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Book Review: Wanderlust and Lipstick

by Madeleine Somerville Jul 11, 2007

Traveling solo is a dream for many, yet for women the idea is often quashed by friends and family who hope to keep them out of what they perceive as harm’s way.

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.

She doesn’t pander to chick-lit sensibilities with references to the dangers of chipped nail-polish

“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.

Further reading:

  • Review of Wanderlust and Lipstick at GoBackpacking
  • An Interview with Beth Whitman


Madeleine Somerville is a big city girl living in small city British Columbia, where she works as a newpaper columnist. She has travelled to Thailand and Japan and most recently came back from a few months of sun and sand Down Under.

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