‘The idea that anyone can get involved in an adventure or a personal challenge, be it small or life-changing, or try something they never dreamt of doing before is a great one’.
There have been many women throughout history, including Mary Kingsley, Isabel Godin and Kate Marsden to name just a few, who have pushed through society’s barriers in search of adventure. Not all are well known, but none the less their achievements are outstanding, especially for their time. One particular lady, Jackie Hill-Murphy, is championing and recreating the journeys of these brave, early explorers by travelling to some of the world’s most inhospitable places and retracing their steps.
Jackie Hill-Murphy FRGS is an explorer, teacher, film maker and speaker. Her first major expedition was in 1988 when she crossed Africa via the Sahara Desert and West Africa. She has also followed in Godin’s footsteps along a 300 mile route between Ecuador and Peru, mostly in a dug-out canoe. Her other adventures have taken her to South America, Africa, India, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Russia and she has lived in Turkey and the US.
Having seen so much of the world, Women’s Adventure Expo thought it was about time we caught up with Jackie to see what she has been up to…….
So Jackie, with so much adventure in your life, what has been the best adventure you’ve had in the last 18 months.
I have been writing my book: The Extraordinary Tale of Kate Marsden and my journey across Siberia in her footsteps.
Fantastic. …and what is next?
I will shortly be leaving on The Expedition to Travel the Length of the Amazon River. I have been planning this for many months and have gathered a team who are all committed to documenting the changes on the Amazon since the first explorers in the 18th century. We will be taking the Bobonasa in Ecuador and the Pastaza in Peru that are very remote tributaries that were used by La Condamine, Isabela Godin and Richard Spruce, the British Botanist.
That sounds like a very interesting and exciting expedition. What do you feel is really exciting in the world of adventure at the moment?
The opportunities and the energy being generated by organisations such as the Women’s Adventure Expo and Explorer’s Connect are very exciting. The idea that anyone can get involved in an adventure or a personal challenge, be it small or life-changing, or try something they never dreamt of doing before is a great one. There seems to be two divisions: sport-based challenges or escapes off the beaten track, but however one does it, it’s brilliant to loosen ourselves from our cultural moorings, even for a short while!
What is the last thing you did which you don’t ever want to forget?
Travelling across Siberia overland and receiving a welcome in a field in Sosnovka in Sakha Province from over a hundred people in full traditional costume…it was an extraordinary and priceless experience.
Wow, it must have been amazing. You must inspire a lot of people with your tales of adventure. Who inspires you and why?
The early lady explorers…unique, feisty and totally under-rated women whose achievements were crushed by Victorian society. Ladies like Mary Kingsley, Isabella Bird, Maud Parrish and Nellie Bly whose travels took them into the unknown, for many months or years at a time and they never knew when they would see home again.
What are you most proud of being able to do today that women found difficult in past generations?
To be free, independent and wear waterproof clothing!
What would you say to anyone who is settling for what they do, rather than doing what they believe in?
Make sure you die with memories and not dreams.
For you, what does adventure bring that enriches your soul and makes you happy?
For me it’s cultural exchanges and being an ambassadress for my country. During the past few years exploring off the beaten track has brought me into contact with ancient ceremonies, like drinking butter tea in Ladakh and sipping warm fermented mare’s milk in Eastern Siberia. Precious moments like these don’t fade away.
What do you think makes women feel more confident about planning their own adventure?
The internet! The world is literally at our fingertips.
So, with all of your travelling and adventure experience, what is the top piece of advice you would pass on to a woman traveling independently?
Be very friendly to everyone – there is nothing worse than an arrogant traveller, but not too friendly that it leads you into trouble!
The women whose journeys you recreate obviously didn’t let fear prevent them from achieving their dreams of adventure, but when was the last time fear stopped you from doing something you wanted to do?
And how do you deal with fear when you are on adventure? I am going to be facing fear on my next expedition because I am frightened of snakes. I can’t let this fear stop me from doing this expedition that I believe in so much. I am obviously wary and I wear thick boots and I hope and pray they all keep away from me!
And finally, what are the three biggest lessons adventure has taught you?
I am more confident now, in middle age, than I have ever been before, so travel has helped me to believe in myself and become a much more interesting person I suppose!
It has taught me that compared to other cultures, I am fortunate and I have choices in life, so I should always choose well.
Lastly, it has opened doors by creating a new career for me as a writer and a speaker, through a passion and I should continue to learn and nurture this passion that found me.
Well I think you’ll agree that Jackie represents the true spirit of adventure. Her expeditions recreating the journeys of past women explorers highlights their achievements and will inspire future female explorers to push through societies barriers to follow their dreams of adventure.
Thank you Jackie for taking the time to answer our questions. We look forward to reading the new book and wish you luck on your next adventure.