Journeywoman Book Club: “Travels with My Hat” Takes you on a Solo Tour of the Middle East

About this Book

Our October 21 book club will be a special one, as we explore the true essence of solo travel. Two weeks ago, I started reading our next book club pick, ‘Travels With My Hat: A Lifetime on the Road’, by Australian Christine Osborne (recommended by JW member Amos). Published in 2013, this is the incredible story of a fearless, brave woman, who travelled to remote areas of Ethiopia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, and Morocco at a time well before the Internet, travel guides and mass tourism.

Photo at top: by Carolyn Ray of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco

Our Take on this Novel 

An incredible read, with minute attention to detail to the culture, history and places – all from a woman’s perspective. This is what female solo travel was like before organized tours, the Internet and so many of the things we take for granted. Christine is an inspiration!  Does it inspire us to pack our bags to the MIddle East? Yes: a solid four out of five.

   Carolyn and Wendy, your book club hosts 

“Few activities generate as much excitement as setting off somewhere foreign, where different landscapes, interesting people and colourful customs await. Every night after saying my prayers, I would fall asleep to dream of destinations in books signed out by Miss Mrytle, the frizzy-haired librarian who never smiled.”

Christine Osbourne

Travels with my Hat, by Christine Osborne

OCTOBER 21, 2020, 7 PM ET  

Recommended by: Amos
Published in: 2014
Countries: Iraq, Ethiopia, Egypt, Pakistan, Morocco

Abstract: The remarkable story of how an Australian nurse became an award-winning travel writer and acclaimed photographer working alone in some of the most offbeat places on earth. This was trailblazing travel in a time well before the internet: before travel rating websites advised where to stay and before mass tourism disturbed the culture of many countries. In 1979 Christine Osborne travelled with the Buckingham Palace Press Corps to cover Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s tour of the Arab states. The hat incident of the title refers to a moment in Nizwa, in the Sultanate of Oman when the Queen became separated from the royal party in the labyrinthine souq. Christine’s other adventures in Yemen, Pakistan, Morocco, Ethiopia and Iraq are rounded off with letters to her mother who had never left Australia. Travels with My Hat: A lifetime on the road is an extraordinary account by a cool-headed young woman carrying her camera-bag and wearing her trusty blue hat.

At this book club, YOU are our special guest! Join us on October 21 to share your insights and experiences about Solo Travel, using Christine’s book as a starting point for discussion. 

PURCHASE THE BOOK 

Please purchase books at independent bookstores:
Indigo
Bookshop.org

Travels with my hat - Book jacket

CHRISTINE OSBOURNE

Photo Source: Goodreads 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born in Temora, New South Wales in 1958, Christine began her career as a nurse, but pursued her sense of adventure and became an award-winning travel writer and photographer working alone in some of the most offbeat places on earth. She came to prominence in 1970 on receiving the Pacific Area Travel Association award for travel articles.

The next decades saw Osborne exploring the Middle East and Africa from a base in London. Following the publication of her first book – The Gulf States & Oman in 1977 – she fulfilled writing and photographic commissions in the developing world in SE Asia. In 1979, she was the only woman photographer with the Buckingham Palace Press Corps to cover Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s tour of the Arab states, which she speaks about in this book. She has written 16 books and travel guides covering Pakistan, Morocco, Thailand, Malaysia, Bali and the Seychelles.

OUR FAVOURITE PASSAGE  

“I wanted to visit Burma after reading Ethel Mannin’s ‘Land of the Crested Lion’ and the Greek islands, immortalized by Charmain Clift in ‘Mermaid Singing’. I wanted to stand on the spot where Speke discovered the source of the Nile and to follow Freya Stark, to Damascus and Baghdad.

I wanted to dance the tango in Buenos Aires and to meet glamorous characters from the Arabian Nights; sultans, sheiks, and odalisques in harem trousers serving tiny glasses of mint-flavoured tea. And while I loved mum’s roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, I longed to try dishes such as fesanjan, a duck and pomegranate dish from Persia, and the aromatic tajine stews of Berber kitchens in Morocco.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

At this book club, YOU are our special guest! Join us to share your insights and experiences about Solo Travel, using Christine’s book as a starting point for discussion.

1. What was your favourite passage of the book?

2. Christine speaks about when she dreamt of travelling as a young child and the books that inspired her. What books inspired you as a child to travel?

3. She obviously had a very strong relationship with her mom, who she wrote to constantly, and calls her mum an armchair traveller who never left Australia. When did you get the travel bug? Who inspired and supported you to travel solo?

4. Why do you think Christine wanted to go to places that were ‘not gentle’ like Florentine Rome? Instead, she went to places across the Middle East that did not treat women as equals. Have you ever felt a deep desire to go somewhere, and if so where was it?  Where have you experienced the most oppression as a woman travelling solo? How did you overcome it? What’s your advice to other women?

5. She often went many places that would be deemed unsafe, even today. Where you have you been that scared you? Is there any place you would never return to? What lessons did you learn about yourself in doing so?

6. In one chapter, she speaks about returning to a small city that becomes developed for tourism, and is sorry she returned. (have to check which one, I think in Egypt). Have you ever been somewhere before it was developed and wished you hadn’t returned? Which place?

7. What do you think you could teach another woman about solo travel? What would your one piece of advice be?

For more on the book, visit: https://travelswithmyhat.com/

Listen to a 2014 interview with Christine here:  https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/christine-osborne3a-travels-with-my-hat/5408402

WATCH THE BOOK CLUB HERE 

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