“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese
Around the World in Less than 80 Days
In November of 1889, two women set out to beat Phineas Fogg’s record-setting trip in “Around the World in 80 Days.” Fogg and his journey were the 1873 fictional creation of Jules Verne. The journeys of Nellie Bly, who went east from New York, and Elizabeth Bisland, who went west from the same city, were true journalistic adventures.
I knew of Nellie Bly, who won the race in 72 days, four days ahead of Bisland. She was the first woman to fight for equality with men as a female reporter, a fight that was still going on three-quarters of a century later when I had my first byline in a daily newspaper.
I had never heard of Bisland, however, until I read the two women’s compelling, and well researched story in Matthew Goodman book, “Eighty Days.” Published in 2013, it was a great library find. In addition to the compelling story of the two women and their journeys, Goodman weaved in details of what the world was like in the late 1890s, as well as historical events that took place during this time period.
The book also had me turning pages to see what would happen next. Because of the way the book was written, which woman would win the race was a question mark until almost the end. I identified more strongly with Nellie, and so found myself rooting for her when she was behind. And when she did win, the entire country cheered. She was an instant celebrity, acclaimed by all.
But fame is fickle, and in the end, it was Bisland whom I came most to admire.
Goodman didn’t end his book with the race, but followed the two women’s lives and careers until their death.
Although it had been Nellie Bly who had convinced her World Newspaper editor to send her around the world, and it was Bisland’s Cosmopolitan editor who persuaded her to undertake the journey against her wishes, it was Elizabeth who enjoyed the journey simply for itself. She became the true traveler of the two women.
Nellie was simply glad to be back in America, which she defended as the best country in the world. Elizabeth, who admired the English and her Anglo-Saxon heritage, developed wanderlust after the journey was over.
While the two women went on to lead entirely different lives after their journalistic adventures, they both stayed writers to the very end.
Bean Pat: Why Climb Mount Kilimanjaro http://tinyurl.com/jj386yt This could inspire you to get out there and do something different.