, do not allow her to talk or move during these hours, give her no reading and let her know nothing of the world or its doings, give her bad food and harsh treatment, and see how long it will take to make her insane. Two months would make her a mental and physical wreck.”

Following that blockbuster story, Bly circled the world in 72 days in imitation of Jules Verne’s book, married a millionaire, ran his steel manufacturing company after he died, and developed a number of patents for her business. She covered the suffragist movement in an article titled “Suffragists Are Men’s Superiors” in 1913 but correctly predicted women wouldn’t get the vote until 1920.
See full post here.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette where Nellie was once a reporter invites us to ‘Learn from the Past’ via Nellie Bly.
“In 1887, she moved to New York City and landed a job at the New York World. For one of her first assignments, she went undercover as a patient at the Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum. She spent 10 days experiencing the asylum’s deplorable living conditions, which included rotten food and physical abuse from the staff. After the New York World demanded her release, Bly’s firsthand accounts of the horrors of the asylum, “Ten Days in a Mad House,” became a book that prompted a grand jury investigation.Two years later, she decided to travel the world faster than novelist Jules Verne’s character Phileas Fogg in “Around the World in Eighty Days.” She boarded a ship from New York Nov. 14, 1889, and returned Jan. 25, 1890 — 72 days, six hours, 11 minutes and 14 seconds after her departure. Read the full article here.

 

 

25 January 2015: 125 years since Nellie Bly Won World Race

“I took off my cap and wanted to yell with the crowd, not because I had gone around the world in 72 days, but because I was home again.”

Nellie crossed the Hudson River to Manhattan after winning the world race.

Nellie crossed the Hudson River from Jersey City to Manhattan after winning the world race.

At 3.51 p.m. on 25 January 1890, journalist Nellie Bly completed her epic travels. Her train pulled into Jersey City, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, signalling the finale of the world journey she completed in  72 days, 6 hours and 11 minutes. She had raced through a ‘man’s world’ –  alone and literally with the clothes on her back — to beat the fictional record set by Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg. She was said to be the most famous woman in the world that day. After crossing three oceans and four continents, she ended her journey with a ‘flying trip’ by train across America.

“I only remember my trip across the continent as one maze of happy greetings, happy wishes, congratulations, telegrams, fruit, flowers, loud cheers, wild hurrahs, rapid hand-shaking and a beautiful car filled with fragrant flowers attached to a swift engine that was tearing like mad through flower-dotted valley and over snow-tipped mountain on-on-on! It was glorious!” she wrote.

At stations across America, enormous crowds gathered to cheer Nellie on:Fresno, Topeka, Dodge City, Kansas City, Chicago, Columbus, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia…

Throngs of people were cheering Nellie Bly as her carriage travelled up Cortlandt Street to Broadway.

Throngs of people were cheering Nellie Bly as her carriage travelled up Cortlandt Street to Broadway.

At her final destination, Jersey City, “the station was packed with thousands of people and the moment I landed on the platform, one yell went up from them…and the cannons at the Battery and Fort Greene boomed out the news of my arrival,” wrote Nellie. “From Jersey to Jersey is around the world and I am in Jersey now.”

Today she is best known for her record-breaking journey. But even more importantly, Nellie Bly pioneered investigative journalism and paved the way for female reporters.

Let’s pay tribute to the courage and determination of Nellie Bly on the 125th anniversary of the day she stepped off the train in Jersey City … and into history.

This toolkit provides material you can use on Twitter and Facebook to celebrate Nellie’s triumph.

Toolkit: Share the 125th Anniversary of Nellie Bly’s Triumphant Return

TEN TWEETS  & AND A FACEBOOK POST TO CELEBRATE 125th ANNIVERSARY OF NELLIE BLY’S RECORD-BREAKING TRIP
25 January 2015

Let’s get #NellieBly125 trending on twitter. Copy these or write your own. Use the #NellieBly125 hashtag. You can copy and paste the images in this post or look here, they’re in the public domain.

TWEETS

Nellie Bly

Nellie Bly

Let’s put journalist #NellieBly125 back on map.Jan 25 is 125th anniv of her record-breaking world trip.Pls retweet.http://bitly.com/1xsFo1A

125yrs ago #NellieBly125 was fastest to circle globe.She would’ve set twitter alight.Make it happen now.Pls retweet. http://bitly.com/1xsFo1A

#NellieBly125
 pioneered investigative journalism,paved way for women reporters &circled globe fastest 125yrs ago.http://bitly.com/1xsFo1A

Feminist Phileas Fogg #NellieBly125 circled world faster than anyone 125 yrs ago.Alone w/only clothes on her back.http://bitly.com/1xsFo1A

Celebrate 125 yrs since #NellieBly125 beat record for circling globe. Read her book free http://bit.ly/1umDvI3.

