In honor of International Women’s Day, I’d like to introduce you to Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir (Icelandic: Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir).
I met this chick and her kid along a desolate road in the Snaefellsness Peninsula of Iceland. Our guide Jonas of GoEcco Outdoor Expeditions stopped the van and told me to check out a small statue protected a low wall of stacked stones.
Puzzled, I walked over and read the plaque.
By the time I got to the last line, I was mesmerized. This Nordic woman has traveled around the world (twice over Europe!) during the perilous Viking Age. Can you imagine having to be in a shipful of Vikings in the dead of winter going to Greenland? Bear Grylls has nothing on her!
She went on eight (8!) sea journeys and traveled across Europe TWICE. In the year 1000, she traveled from Iceland to Greenland. Icelandic legends hold that she gave birth to the first white man born on North America.
She lived several lives: explorer, wife, mother, pilgrim, hermit.
Every time I experience minor inconveniences while traveling (no Wi-Fi, cramped coach seats, crappy airplane food, long TSA lines, delayed flights), I try to think about my gal Gudrid and what it must have been like for her in the 10th century.
I can’t even begin to imagine how tough the conditions might have been at the time. I marvel at how far female travelers have come since then.
Still, women continue to face challenges as they travel around the world whether on their own or with a loved one. Women are still being harassed on the road and questioned at airports when traveling solo and/or for extended periods (“How can you afford to be gone that long?”). Migrant workers’ passports are held hostage by their employers and are virtual prisoners in their foreign place of employment.
Women continue to fight for our right to explore the world on our own terms. The world is a different place than when Gudrid set sail for distant lands. More women are traveling on their own. More wives are leading the family’s vacation planning efforts. More mothers are taking their children to discover new places to expand their minds and horizons.
Wherever your journeys may take you, I wish you well and hope that your travels continue to shape you to become the woman that you are destined to be.
Happy International Women’s Day!
Book about Gudrid, for your Travel Reading List:
The Sea Road by Margaret Elphinstone (Canongate Books, 2000)
God’s Daughter by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press, 2013)