In the 1960s overland travel shot up in popularity, with backpackers heading out across Asia on local transport, converted Bedford trucks and Volkswagen camper vans by the hundreds.
A trend towards upmarket travel, the end of the hippie era, the rise of extremely low-cost travel and various wars and revolutions helped contribute to the demise or at least the slowdown of this kind of travel.
But today there seems to be a renaissance of sorts. We still have no-go zones and low-cost travel but the romance of long-term overlanding, fueled by the desire to work less, travel more and the relatively new ability to lead a nomadic lifestyle are all helping revive the overland trip. I for one am delighted!
Women on the Road NEWS: Contents for Issue #28
Overland Travel: Back in Fashion?
A look at some of the more popular routes...
Cape to Cairo
Or Cairo to Cape. I spent a year on this route, on local transport, with my backpack, starting in Cape Town and working my way North. I almost made it - the border between Eritrea and Sudan was closed because of fighting so I had to stop in Asmara. Still, that year's overland trip took me through the length of South Africa, the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, Mozambique's beaches, Lake Malawi, Tanzania and its Spice Island, Zanzibar, across Kenya, through Uganda, and across Ethiopia to Eritrea (the land border was open then). Given the sheer number of backpackers along this route, you'll never be lonely!
The Karakoram Highway
It's been called the highest road on earth, the Ninth Wonder of the World, the Friendship Highway (between China and Pakistan), but mostly, it is part of the Old Silk Road through such romantically-named places as Kashgar (and its amazing Islamic Old Town), Karakul Lake (with its mirror-like reflections of the mountains beyond) and the drop-dead gorgeous Hunza Valley, thought to be the site of the mythical Shangri-La. This journey is not for the faint of heart, or for those who don't like mountains or heights. This isn't really a trip - it's an adventure.
Across the 'Stans
Speaking of the Old Silk Road, the overland journey across what is often referred to as 'the Stans' is fast becoming popular. The visa headaches alone make it daunting for any but the most seasoned travelers, so this too is not a trip for beginners. You're likely to cross Kyrgyzstan (and its imposing Tian Shan Mountains), Kazakhstan (a mixture of yurts, onion domes, Soviet architecture and rock carvings - and it's Borat's 'homeland', of course), Uzbekistan (Samarkand, culturally and architecturally unique) and Turkmenistan (if you love archaeological sites). Don't those names sing to you? They do to me, but that might just be because that's the region my ancestors came from...
The Trans-Siberian and Beyond
This is a glorious voyage, and great if you're not a hugely experienced traveler. You have plenty of choices - the traditional Siberian Express from Moscow to Vladivostok, the Trans-Manchurian to Beijing, or the Trans-Mongolian. A week on a train may seem like a long time but you can get off along the way if you plan well ahead of time. You'll also meet people in close quarters you'd never have met any other way - people like a Russian Olympic gold medallist, a Kazakh dancer, a trader from Tashkent and a Siberian Tatar who once lived in a Gulag...
Panamericana Part I
So many overland routes go East-West - here's your chance for a true North-South (or South-North) adventure! A good place to start is the US (why not Alaska?) or Canada, following the West Coast all the way, through Mexico (stopping at a few beaches or artists' colonies), Guatemala and El Salvador, spending some time in the mountains of Nicaragua, the national parks of Costa Rica, and finally into Panama, though you won't get any further. Until a way is found across the guerrilla-infested and mosquito-ridden Darien Gap, you'll have to fly to Colombia to start the next leg of your overland journey. Yes, there are occasional boats - but you wouldn't want to take them. Unless leaky rustbuckets and nasty drug runners are your thing...
Panamericana Part II
After Colombia you could head down the East Coast of South America to Venezuela, across Brazil, to Uruguay, and along the length of Argentina all the way to Tierra del Fuego. You can reach the same point by traveling down the West Coast, through Ecuador and Peru (with a detour to Machu Picchu of course) and then down through Bolivia. Normally I would have added Chile but until they recover from the earthquake it's best to stay away from the rescue work. Until then, cross over to Argentina instead.
The Orient Express
The Orient Express as we once knew it (and as I rode it with my parents when I was five weeks old) is no more, but you can still follow one of its many paths. Most trips would have started in either London or Paris, chugging eastwards towards Istanbul along one of three main routes. The first route was through France and Germany, Vienna and Budapest, stopping in Bucharest before reaching its final destination. Another route crossed Switzerland rather than Germany, and the third swung further South, across Northern Italy, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. You can't do this on a single train anymore, but you certainly can join up your journeys and follow in the footsteps of Agatha Christie, in comfort.
The Hippie Trail lives!
