Sara Wheeler is Britain’s foremost woman travel writer.
Glowing Still is the story of her travelling life – what is ‘important, revealing or funny – in a notoriously testosterone-laden field. Growing up among blue-collar Conservatives in Bristol where ‘we didn’t know anyone who wasn’t like us’, Wheeler knew she needed to get away. In her twenties she began a dramatic escape: Pole to Pole, via Poland.
Glowing Still recalls happy days on India’s Puri Express; an Antarctic lavatory through which a seal popped up (hot fishy breath!); and the louche life of a Parisian shopgirl. Corralling reindeer with the Sami in Arctic Sweden and towing her baby on a sledge, a helpful herdsman advised her to put foil down her bra to facilitate nursing. Launching at Nubility, Wheeler voyages, via small children, to the welcoming port of Invisibility (she leaves Immobility for the next volume).
As she writes in the introduction, when she set sail ‘role models were scarce in the travel-writing game.’ But advancing years usher in unheralded freedoms, and journey’s end finds Wheeler at peace among Zanzibar dhows, contemplating our connection with other lives – the irreplaceable value that travel brings – and paying homage to her heroines, among them Martha Gellhorn, the ineffable war correspondent who furnishes Wheeler’s epigraph: ‘I do not wish to be good. I wish to be hell on wheels, or dead.’