How Can Travel Empower Young Girls?

In honor of International Day of the Girl, we’ve asked five female travel writers to write a letter to a younger version of herself, telling the girl tales of the experiences she can look forward to, and the lessons she will learn from travel.

Through stories of language lessons realized from crashing a car into a ditch in Spain, or the realization after visiting a Tanzanian village that it doesn’t matter if your jeans are trendy, these women reveal the educational power of travel, and how essential it is for every girl to explore the world.

Read the letters on AOL Travel>>

We’d also like to celebrate some of the adventurous women who pioneered new frontiers of exploration. A visit to these sites and others that celebrate women in travel may just fuel the dreams for the girls of a new generation.

Aviation fans can’t miss Amelia Earhart’s childhood home in Atchison, Kansas. Find out what to do while you’re here, plus where to eat and local tips. See the guide>>

Western women are some tough cookies, and you can learn about the cowgirls, pioneer women and other adventurers who cultivated the Wild West on a road trip through Texas and Oklahoma. See the route>>More International Day of the Girl Stories:

In sharing these stories we hope you are inspired to Raise Your Hand for girls’ education, helping us spread the word on this crucial effort.

Happy International Pretty Brown Girl Day!

Today is International Pretty Brown Girl Day, a movement launched a few years ago that seeks to “address the harmful messages about skin tone and beauty in media” and is “for little girls of all ethnicities to send the message that brown skin is indeed beautiful.”

Knowing a couple of pretty brown girls who are facing racism here in Spain, I understand the reasoning behind this, but I don’t think it goes far enough. Instead of merely aspiring to be pretty, girls are better off aspiring to kick ass, so by the power invested in me by myself, I hereby declare today to be International Kickass Brown Girl Day.

This is inspired by a little Nepali girl I met many years ago. I had just come back to Pokhara from trekking the Annapurna Circuit and Base Camp and needed to return some gear to a rental shop. As I entered I saw the proprietor was gone and had left his daughter, who could have been no more than 10, in charge.

Two burly young Israeli guys were there arguing with her. They were returning some gear and didn’t want to pay for that day, even though it was early evening. The girl insisted that they pay an extra 100 rupees (a little more than a dollar) because the shop was about to close and there was no way she’d rent that gear that day.

The Israelis didn’t see it that way.

“No, we don’t have to pay!” they shouted, towering over her and acting aggressive. They actually puffed out their chests and clenched their fists… at a little girl.

Shit, I thought. I’m going to have to jump in and protect this kid and there’s no way I can take both these guys. Hopefully the neighbors will come in time to help.

Turns out she didn’t need me. She furrowed her little brow, stuck out her slim little hand with the palm up and said in the most forceful voice imaginable, “NO! You pay me 100 rupee!”

They backed down.

It’s one of the most impressive things I’ve seen in 25 years and 36 countries of travel.

Little brown girls have it tough. Disproportionately poor and discriminated against, many still play sports, go to school in underdeveloped areas, and kick ass in various other ways. So check out the gallery for some inspiring images, and be sure to celebrate International Kickass Brown Girl Day …

… because girls who kick ass are automatically pretty.

This photo shows girls in a rural school in Ethiopia. Most don’t have electricity or running water at home and have to walk several miles to get an education. Photo courtesy Almudena Alonso-Herrero, a kickass pretty brown woman who used to be a kickass pretty brown girl.


Photo of the Day (08.09.10)

As a kid, there may be nothing more terrifying than feeling like you’ve gotten separated from your parents. I remember being in a supermarket, looking up and discovering that my mother was nowhere in sight. I started to freak out. Maybe some kids can handle that, but I was one of those children who would have been bullied if I was in Lord of the Flies.

That’s why it’s so nice to see this girl’s hand securely held by (presumably) her mother in this fantastic photo by Flickr user narinnr. This is a way better situation than having a kid on one of those child leashes. Those things are demoralizing.

Seen lost children? Bring them to the attention of the proper authorities! Then upload your travel pictures to the Gadling Flickr group and we might just use one for our next Photo of the Day.