If you are a wanderer, if you travel solo, or you’re still forced to fight against gender stereotypes, then you absolutely must know the story of Ida Pfeiffer. A travelling woman definitely ahead of her time, who met queens and cannibals as well, and was also the first European lady to cross the island of Borneo.
Ida began traveling late, after turning 40, after a failed marriage, and after rising her children alone. See? It’s never too late!
Her first trip took her from Vienna to the Black Sea, then to Syria and Egypt. She crossed the Suez Strait and went back to Vienna through Italy. She also had to lie to her family in order to be able to go, but this didn’t stop her leaving again. Ida’s second trip took her to Scandinavia, where she also had the chance to meet the Queen of Sweden.
In 1846, Ida Pfeiffer left for her first round-the-world trip, which began in Brazil. She sailed around the dreaded Cape Horn to reach the beautiful Valparaiso, in Chile. Afterwards she went to Tahiti, and from there to China, moving through countries where the presence of a white woman was such an extraordinary event that she often found herself in challenging situations. Not that any of this could possibly scare her. From India, in fact, Ida went to Mesopotamia and Persia, she visited Baghdad, crossed the desert with the nomad caravans and saw the ruins of Babylon and Nineveh. Passing through Armenia, Turkey and Greece, this extraordinary woman finally returned to Vienna. Of course already planning her next trip.
When she left Vienna once more, this time headed to Cape Town, Souht Africa, Ida was 54. This time her compass took her to South East Asia, where she met, and survived, cannibal populations. She then moved to California, crossing the Pacific Ocean, then headed to South America, which she had to leave soon due to the political instability of the region. Moving north again, till the Niagara Falls, Ida finally reached London and went back home.
Not having seen Australia yet, Pfeiffer left one last time in 1856. She reached Mauritius and then Madagascar. Here, at the outbreak of political riots, she was accused of espionage and imprisoned. Sick, and escorted by the army, Ida had to walk for 53 days through malaria-infested swamps to reach the coast and return to Mauritius. Unfortunately her Australian dream wasn’t meant to be. Due to malaria, Ida was in fact forced to return to Vienna, where she died.
Her books made her pretty famous and gave her an income that funded her travels, but she still started on a very low budget, and traveled like that all of her life. She’s the perfect role model for all of us backpackers!
Now, since we’ll be soon allowed to travel again, what better time to kickstart ourselves out of the door with this amazing lady as a source of inspiration?