6 Inspirational Women in Travel to Celebrate on International Women’s Day

on the swing

On March 8th we get to celebrate International Women’s Day, one of my personal favorite holidays of the year!

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women – while also marking a call to action for accelerating gender equality.

International Women’s Day

A description like that makes International Women’s Day a perfect occasion to celebrate the achievements of women, specifically in the travel sphere. I collaborated with a few other bloggers to bring you six inspirational women in travel to remember this month. Women who broke barriers, explored new places, and inspired countless others to follow in their footsteps.

I started Suitcase Six because I was inspired by my close friends and the other women in my life who were going out of their comfort zones and traveling, usually while balancing careers which had nothing to do with their wanderlust. Travel was a dream they had and they made it happen for themselves.

I think I was impressed by the agency I saw in deciding to visit a place, planning the trip, and just doing it. Nobody ever stops to tell you, “go have an adventure” and in fact, many people will stop and tell you why you shouldn’t. To be fair, us ladies know that there are plenty of challenges our womanhood presents when wandering the globe. Challenges our male counterparts don’t typically encounter. Female travel, especially solo, can be intense.

Still, it’s easier now than ever before. And we owe that to the six women on this list, and all those like them. With each woman forging a new trail or achieving a new first, bucking expectations and leaning into their true passions and interests, more woman are empowered to do the same. My grandma remarks often that she’s in awe of the younger generations of woman who are having experiences she’d never have dreamed of in her earlier years.

While we have a long way to go until every woman has equal access and opportunity to travel, more of us are experiencing the thrills and freedoms of wandering a new place just to see it, and growing immensely from the experiences we have.

May this post be a continuation of my heartfelt “thank you!” to all the women who help make this world a more navigable place for women, and for all those who help inspire me and push me to be a smarter, kinder, more curious traveler.

Gillian Sans, chairwoman of Booking.com

When we talk about women in travel, we usually gravitate towards the adventurers, the nomads and the influencers. But what about the businesswomen? Undoubtedly one of the most successful and inspiring women in the corporate world of travel must be Gillian Tans, currently Chairwoman of Booking.com.

Beyond being a global powerhouse of the hotel industry, Booking.com is actually one of the world’s leading tech companies too, something that Tans has led in her tenure. Booking Holdings (the parent company) has a market cap of over 85 billion USD, employing 17,500 people in over 70 countries; hugely impressive stats.

Tans has been an integral part of that success. She was one of the fledgling employees back in the infancy of the platform (she was one of the first hires), joining in December 2002. She worked her way up the ladder there, including stints in Customer Care, Content, Operations, Global Sales and then her role as CEO between 2016 and 2019.

A native of the Netherlands, where the travel company heavyweight is headquartered, Tans was always an ‘unlikely CEO’. According to her, she “never set out to be a CEO” but her curiosity and passion for technology helped spur her on to new heights. Many pundits say that, although she is one of the most successful and highly paid women in the travel industry, she hasn’t lost her down to earth attitude. She’s more likely to be seen travelling with a day pack and her signature white sneakers than in high heels and with a briefcase. 

Beyond her corporate life, Tans still finds time to drop her kids at school on their family bicycles, as well as try to keep fit and eat healthy. Plus, you guessed it: she is a language livewire too, speaking English, Dutch, German and French!

A definite dynamo, Gillian Tans is definitely one of the most prominent women in travel. Want to read more? Check out this article on her in The Observer.

Blogger: Lee @ The Travel Scribes

Connect with Lee: instagram

Amelia Earhart, pilot

Amelia Earhart standing in front of a plan, smiling.

To travel is to be curious about the unknown and to have a passion for adventure, and one female who had both in leaps and bounds was Amelia Earhart. 

Born in 1897 in Atchison, Kansas, Amelia Earhart is most famously known for disappearing somewhere over the Pacific in July 1937, while attempting to became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

But her disappearance, still a mystery to this day, shouldn’t overshadow all that she accomplished in her 39 (known) years on Earth. 

Amelia was the first woman to fly solo above 14,000 feet. She was the first woman (and second person after Charles Lindbergh) to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She completed the first solo, nonstop flight across the United States by a woman. She also became the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to the United States mainland. 

