Category Archives: Literary Travel

vagabond woman

Cross Dressing Vagabond – Isabelle Eberhardt

Traveling the world used to be a game that only the men played, but as in all fields, brave pioneers broke out of the Victorian conception of women as meek and mild and showed that even the hardest travel makes no distinction among the sexes. Isabelle Eberhardt was one of these extraordinary feminist vagabonds.

Isabelle Eberhardt was a Swiss writer and explorer who lived and traveled widely in North Africa. She is considered to have been an extremely independent individual, who refused normal European ethics and characterization of women. Instead she followed her own path which led her to world travel. Isabelle’s first trip was with her mother to North Africa in 1897. They were trying to set up a new life there on this journey, and during that time they both converted to Islam.

feminist vagabondIsabelle’s half brother Vladimir committed suicide and another brother was married to a French woman whom Eberhardt was not in favor of. From then onwards, she spent her life in Africa, she made Northern Algeria and Morocco her home and became a true desert vagabond. Isabelle was in Tunisia for some time as well. She was frequently disguised as a man and there are many who conjecture that she not only lived as a man but loved women as a man does.

The life and writings of Isabelle Eberhardt:
The Nomad
In the Shadow of Islam
Prisoner of Dunes
The Oblivion Seekers
The Vagabond

female vagabondIsabelle married an Algerian soldier, Slimane Ehnni in 1901. She was known to drink and fight in the hardest of ways. She died in a flash flood in Algeria in 1904. She had rented a house there which was constructed of clay. The house collapsed on Isabelle and her husband during the flood, she saved her husband but she didn’t survive the disaster. She wrote about her travels in several books and the newspapers of France. Her books and articles include “In the Hot Shadow of Islam”, “Algerian Short Stories” and “The Day Laborers”. She also wrote a novel, Vagabond which was translated into English by Annette Kobak. The journals of Isabelle were recovered from the flash flood, they covered the final four years of her life and now these journals are also available in English.

Isabelle Eberhard was a nomad in Africa but more importantly she explored the limits and boundaries of gender as well as the deserts of Africa and continued her writing during that time. Most of her novels, books and journals on her travels can be found in English, Spanish, French, and German.

genghis khan map

Nomad Vagabond – Genghis Khan

Traveling round the world doesn’t usually involve conquest of foreign lands but for Temujin, also known as Genghis Khan, conquest was probably just a means of travel. Starting with nothing as an exile and prisoner means he was certainly an extraordinary vagabond.

Genghis Khan was a nomad, in other words he was a world traveler of sort. Genghis Khan’s real name in his childhood was Temujin. When his brother poisoned his father Temujin killed his brother and in punishment he was thrown into forest, he was held in prison by his former friends after that. vagobond genghis khanAfter few years, Temujin rose up as a powerful leader and united the tribes of the Mongol people. With this goal accomplished, he and his Mongol hordes targeted many and far lands. From the time of his unification of the Mongol tribes, the Mongols called him Genghis Khan.

Genghis Khan first attacked the Tangut tribes to the west of the Mongol homeland. His first important foreign venture was not an easy one, but he brought the tribes of Tangut to their knees by 1209, which was the beginning of his empire. Genghis targeted east and south after that, this was the land ruled by Jin Dynasty of China. Genghis Khan captured Beijing, bringing the pressure to the Jin emperor and managing to restrain the complete northern half of the kingdom.

Want to know more about Genghis Khan?
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
Genghis Khan : His Life and Legacy
Genghis Khan – To the Ends of Earth and Sea (DVD)
Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan (DVD)

Kara-Khitan which is called “Xinjiang” today by the Chinese government was the next battleground of Genghis Khan. With just 20,000 soldiers, the Mongols brought the surrender of Kara-Khitan by 1218. Now Genghis Khan’s empire extended from shores of China in the east to Kazakhstan in west.

genghis khan mapThis was not enough and Genghis Khan desired more. He set his eyes on his new neighbor, the Khwarezmid Empire. It stretched from Kazakhstan to the banks of Persian Gulf, surrounding most of Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and half of Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan. At first Genghis Khan tried to establish a booming trade partnership with Khwarezmids, but the leader of Khwarezmid attacked his 500 man caravan. After this, he foolishly refused to pay compensation for his act. Genghis Khan later sent his group of ambassadors to the Shah of Khwarezmid in a hope to have some kind of political trade relationship. But the Shah refused his proposal, Genghis Khan invaded Khwarezmid and executed the Shah. After this horrible conquest of Khwarezmid Empire, he headed across Afghanistan and northern India.

By the end of his life, Temujin had conquered everything from Asia all the way to Europe’s doorstep. Most of modern Turkey, parts of Greece, and even portions of Bulgaria, Romania, and Russia were his domain.

As a world traveler, he spilled a lot more blood than most, but the fact is he controlled the largest contiguous empire in history and saw more of the world than most people ever will.

che guevara

Revolutionary Vagabond – Che Guevara

World travel was important to Che. Sure, you see his image on all kinds of clueless college kids t-shirts and hoodies and maybe later he was responsible for thousands of heartless deaths, but you gotta love that medical student who set out on his friend’s motorcycle to see the world.

Che Guevara was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, author, physician, intellect, guerilla leader and was an important figure of Revolution in Cuba. He took admission in Buenos Aires University to study medicine. His interest to explore the world made him a world traveler and it led him to scatter his collegiate interests with two thoughtful journeys which would basically change his view about modern economic conditions in Latin America.
che guevara
In his first journey he covered 4,500 kilometers in 1950, he traveled alone on bicycle through rural provinces of northern Argentina, and he had installed a small motor on his bicycle. Next he traveled for nine months for about 8000 kilometers on motorcycle through South America. He took a break of a year from his studies to travel with his friend Albert Granado, he spent few weeks voluntarily in Peru at San Pablo Leper colony.

Che Guevara was very upset about the working conditions of miners in Chuquicamata copper mine of Anaconda, Chile. He was surprised by his overnight confrontation with a harassed couple. He as struck by the smashing poverty of the rural area on his way to Machu Picchu in the Andes. Peasant farmers worked on small plots of lands which were owned by landlords in this place.

Manual on Guerrilla Warfare
Che – The Criterion Collection on DVD
Che – A Revolutionary Life
The Motorcycle Diaries

On his journey, Che Guevara was impressed by the friendship of the people living in the Leper Colony. He roamed as a true vagabond throughout South America . Che Guevara used the notes which he had taken while on this trip to write an account named “The Motorcycle Diaries”, and it became a best seller of New York Times and it was later also made into a movie which won several awards. Che Guevara became a world traveler because of his enthusiasm in traveling adventures.

Before returning to his home in Buenos Aires, Che Guevara traveled through Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama and Miami. At the end of his trip Che Guevara visited Latin America.
che vagabond
Later in Mexico City, Che met Raúl and Fidel Castro and after the invasion by yacht rose to prominence second-in-commandof those who deposed deposed the Batista regime.

Guevara helped to institute agrarian reform after the revolution and reviewed the firing squads as well as writing a manual on guerrilla warfare. While trying to foment further revolution, he was captured by CIA-assisted Bolivian forces and executed.