Book review: She Explores by Gale Straub

by Elske
Pete Gone Camping book review | She explores

No camping trip is complete without a good book to take along. As reading can sometimes be a whole adventure on its own, it should be only logical that we provide you with some literary inspiration for your trips to come. Starting off with She Explores by Gale Straub.

If it were up to us, camping would be made a national sport everywhere. The outdoors is for everybody. But as it is, this is not as obvious as you might think. Some people don’t have the luxury of spare time for trips, or weren’t born in cultures where camping is considered a form of leisure activity. In fact, in many places it is still quite unusual for women to travel alone. But this will not stop those who live to explore. Their stories were put together by Gale Straub, founder of

Book cover She Explores by Gale Straub

Who are they?

Gale’s goal has been ‘to create a content site for and about inquisitive women in the outdoors and on the road’. This resulted in a vastly growing network of writers, artists, photographers and travellers. Soon a podcasts series followed and now there is a book: She Explores.

Beautifully designed, She Explores proves to be a page-tuner from page one. Six chapters divide the narratives of thirty-eight women, including Gale herself, by theme. Enthusiasts, creatives, founders and professionals, nomads, transplants (people who relocated themselves) and advocates were given a voice, with consideration to the fact that no woman is ‘one thing; each woman featured is entirely herself’. Each story is accompanied by breath-taking pictures, some of which taken by Gale, a photography enthusiast. To counteract the sometimes emotional confessions, you’ll also find several funny and educational outdoor-know-how subsections.

Important lessons.

For example, how do you meet new people on the road? How do you pack for outdoor cooking efficiently, and what should you consider before you go solo hiking? She Explores is intelligently assembled, with texts that are inspirational and raise awareness at the same time. A love of nature is what distinguishes each page. Each narrator takes the same principle to heart: leave no trace and be respectful. If you can, leave your campgrounds and passages better than you found them. And take note of the cultural history of the territories you’re visiting. As campers and travellers, we need to keep actively increasing a sensitivity for our surroundings. In this way we can continuously evolve into more open minded human beings.

To keep an open mind.

Getting to know yourself is a journey, that requires the courage to doubt yourself and in that way redefine yourself. This is what Kathy Carlo found out while on the road. Her story reflects on how to take life in your own hands, even if self-doubt haunts you sometimes. She quit her job, left New York City and found out that the rock climbing life she chose made her strong and allowed her to be vulnerable at the same time. ‘It’s scary to admit that you don’t have it all figured out, but sharing the complicated and imperfect parts of our lives builds bridges instead of walls.’

Then there’s the story of Morgan Brown, who chose the road as a means to face het trauma. Her mother died in a car accident, leaving her afraid to drive or even leave the house. But recording her conversations about death with people she met, gave her travelling life a new sense of purpose. And this goes for the many women who found that connecting to nature enabled them to come to terms with their physical and mental disabilities and trauma’s.

She Explores has a message.

With She Explores, Gale shows how a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging is what we are all looking for. Born in India but raised in the US, Ambreen Tariq’s has gone out camping with her parents since she was young. ‘But even at a young age, I was aware of the fact that I didn’t look like the others in the campground or on hiking trails’. Noël Russel recalls how her Mexican relatives ‘don’t always think public parks are for them’. And this is a shame. Because as Teresa Baker puts it:

Outdoor spaces lend themselves to conversations that can cultivate change and a stronger sense of self. When we gather in these spaces to have conversations, black, brown, and white individuals are soothed by the calmness of our surroundings. I think it is in those moments that we understand the importance of gathering, to experience our differences and our likeliness and to have these difficult conversations, in hopes of them leading to a greater understanding of our purpose and obligation to the land.

Teresa’s story provides us with a truth we cannot deny. We need to work towards a more profound understanding of the above. And by putting a face to all these different narratives and giving you something to think about, She Explores takes an important step in that direction.

She Explores, 
Gale Straub
Chronicle Books, San Francisco
ISBN: 9781452167664,  € 28,95

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