Besides all of her aviation accomplishments, she lived a full life. She was a wife, a step-mother, daughter and a sister. She was a pre-med student at Columbia University and worked as a nurse’s aide during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.  She gave lectures at schools encouraging women to enter male dominated industries, and authored a book. She started an active living line of clothes that sold in stores such as Macy’s, and a luggage line. She also helped form the Ninety-Nines, an international organization for the advancement of female pilots that still exists to this day. 

Amelia is an inspiration because she had such a passion for adventure, and didn’t let social norms at the time hold her back. She managed to live life on her terms, and wasn’t afraid to step into the unknown. 
Sadly Earhart disappeared at the age of 39, when she was attempting to become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. There are many theories as to what happened, but none have been officially confirmed. The majority of historians hold to the simple “crash and sink” theory, but a number of other possibilities, including conspiracy theories, have been argued. 

If you’d like to learn more about her, check out East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart, a biography written about her by author Susan Butler. 

Blogger: Candy @ Boogie The Pug

Connect with Candy: instagram

Related Post: How Travel Changed My Career: Seven Stories of Women Working and Wandering

Alexandra David-Neel

Potala Palace Lhasa Tibet.jpg
Potala Palace Lhasa Tibet.jpg

Alexandra David-Néel was a fascinating character whose interests ranged from freemasonry to anarchism to Buddhist spiritualism. Born in France in 1868 to a French father and a Belgian mother, she was a fiercely independent woman who refused to conform to society’s expectations of how she should live her life.

Having converted to Buddhism at the age of 21, she went on to study it for many years as she traveled all over Asia, including in Sikkim, India, China, Japan and Mongolia. Her dream, though, was to visit Lhasa, which at that time was completely closed to foreigners. 

Disguised as a beggar and accompanied by a young Tibetan lama who she would later adopt as her son, David-Néel traveled all the way across China from west to eat and then crossed the Himalayas into the forbidden land of Tibet. On this journey, she endured all kinds of difficulties and deprivations, sleeping on dirty floors and living on yak butter tea and tsampa.

She and her faithful companion reached Lhasa in 1924 and stayed there for two months without being discovered. Alexandra was the first Western woman ever to reach the forbidden city. When she published the story of her journey in 1927, it caused a sensation back in Europe.

Over the course of her very long lifetime, she would go on to publish about 30 more books, most of them about Tibetan spirituality and mysticism. She died in 1969 at the age of 100. 

To learn more about Alexandra David-Néel, the best place to start is with her own fascinating account of her travels to Tibet. In English, the book is published under the title “My Journey to Lhasa”. When I read this book some years ago, it inspired me to one day travel to Lhasa myself. 

While not completely closed off to foreigners, there are still many restrictions on travel to Tibet. Only this time, the restrictions are ordered not by Tibetan authorities but by the Chinese occupiers. I postponed my trip to Tibet for more than a decade in the hopes that independent travel there would become possible once again. 

But since that seemed quite unlikely to happen, I eventually resigned myself to joining an organized tour of Tibet, which is the only way to visit legally. While my own journey to Lhasa certainly wasn’t as adventurous as David-Néel’s, it was still a moving experience. I found the Tibetan Buddhist culture she was so enamored with to be alive and well, despite all odds.

Blogger: Wendy @ The Nomadic Vegan

Connect with Wendy: Instagram

Gloria Atanmo

There is rarely a traveller on social media that inspires me every day as much as Gloria Atanmo does. She is an entrepreneur, a travel blogger and a real inspiration to boost motivation, travels and personal development.

Gloria started her travel journey by studying abroad in Europe and then continuing her journey there. She’s gone from being broke several times to one of the most influential travellers in the world. Her humour and wit are beyond. She is also one of the few people who share not only the beautiful sides of travelling but also ugly truths. And honestly, we need this more than anything else. Travelling is great and being able to hop from one country to the next is one of the biggest privileges of our generation. But there is more than pretty photos and flowy dresses (even though Glo rocks them!).