#NellieBly125 stepped off train & into history.125 yrs ago she beat record for round the world trip.http://bit.ly/1yGJxTX Pls retweet

#NellieBly125 among top 10 women adventurers.Circled world fastest.Jan 25 is 125th anniv of her triumph.http://bitly.com/1xsFo1A Pls retweet

Globetrotter #NellieBly125 circled globe in 72 days beating the record 125 years ago today. http://bitly.com/1xsFo1A

125 yrs later #NellieBly125 still among TOP10 women adventurers & TOP12 historical women who don’t give an X bzfd.it/17i9COI.

JAN 25 is 125th anniv of #NellieBly125 ‘s record-breaking trip round the world. She beat #PhileasFogg.http://bitly.com/1xsFo1A. Pls retweet.

Nellie_Bly4

Nellie Bly

If you like, you can add:
@
brookekroeger – author of bio Nellie Bly: Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist
@WIJ_UK  – Women in Journalism,UK
@NYWICI – New York Women in Communications,USA
@RGS_IBG – Royal Geographical Society
@explorerstweet – Explorers Connect
@AdventuressClub

FACEBOOK POST
Use this, edit it or write your own facebook post.

25 JANUARY 2015: 125th ANNIVERSARY OF NELLIE BLY’S RECORD-BREAKING WORLD TRIP

No-one had ever circled the globe with such speed. Journalist-adventurer Nellie Bly stepped off the train in Jersey City on January 25, 1890 …  and into history.  She raced through a ‘man’s world’ in 72 days —  alone and literally with the clothes on her back — to beat the fictional record set by Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg. She was a global celebrity. Today, she remains one of the top 10 female adventurers.  http://bitly.com/1xsFo1A

 

In which Nellie Experiences Peaks… and Troughs… in Hong Kong

HONG KONG

Nellie’s dates:  23-24 December,  27-28 December 1889
My dates: 14-15, 19 September 

Nellie arrived in Hong Kong with the monsoon.  I landed in the midst of typhoon warnings and the undercurrents of civil turbulence.  Pro-democracy demonstrations — the Umbrella Revolution —   erupted one week after I left.

Competition

Nellie had no idea that Elizabeth Bisland was racing around the world in the opposite direction.

Nellie’s optimism at arriving in Hong Kong two days ahead of schedule quickly sunk to despair. She was only 39 days into her journey, and already in China. She headed straight to the Oriental and Occidental Steamship Company to book the first sailing to Japan, only to discover that someone was ahead of her.

Elizabeth Bisland, a journalist and author sent by a competing publication, set out from New York the day Nellie left, circling the world in the opposite direction.  Elizabeth had left Hong Kong three days earlier. An astonished Nellie kept her composure when the O&O Steamship officials told her the devastating news. Even worse, she would be stuck in Hong Kong Japan for five days awaiting her passage to Japan.

“That is rather hard, isn’t it?” she said quietly, ‘forcing a smile that was on her lips, but came from nowhere near the heart.’

When they told her that the race was over and she’d lost, Nellie replied:  “I am not racing with anyone.  I promised to do the trip in 75 days and I will do it.”  She did it in 72; Elizabeth Bisland finished in 76 days. The rest is history.

The Hong Kong that Nellie and Elizabeth experienced now exists only in photos, memories and a smattering of sites that have survived massive urbanisation. My goal was to locate them during my own race to beat the fury of approaching Typhoon Kalmaegi, due to sweep past the city at speeds of 125 km (77 miles) per hour. Warnings from the Hong Kong Observatory escalated.

slippery warningHappy Valley Cemetery  

Setting out from Wan Chai, one of the Umbrella Revolution ‘hot spots’, I travelled by metro, bus and finally tram to Hong Kong’s Happy Valley and the multi-faith cemetery that Nellie raved about. “It rivals in beauty the public gardens and visitors use it as a park,” she wrote. “One wanders along the walks never heeding that they are in the Valley of Death, so thoroughly is it robbed of all that is horrible about graveyards. That those of different faiths should consent to place their dead together in this lovely tropical valley is enough to give it the name of Happy Valley.”

