As the legendary adventurer Audrey Sutherland said, "Go simple, go solo, go now."
Prepare to Be Inspired
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Planning a trip, training for a big event, or looking to reinvent yourself? Well, these empowering reads have got your back—and by that we mean they seriously challenge the boundaries of your comfort zone.
Celebrating women's athleticism and smashing stigmas about what it means to be a female adventurer, each of these profoundly personal journeys will show you how to develop a lasting sense of resiliency while tapping into your unlimited potential, whether you hear it from the first woman to win the world's toughest horse race across Mongolia or the fastest person to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
Photo: Nattapong Wongloungud / EyeEm/Getty Images
End of the Rope: Mountains, Marriage, and Motherhood
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Even if hanging off a mountain isn't your thing, this candid debut memoir will speak to your inner "rock warrior." A fierce, free-spirited climber from a small town in southeastern British Columbia, Jan Redford has had a binge-read of a life, with near-death ascents, tumultuous relationships, and untold tragedies and triumphs—that, ultimately, celebrate every woman's breakthrough experiences (whether you're in a male-dominated field like rock climbing or not).
Redford proves that it's never too late to reach for your dreams–or dyno for a jug, in climber's speak—or pursue new ones. (And it goes without saying: You'll definitely be inspired to give rock climbing a try.)
Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road
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Explorer Kate Harris makes the open road irresistible in Lands of Lost Borders, which follows the author and her childhood friend Mel Yule on a 10-month, 6,200-mile bike-packing adventure through 10 countries along Asia's ancient Silk Road trading route. Harris' childlike awe of the great unknown electrifies the page and will awaken your tech-weary soul to the point that you, too, lose track of time in the most delightful way. An inspiring testament to the power of female friendship, their go-with-the-woah journey keeps your heart racing and cortisol spiking as you feel every word and hard-won pedal stroke. (Related: 5 Lessons I Learned from Biking 500 Miles Across France)
The Shooting Star: A Girl, Her Backpack, and the World
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Shivya Nath's debut belongs in the canon of heavyweight travel memoirs. Raised in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, a self-described sheltered girl with a predetermined future, the author, blogger and TED Talk star decided to take control of her life, breaking free of the cubicle at 23, roaming the Earth with wild abandon, and finding herself in the most surprising places.
As a solo travel writer who stays for months on end in under-explored regions, who's more interested in authentic rites than bragging rights, Nath delves into new passions (there's Buddhism, minimalism, entrepreneurism, veganism) while feeding that innate human desire to keep moving; she kayaks along ancient mangroves in northern Goa, hikes with bleeding-heart monkeys in Ethiopia's Simien Mountains National Park, and studies native species in the remote Kangaroo Island off the mainland of South Australia.
Even if you can't fathom becoming a digital nomad or trekking deep into Ecuador's Amazon rainforest to experiment with Ayuasca, The Shooting Star moves through you like a meteor shower of infinite possibilities.
Rough Magic: Riding the World's Loneliest Horse Race
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Rough Magic is an instant classic memoir by 23-year-old British au pair-turned-champion equestrian rider Lara Prior-Palmer, who writes about overcoming great odds to become the first woman to win the Mongol Derby, the world's longest and toughest horse race, at the age of 19. With whip-smart sass and achingly beautiful observations on life, Prior-Palmer easily breaks us in as she canters across the wild verdant steppes of Mongolia, where the vastness is matched only by the author's unbridled spirit of adventure. We're reminded that despite battling bone-deep fatigue in sweat-soaked clothes, we too have what it takes to stay upright—no matter how many times we may get knocked down.
Swell: A Sailing Surfer's Voyage of Awakening
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At 25, when many of us are climbing corporate ladders, Captain Liz Clark was climbing the mast of her 40-foot sailboat, Swell, which she's steered from Mexico to Panama to Bora Bora and beyond. After more than 10 years and 20,000 miles, she's still traversing the open seas as a fierce environmental steward and the real-deal model of carpe diem. Throughout Captain Clark's vividly-narrated, mostly solo voyage of intoxicating bravery, you'll crave the restorative power of nature and feel the urge to do crazy things like plan a mother-daughter adventure, dive with sharks and, oh yes, slow the hell down.
She Explores: Stories of Life-Changing Adventures on the Road and in the Wild
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Reading She Explores feels a bit like joining a sisterhood of 40 smart, gutsy women who come from vastly different backgrounds, yet are all deeply connected through the alchemy of the great outdoors.
Gale Straub, founder of She Explores and its eponymous podcast, has delivered an absorbing collection of bite-sized tales (be it from a Native American archaeologist or a lawyer-turned-full-time mountaineer) about loving the wild and our wild she-wolf selves. Interspersed with brilliant outdoor photography and Straub's expert tips—like solo hiking, camp kitchen essentials, and finding outdoorsy friends—She Explores will enlighten even the most experienced weekend warrior. No matter how many times you pore over this book, it will continue to spark joy, so keep it out on your coffee table. Or better yet, take it with you on the open road. (Perhaps, to one of these epic destinations for solo female travelers.)
Downriver: Into the Future of Water In the West
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Heather Hansman is one of the few women to have paddled the full length of The Green River, from Wyoming into Northwestern Colorado and through the Ute Indian Tribe's reservations in Utah until the major tributary's confluence with the Colorado River in Canyonlands National Park. Flying solo in a tiny raft, the environmental journalist and former raft guide pushes off on an epic 730-mile aquatic quest for solutions to the current water crisis in the West. In between white-knuckling class III rapids, wading into flooded fields with cattle ranchers, camping on moonlit sandbars, and confronting the powerful illusion of fear, Hansman must navigate the biggest thrill of her life while also uncovering an archaic and frighteningly unsustainable water system.
Whether you're a westerner or not, you'll be caught up in the hustle and flow of this universal story, one that has rippling effects on our entire country.
Thirst: 2,600 Miles to Home
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In an illuminating debut memoir about her solo, glass-ceiling and record-smashing thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, Heather Anderson heralds the simple empowering act of putting one foot in front of another. After a 60-day trek across deserts and high sierras, fighting off severe dehydration, mountain lions, anemia, rattlesnakes and poisonous poodle-dog bushes, Anderson finishes the PCT feeling awful, yet whole.
The ultramarathoner and "Triple Crown" backpacker—she crushed the Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and PCT—ultimately keeps a promise to her nine-year-old overweight, inactive self to set an athletic record one day. Fueled by adrenaline, peanut butter, and misogynistic passersby (mansplaining, anyone?), Anderson crushes 40 miles a day in a zebra-print dress and pink glasses and turns persistent self-doubt into her greatest weapon. (Related: The 20-Mile Hike That Made Me Finally Appreciate My Body)