Glo has to be one of the most important women in the travel industry as she shares incredible travel hacks and tips how to take amazing photos of yourself without hiring a professional photographer (hint: the magic lies in working it out with a tripod and timer). She has inspired me to take great photos of myself when travelling solo and not think about what other people think about my dancing in front of the camera.

To learn more about what kind of person Glo is, you want to check out her book From Excuses to Excursions and of course, follow her on Instagram. Be inspired by her and learn to push limits and step outside your comfort zone both in your personal life and business as well as when travelling. 

Blogger: Viktoria @ Chronic Wanderlust

Connect with Viktoria: Instagram

Related Post: 20 Sustainable Travel Bloggers to Follow in 2020 for Epic Eco-Friendly Inspiration

Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz, first woman to sail around the solo

Meet Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz, the first woman to sail around the world solo. This Polish lady was born in 1936 and undertook her legacy voyage, which lasted 401 days, in 1976.

Her journey was inspired by something similar to International Women’s Day, in fact! In 1975, the United Nations declared it was International Women’s Year. (Can we have another one of those soon please?)

To celebrate, the Polish Sailing Association wanted to send a Polish woman on this record-breaking journey around the world. No other woman had ever completed it. And so they set about planning the journey and finding an appropriate candidate to be their sailor.

Krystyna was no stranger to the sea, as you’d imagine, or to breaking barriers as a woman. She’d sailed with all-female crews between Poland and Scotland, and also said around the Baltic Sea with one of her best friends. Goals!

Oh, and there was the fact that Krystyna was an ship construction engineer. Definitely helpful. Poland has a legacy of master sailing, and a Polish male sailor was among one of the first men to break the record of sailing the world. Krystyna wanted to carry on that legacy as the first woman to do the same.

As the records show, she completed the voyage, inspiring men and women alike to this day. In one interview, she is quoted as saying:

I’m not afraid of what I don’t know, although normal people are said to have it the other way around. I didn’t know how one sails around the world, so I wasn’t afraid of it. After I set out, I began to feel true freedom. This is what it was like: I only did what I wanted to, and sometimes what I was supposed to. There were no limitations. At no other place and at no other time did I feel so free.

Gazeta Wyborcza, Daily Newspaper, April 24, 2009.

Her description is spot on – to me travel provides the opportunity to discover true freedom. With no one to place expectations on my travels, it’s completely up to me to decide what’s important and what I really want to do.

Junko Tabei, first woman to summit Mt. Everest

Snowy mount Everest on a clear day, where Junko Tabei broke the record as the first woman to summit Mount Everest and the Seven Summits, making her one of the most inspirational women in travel.
Photo by Andreas Gäbler on Unsplash

Junko Tabei is a Japanese mountaineer who puts the rest of us outdoor enthusiasts to shame. She holds the title as the first woman to ever summit Mount Everest, AND the first woman to complete the Seven Summits, the highest peak on every continent. Yes, that includes Antarctica.

Junko Tabei finally got fed up with male climbers treating her differently because of her gender, refusing to let her join climbing clubs, and remarking she should be raising children instead. She started her own climbing club of women, called the Ladies Climbing Club, in 1969. A subset of fifteen women from the LLC would go on to form the team of women who would attempt to summit Everest. Junko was, of course, a member.

They made the trip to Everest in 1975 when they began their summit. All was well until their team was struck by an avalanche which buried them all. Junko was unconscious for over five minutes before her Sherpa managed to free himself and her.

That would be more than enough to put anyone out of commission, but Junko persevered and twelve days later went down as the first woman in history to summit Mount Everest (with the help of her Sherpa, Ang Tsering.) Badass.

She finished the final climb of the Seven Summits in Indonesia in 1992 at the age of 53. She’d go on to study the environmental degradation of Everest as a results of climbers, advocating for taking better care of the base camps and paths on which hikers traverse. Yes! We love to see it!


Today is a perfect time to tell the women in your life how much you appreciate them and let them know they inspire you! Hopefully the stories of these six strong women in travel can bring you some inspiration through the rest of the year.

If you liked this post, share it with a women in your life who inspires you!

6 Inspirational Women in Travel to Celebrate on International Women’s Day

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