Freya Stark: A Courageous Female Explorer

“It is so wonderful to be away, really away; a new land opening out every morning.”

-Freya Stark

Freya Stark

Freya Stark was a female traveler, who with the help of often times only a guide, journeyed into parts of the Middle East most women (or men) would never dare.  She was British, although she spent most of her childhood in various parts of Italy.  In spite of being afflicted with many personal tragedies, including several illnesses, Freya’s desire to get out of her small, isolated world never ceased.  She spent most of her youth educating herself through books on topics ranging from poetry to philosophy, as she did not have any formal education until college.

Freya made her first journey to the Middle East in the 1920s, not long after World War I ended.  For several years prior to her trip, she had taken lessons in the Arabic language.  She already spoke Italian, German, English and French.  A determined woman, Freya decided to travel alone most of the time, despite continual pressure from her mother to marry.  She often stayed in very minimal accommodations and saved money whenever should could, occasionally sacrificing food to buy what she believed to be an artifact of a culture.  When she returned home from one journey, she would immediately begin preparations for another.

The list of countries and cities she visited is absolutely astonishing, especially for a woman of that time.  Freya lived a long life filled with exciting adventures and intriguing journeys into the unknown.  She died shortly after celebrating her one-hundredth birthday.

In reading her life story, I am infused with a tremendous amount of inspiration.  She has done things that I will probably never do in my lifetime.  She motivates me to not only travel, but to purposefully accomplish something when I travel.  Maybe it will be to climb a mountain or to study world history.  I don’t know, yet.  That’s what is truly exciting, to be at the threshold of adventure and to never know what’s coming next, to believe that anything is possible.

Photo credit: 66south.com

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