THE ELISE WORTLEY STORY
Climbing the Himalayas is very challenging and this is indeed a well-known fact. How about taking the hike with zero modern technology? Elise Wortley decided to do just that, following the footsteps of legendary female explorer Alexandra David- Neél who crossed the Himalayas Lhasa in 1924.
I craved for life beyond the garden gate, to follow the road that passed it by, and to set out for the unknown– Alexandra David- Neél
Reading the book My Journey to Lhasa by Alexandra piqued Elise’s curiosity and amusement when she was just 16 years old. How could a woman in the 1900’s manage to walk away from her life and go on an epic adventure, when we all know that staying at home and bearing children is the norm in that era? The quote “I craved for life beyond the garden gate, to follow the road that passed it by, and to set out for the unknown” from the book stuck with Elise which made her look up to her more. This inspired her to think that if Alexandra can do it, so can she and anyone. This determined her to follow the footsteps of intrepid women in history.
Using the journeys of famous female explorers as her guide, Elise set her adventure in November 2017 with an all-female expedition. With a wicker basket, some rope, a wooden backpack, and a coat made from Yak wool, she reached some of the world’s hardest peaks. For her, it was a way of stepping away from technology to enjoy the natural world. She travelled overland across Europe before finally reaching the town of Lachen in Sikkim, a northern region of India. The region was her home for four years and vowed to enter Tibet at which that time entry was forbidden for foreigners. She was able to eventually cross over the border by disguising herself as a beggar.
She wanted to embark on this journey with the motivation of highlighting the roles of women in adventure travel. Inspiring women to put themselves out of their comfort zones has been one of her primary goals in the epic adventure she just ventured. For her, the journeys of female explorers are more challenging than their male counterparts. They not only had to deal with physical obstacles but also their menstrual cycles.
While searching for a female guide in northern India, Elise was highly discouraged by numerous people saying that is impossible to find one somewhere. With dedication and sheer luck, she was able to find one, a local leader named Jangu. To complete the all-female group, Elise and Jangu welcomed Emily Almond-Barr, an amazing cinematographer who documented the whole journey. Women are known to have an instinct that determines each other’s needs and this made her journey on the mountains of Himalayas a lot easier. The bond of the three made her realize how important it is for women to stick together and support each other.
Women empowerment is a topic closer to Elise’s heart that she went on this adventure without modern-day equipment not only because she wanted to relive the journey of the legendary female explorers but also wanted to raise money for Freedom Kit Bags.
Freedom Kit Bags is a charity that empowers women and girls in rural and low-income areas of Nepal. The organization provides these women and girls with reusable kits containing essentials they need during their menstrual cycles. Because of cultural practices in Nepal, menstruation is still a taboo in their community. They see women and girls as “unclean” during their periods. Their inability to deal with the physical effects of periods has greatly impacted them. The lack of hygienic protection caused many women to suffer from health issues like infertility, kidney complications and pelvic infections. The company Elise has been working at has been supporting Freedom Kit Bags for years and she also wanted to help in her own way through this expedition.
The perspective of a female explorer in adventure travel is changing in a huge way according to Elise. All-female group trip demands are rising. Even though women still face a lot of pressures while travelling, such as where you can and can’t go as a woman, how to deal with periods, and many more, women should never be deterred because of a worry about these issues and break through those boundaries. Female explorers are not as remembered as their male counterparts and that should change. It is important to show that women currently are, and always have been, at the forefront of travel and exploration.
This adventure taught Elise to just go with whatever your heart desires no matter how silly you think the idea is or unreasonable it may seem. She had started with the idea of the trip when she was just a teenager but never had the guts to do it. She’s always been anxious and never really had much confidence. This adventure made a positive impact on her mental health as it meant that she wasn’t reliant on modern technology. This made her calm from the natural surroundings that embraced her. Travelling indeed can magically change you, take if from Elise who changed from barely getting on a bus to navigating around the globe.
If you want to try all-female expedition for the first time, it is better to consider groups that can give you the assurance that you are in good hands. Intrepid believes that travelling is for everyone and made sure that women can have a fair share with the excitement of it. Intrepid’s Women’s Expeditions is all about breaking down barriers, fostering discussion and creating immersive local experiences for women.
Grab your female friends with you and have the best experience together and meet new friends for life while empowering and learning from each other in a way Elise had done.
Don’t delay the adventure that awaits you! Click here or the link below and we’ll take you to a journey of a lifetime!All-Female Adventures
Photo credits to Emily Almond‐Barr
Video credits to BroadacstExchange