Hong Kong Cemetery

Hong Kong Cemetery

Snakes!

Snakes!

It’s sad now. Neglected and unsafe, signs warn visitors of slippery grounds and stairs, and worst of all snakes!  The only living soul that morning in a massive, crumbling, reptile-infested cemetery,   I stepped warily (and loudly to ward off any snakes), across broken concrete and overgrown paths to explore the tombstones of Muslims, Hindus, Jews and Protestants. Although bereft of the beauty Nellie described, the cemetery and its ossuary, evoke a sense of the hereafter. A sign in the Muslim section states: “Visiting graves …. benefits both the dead and the living. While it is a tribute paid to the dead, it prompts the living to think about the essence of life.”

What a blast!

What a blast - the Noonday Gun

What a blast – the Noonday Gun

Something to ponder as  I left Happy Valley for Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay waterfront. I got to the Noonday Gun there just in time for the daily blast. Made famous in Noel Coward’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen, the tradition began in 1864 when Jardine’s, the company who owns it, was required to fire a one-shot salute every day at noon for perpetuity as punishment.  The company kept to the deal and now collects money for charity from those who wish to fire the Noonday Gun.

Nellie would’ve experienced a bigger blast. Jardine’s lowered the power…and the decibels… in 1961 at the request of neighbouring waterfront establishments.

Peak experience

From sea level at Causeway Bay, I headed for the highest point in Hong Kong — Victoria Peak via the historic Peak Tram to Victoria Gap.

Riding the historic Peak Tram

Riding the historic Peak Tram

Asia’s first funicular and the world’s steepest, the Peak Tram is a feat of modern engineering that Nellie rode a year after it opened in 1888.  The steam tram extending 1,350 metres to Victoria Gap cost Nellie 30 cents up and 15 cents down.  Today it’s electric and costs $5 US round-trip. The tram carried as many as 150,000 passengers its first year.  In 2013, its 125th year, the tram transported 4 million passengers.

Seats have always faced uphill to prevent passengers from falling forward. Intermediate tram stops are named after former British governors/administrators — Kennedy, MacDonnell, May and Barker.

If she stepped off the tram today, Nellie would be aghast to find Peak Tower, a colossal architectural icon devoted to consumption — home to the usual ghastly global suspects — Burger King, Crocs, Sunglass Hut, Adidas, Swatch, Swarovski and Travelex and more.

Fleeing commercialism, I located the Hong Kong Tourism Board based on the Peak Piazza in a former tram. There I met Sanford Lee and Windy Chiu who made my mission their own — to track down the ‘umbrella seat’ that Nellie describes in her book Around the World in 72 Days.

“…We were carried (by sedan chairs) to Victoria Peak. It required three men to a chair ascending the peak. At the Umbrella Seat, merely a bench with a peaked roof, everybody stops long enough to allow the coolies to rest…”

Windie Chui and I at the Umbrella Seat where sedan chair carriers rested before reaching the top.

Windy Chiu and I at the Umbrella Seat where sedan chair carriers rested before reaching the top.

Hong Kong Tourist Office Tram at Victoria Peak

Hong Kong Tourist Board Tram at Victoria Peak

Once I convinced them I was not in search of an umbrella (despite the approaching typhoon) nor a chair, Windy and I set off on an uphill search. Fifteen minutes later the elusive Umbrella Seat was before us. Not content with our original discovery, we climbed further up in the pre-storm heat to the Victoria Peak summit.

Rain was falling in sheets by the time we returned to the tourist office tram. The typhoon signal jumped from 1 (standby) to 3 (strong winds). Taking the Peak Tram down,  I arrived back at my hotel in Wan Chai to discover that typhoon signal 8 (gale and storm force winds) was in effect and all government agencies were now shut.

Would I be able to travel to Canton (Guangzhou) the next morning as planned?  Certainly not on a boat up the Pearl River like Nellie, but perhaps the trains would be running…

‘Thumbs up’ for Nellie Bly in the Sky from Adventure Travel Writer

Renowned travel writer, adventurer, teacher and producer of the Adventure Travel Writer blog, L. Peat O’Neil has endorsed the 125th anniversary voyage of Nellie Bly. Many thanks to Peat for her acknowledgement and inspiration!  Read it here. Check out the Adventure Travel Writer blog for ideas, news and top tips.