Its heart may not be thumping loudly, but there's definitely a bit of ticking left on this most traveled of overland journeys. In the 60s and 70s, hippies and backpackers flocked by the thousands to the narrow streets of Kabul, Karachi and Kathmandu. But the trail shut down when Afghanistan and Iran became too perilous to cross but now, there's a bit of a revival on. You still can't travel through Afghanistan, but you can overland across Europe to Turkey and even Iran (visas are hard to get but it is possible - just make sure you do it all very legally), on to Pakistan (also less easy and safe than it used to be) and to India, Nepal (aaah, Kathmandu) and all the way into Asia - across China (not open to overland travel back then) and right into Southeast Asia.
Some doors close - but some windows open.
Do you have any travel questions?
Are you wondering...
- how safe it is to travel solo?
- where to go?
- how much it might cost?
- what to pack?
- how to meet people and ward off loneliness?
- about the most unusual destinations?
Here are some recent questions readers have asked me:
Where would I find large size women's clothing in Asia?
Where can I find blogs by women who travel?
Would a solo Asian woman traveling to Australia feel uncomfortable?
How easy is it to get a job teaching English overseas?
If you're a woman on the road - or about to hit the road - and have a question, please write to me and I'll do my best to answer.
Have you joined my free travel writing ecourse yet?
If you've ever thought of writing to pay for your travel, you may be like thousands of others who love the road, need the money, and would be thrilled to see their name in print.
I've paid for my own travel as a writer so I've learned a trick or two about what kind of writing sells and how to make a living at it. To share some of these travel writing tips with you I've developed a free online course called the The Travel Writing Magician, available exclusively to readers of this ezine.
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What's New This Month on Women on the Road, the Website
Travel Accessories for Women
What you really can't leave home without
The Best Women's Backpack
How to choose one and what to look for
Women's Adventure Travel
If you're ready to push some boundaries
My 3 Best-Kept Travel Secrets
Discover some of my favorite places in Europe
Remembering Chinese New Year in Singapore
More than a dozen years ago...
What Were Last Month's Top 10 Pages?
1. Safest Destinations for Women
2. Cheap Ways to Travel
3. When is the Best Time to Visit?
4. Overseas Jobs
5. Solo Travel
6. Avoiding Travel Burnout
7. Women's Travel Clothing
8. How to Avoid Crime Abroad
9. Travel Money Belt
Travel News From Across the Web
The World's Best Hikes
26 Eye-Catching Long Exposure Photographs
The Most Beautiful Yet Precariously-Placed Monasteries on Earth
Budget Travelers Guide to Sleeping in Airports
I Hate Taxis: An International Travelers' Transportation Guide
For food lovers...
Truffle Hunting in Tuscany
Donner Party: Southwestern Europe's Fastest Food
Spiced Chocolate and Glacier Hiking
Kyoto's Haute Cuisine
Peruvian Food: More Than Just Ceviche
A Culinary Tour of China
Eating Your Way Around Penang
...and lovers of other arts
AUM: Symbol, Sound, Silence
The Importance of Connecting with Travel Writing Throughout History
Abu Dhabi's Grand Mosque
Portugal's Alluring Alentejo
5 Reasons to Visit Provence
The Steaming Underbelly of New York City
Igloofest Montreal: For Winter Lovers Only
10 Things To Do in Cape Town
From Russia with Blood, Beauty and Beasts
The Visitor's Guide to Seattle
Walking Tour of Sydney, Australia
Inside the Belly of the Biggest Bird in the World: the A380
Cause of the Month
Malaria is a deadly disease but it kills quietly, slowly, one person at a time. Against tragedies of unimaginable proportions, like earthquakes or tsunamis, it can be almost invisible.
Here are a few startling facts you may not know:
- Malaria infects up to 300 million people each year, of whom a million die
- Each 30 seconds, a child dies from malaria
- Three-quarters of those who die are children under 5
- Malaria is easily preventable and curable
- A bed net costs about $10 and is the most cost-effective protection against malaria
- Malaria is the second cause of deaths from infectious diseases in Africa (the first is AIDS)
Malaria is transmitted by the plasmodium parasite carried to people by mosquitoes (specifically the female Anopheles mosquito), and is relatively easy to catch when you travel in hot, humid regions. In fact, avoiding malaria is one of our main health concerns when we travel. Most of us carry or use bed nets or a travel mosquito net - but not everyone is as fortunate. For many poor people, a simple bed net is too expensive.
In Africa, where 90% of all malaria deaths occur, there are no window screens (and often no windows). If infected, few people can afford malaria drugs. Some experts say simple bed nets, treated with insecticides, could mean the difference between life and death.
To help the fight against malaria or to find out more:
World Health Organization
Roll Back Malaria
International Medical Corps
Nothing But Nets
Malaria No More
Next Month in Women on the Road NEWS?
How the World Celebrates Breakfast
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Happy travels! Leyla