I began reading Wanderlust and Lipstick for Women Traveling to India with both hope and apprehension.
I’m generally skeptical of travel resources aimed specifically at us gals; all too often, they play to tired stereotypes (“How to Pack ALL Your Shoes! Bring Travel-Size Make-up! Let’s Shop Up a Storm!”), and when it comes down to it, I’m simply not convinced that men and women travel all that differently.
And yet, I thought as I opened the book for the first time, if there was ever a country that demanded a female-specific guide, wasn’t it India?
I visited the country myself as a solo, inexperienced 22-year-old a few years ago, and struggled to adapt throughout the trip. I was curious to see whether author Beth Whitman would offer the sort of advice I wished I’d had.
The book follows an unconventional guidebook structure: it’s divided thematically rather than geographically (with subject areas like “Getting Around,” “Feasting” and “Your Health”) and is spliced with anecdotes and testimonials from an array of women who’ve traveled to India.
I was immediately impressed by “Follow Your Passions,” a chapter surveying the range of activities available to visitors. It went well beyond the usual lists of yoga studios, trekking companies and shopping bazaars.
In the planning section, Whitman was blunt (in a good way) about how much ground you can actually expect to cover, and offered helpful trip-planning strategies and resources to get the reader started.
A pre-guidebook guidebook, you might ask? Again, if ever there was a country that required one, it would be India. The transportation section was equally thorough and useful.
Much of the advice offered in Wanderlust and Lipstick could actually apply equally to both male and female travelers, but plenty of practical woman-only tips are woven throughout.
The sections on health, safety and packing are especially female-focused and well done, with the safety section including a blunt-spoken couple of pages on the near-inevitability of sexual harassment and how to handle it.
The only real disappointment, for me, was the brevity of the “Feasting” chapter. I could have used more detail, especially regarding regional varieties and signature dishes to keep an eye out for. But I suppose you could write an entire book on the Indian culinary experience alone!
To be clear: Wanderlust and Lipstick for Women Traveling to India is aimed squarely at a general audience. It covers all spending levels, and assumes no previous Third World travel experience in its readers.
The jaded backpacker set may roll their eyes in parts — at the introduction to squat toilets, for instance — but the reality is, India is a universe all on its own, and a particular challenge for female travelers.
This earnest primer would be a useful tool for any woman contemplating a visit to the subcontinent.
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One could call it the last feminist battleground. While most western women today are able to work, choose their husbands and vote – the idea of traveling abroad without a suitable chaperon still raises eyebrows.
Hopeful women travelers are regaled with horror stories about the dire predicaments that similarly minded women have found themselves as a result of traveling alone.
This advice is no doubt well-intentioned by these protective naysayers- but instead of letting their warnings dissuade you from embarking on the trip of your dreams, I recommend tossing them a copy of Beth Whitman’s Wanderlust and Lipstick: The essential guide for women traveling solo” as you head out the door, alone but for your trusty backpack.
Woman On The Road
Whitman is the kind of traveler that others don’t tell you about. A woman traveling on her own who doesn’t end up victimized and forever scarred by foreign men and foreign cultures eager to take advantage of a naïve westerner.
Instead, Whitman has a solid twenty years of travel experience under her belt and is eager to share with other women what she discovered – that yes, it is possible, and sometimes even better, to go it alone.
“Wanderlust and Lipstick” is a great read and Whitman manages to avoid the dry tone that plagues many travel guides, while not straying into frivolity as so many woman-oriented books tend to do.
She doesn’t pander to chick-lit sensibilities with references to the dangers of chipped nail-polish and even tackles the subject of romantic entanglement while traveling in a matter of fact and mature manner.
Written with a good combination of sound advice, tips from someone who’s been there herself and the strong sense that she believes you can take care of yourself, “Wanderlust and Lipstick” casts Whitman as the quintessential older sister, someone eager to share what she’s learned in her experiences to help your own.
The Benefits Of Solo Travel
The sheer readability of the content belies the amount of useful tips and information that is packed within its pages.
Whitman begins by enticing the reader with a list of several reasons to travel alone, inviting the reader to wrap her mind around the concept that there are in fact benefits.
Having done a fabulous job of explaining the “why” of traveling solo, Whitman then embarks into the meat of the book, explaining the “how”.
Travel destinations, booking trips, important safety information, connecting with other travelers on the road and even coming home again, Whitman thoroughly covers every aspect of the traveling experience and tailors it to the female adventurer.
Anecdotes from other seasoned female travelers pepper the chapters, and these tidbits serve to not only liven the reading experience but also play an important role in hammering home the reassuring fact that there are women out there experiencing the world on their own.
If they can do it, there’s no good reason why you can’t.
Whitman presents a great case for women travelers, passing on enough intelligent, safety-oriented advice to satisfy those well-intentioned naysayers while leaving room for her enthusiastic love of travel.
In short, she inspires even the most doubtful women among us to strike out and begin creating anecdotes of our own.
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Eva Holland is a freelance writer, Senior Editor of World Hum and a longtime contributor to the Matador community. She lives in Canada’s Yukon Territory and blogs about Alaska and Yukon travel at Travelers North.
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