Music for Nellie Bly

THE NELLIE BLY PROJECT

A new work by composer Samantha Boshnack – inspired by the life of daredevil, feminist, journalist and iconoclast Nellie Bly (1864 – 1922).

Samantha_Boshnack_0

Samantha Boshnack

Sam Boshnack has taken on the next large scale project for her Quintet – a narrative work inspired by the life of 19th century investigative journalist Nellie Bly.

“Both as a young girl and today, Nellie Bly greatly inspires me,” says Sam. “A reporter at a time when women were not welcome into journalism, she was a fiery and persistent individual who worked within extreme confines to achieve great things for both the subjects she covered (including mental health and prison facilities), and for women in her field.”

Sam has created a work in four movements highlighting stages and elements of Bly’s personality and career:

 “Early Years” establishing her voice – combining elements of punky irreverence, with a yearning to deeply understand the human experience and its unfairness

“Asylum Expose” exploring her extreme efforts to write about the atrocities of a mental asylum

“72 Days” tackling her race around the globe to beat Jules Verne’s fictional record, while the world cheered her on. Listen to 72 Days here.

The piece concludes with “Lasting Legacy” – an homage to Bly and the impact she made to those who came after her.

Sam combines exploration of Bly’s life with propulsion from her words, incorporating quotes and segments from her books as spoken and sung elements within the suite. In addition to the music-based work, Boshnack hopes this concert will be an opportunity to educate the public about the life of this impactful, yet mostly unknown, iconoclast.

72 Days – is based on Nellie Bly’s book Around the World in Seventy-Two Days, in which she set out on a race around the world to beat Jules Verne’s fictional record, while the whole world watched and cheered her on. The idea for this story was hers, but she had to fight hard to make it happen because her editors did not believe it could be done.

The two telling quotes I extracted from her book are – “It’s only a matter of 28,000 miles… I shall be back again” and “I would rather go in dead and successful than alive and behind time.”

Once again we see Nellie being unaffected by the immense task before her and with an absolute conviction that she would succeed. The two methods of transport available to her were railroad and steamship – I have incorporated the rhythmic elements of these modes into the music as well.

All pieces performed by The Sam Boshnack Quintet featuring Samantha Boshnack (trumpet/voice), Beth Fleenor (clarinets/voice), Dawn Clement (piano/keyboard/voice), Isaac Castillo (bass/voice) and Max  Wood (drums)

Used by kind permission of  Samantha Boshnack

Why Nellie? Why Now?

Nellie Bly

Nellie Bly coloured by Loredana Crupi http://loredanacrupi.wordpress.com/

Nellie Bly in the Sky book cover

The best of the Nellie Bly in the Sky blog in a free e-book. Download it here.

It’s now 127 years since crusading journalist Nellie Bly raced through a ‘man’s world’ —  alone and literally with the clothes on her back — to beat the fictional record set by Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days. She won the race on 25 January 1890 and became a global celebrity.

125 years later, I set out to follow in her footsteps around the world. A Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society  (RGS), my expedition was registered with RGS and endorsed by Women in Journalism.

We both travelled alone with one small case. She went by ocean liner and train. I flew. She raced, I didn’t. She covered 21,740 miles in 72 days; I completed 22,500 miles in 32 days.

She journeyed through the Victorian age, dashing conventions along the way. I travelled through the Information age, blogging along the way.  She started from New York. I started from London.  We both finished with book-length memories and a profound appreciation for the kindness shown to us everywhere we went.

To this day, she is one of the world’s top 10 female adventurers.

Nellie is best known for her record-breaking journey, but even more importantly she pioneered investigative journalism. Her stories brought about sweeping reforms in asylums, sweatshops, orphanages and prisons. She burst into male-only newsrooms paving the way for women reporters. She was the first journalist to report from the Eastern front in WWI.

I followed in Nellie Bly’s footsteps because I want to put her ‘back on the front page.’

I travelled 6 September – 8 October 2014 — by air  because sea travel is limited by the routes available and hostilities occurring in some locations.  Which is why I named the blog ‘Nellie Bly in the Sky.’

I was back in time for the 125th anniversary of the start of her world race on 14 November 1889 and her triumphant return to New York on 25 January 1890.

Please read the blog posts at the right to follow in the footsteps of Nellie Bly.

I travelled on the same 7 am train to Kandy from Colombo, Sri Lanka as Nellie Bly.