Why Nellie Bly is awesome

My travel hero: Nellie Bly

Nellie Bly was the person who reinspired my round-the-world ambition.

I learnt of her during my visit to the Jules Verne museum in Nantes.

In the three-storeyed house, there was a little corner about Around the World in 80 Days book. At that corner, and there was a yellow A4 poster of a vintage-wearing lady.

The little description that accompanied the photo told me that she was a journalist (like me!) and had went on a round-the-world trip in only 72 days, 6 hours and 11 minutes. How impressive!

However, no thanks to my rusty French, I interpreted féminisme into femininity and decided that Nellie Bly wasn’t terribly impressive. Tsk tsk tsk.

I then put her in a corner of my mind and her description plaque in a corner of my memory card. (I would have forgotten her name if I did not take that picture.)

It wasn’t until I was back in Singapore that I started reading up about her. Then I found out how she is really really bad ass.

How Nellie Bly is awesome

Not only did she break the world record circling the world in 1888 in such a short time, she was an investigative journalist who went undercover at a mad women’s hospital! She also has two patent under her name! Sadly, the end of her life was a bit more tragic.

Her Wikipedia entry was too scant for my liking so I borrowed a library book (meant for children as it was large and had a hardcover) that was an edited version of her Around the World in 72 Days travel memoir.

I found her writing humorous.

One part that I found really funny was when she was deciding if she should bring her cold cream in her one hand luggage. She finally did by stuffing it extra violently and her bag could not close properly.

No luggage to checkin

I like that she’s really feisty too. When her editor told her she cannot travel the world alone and they will send a man instead. She said: “Very well. Start the man, and I’ll start the same day for some other newspaper and beat him.”

How can you not love her?

Then and now

While it is now a lot more easy for a woman to travel alone wherever she wants, there has been an unfortunate change in the world. Nellie wrote:

Someone suggested that a revolver would be a good companion piece for the passport, but I had such a strong belief in the world’s greeting me as I greeted it, that I refused to arm myself. I knew if my conduct was proper I should always find men ready to protect me, let them be Americans, English, French, German or anything else.

Today, bringing a firearm with you while travelling will surely get you sent to plenty of jails and have your passport taken away.

Besides that, in this age, no amount of “proper conduct” is going to reassure me that I will be safe and have “men ready to protect me”. I’ll need to protect myself.

Anyway, you can read her Nellie Bly’s full travel memoir Around the World in 72 Days for free online.

Who’s your travel inspiration?

PS Does it count as cheating if I link this to Dec 19’s Daily Prompt: Hero?

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More about Liau Yun Qing

Yun Qing is a writer, improviser and curious person. She loves finding little adventures in life. In 2013, she went on a 130-day round-the-world trip. She wrote a book to help those who also want to go on a career break.

6 Comments

      1. Hello Jody, thanks for the comment. Nellie Bly is really inspirational, although I don’t think I can manage to travel the world in 72 days with only one carry on. :)

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