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What do you learn traveling while female?

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By George Stone, TRAVEL Executive Editor

Gender may well be a construct, but aspects of gender can profoundly influence our experiences in life. For travelers, our gender expression can open doors—or slam them shut. Some of our greatest explorers overcame obstacles of all sorts—Isabella Bird, Nellie Bly, Freya Stark, and Jane Goodall among them. I learned a lot about the latter last weekend when I toured Becoming Jane, the new exhibition at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C.

Travel is about defining our place in the world. In support of Women: A Century of Change, we worked with some of our favorite adventurous women to discover what they have learned on their journeys to Indonesia, Australia, and Scandinavia. Each carried back lessons.

From photo editor Anne Farrar, who swam, floated, and meditated along the ecologically threatened Great Barrier Reef: “Once you know what climate change looks like, it’s easier to visualize solutions.” From Jill K. Robinson, who kayaked the deep blue Baltic along the islands of the Stockholm archipelago: “With a bit of bravado, you can learn a new skill and see the world from a different perspective.” From Kate Siber, who explored the waters off Raja Ampat, Indonesia (shown below). “You can’t control the sea but you can immerse yourself and respect the unexpected."

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Read on for three more women travelers who had life-changing adventures on land in Colombia, Belgium, and China. How has gender influenced your own journeys? What lessons have you learned from pushing yourself to explore? Email me at George.Stone@natgeo.com or chat with me Thursday on @NatGeoTravel about your best trips, and I’ll share a few stories in following newsletters.

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Today in a minute

Where not to go: They’re beautiful. But they also are awash with tourists, garbage emergencies, or wildfire fears. Think twice, Fodor says, before going to these places, which include Barcelona, Big Sur, Bali, and Angkor Wat.

The new Iceland? That would be Greenland, says Barbara Banks, director of marketing and new trip development for Wilderness Travel. Banks told Afar that her company’s Expedition to Greenland itinerary sold out this year, and other companies report growing interest in the vast autonomous Danish region. Other factors: overtourism in Iceland and the closure of cheap Wow Air and its attractive Icelandic fares. Here’s our guide to Greenland.

The healing plant: For centuries, residents of a Greek island have produced a prized type of mastic resin from a variety that only grows there. The hardened white goo of Chios was prized by Romans to brush their teeth and freshen their breath, by the Ottomans as a spice, and today for its purported stomach, muscle and dental benefits. Much of the cultivation and harvesting is still done by hand.

Bike friendly: What do Minneapolis, Madison, San Luis Obispo, and Scottsdale have in common? The Minnesota, Wisconsin, California, and Arizona communities are at the top of 53 certified “bicycle-friendly communities.” Click here to see the communities, certified by the League of American Bicyclists.

Want a travel read? Here are 10 of the year’s best travel books, via Smithsonian, from a real-life retracing of famous literary settings to an exploration of abandoned underground tunnels and caves. Dig in!

Your Instagram photo of the day

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Bright lights, big city. Taipei’s Raohe Street Night Market is a maze of delicious food and eye-catching shops in Taiwan’s capital. Local specialties include: noodle soups, sausages, stinky tofu, and bubble tea.

Explore more: Taipei in 72 hours

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Overheard at Nat Geo

Never too late. Travel as long as you can, says Nat Geo's Cindy Leitner. “At 85, my mother yearned to go on a walking pilgrimage in Norway," she said. "Joining her, I found lush forests that called to mind the fairyland of stories we’d shared when I was a little girl.” To hear other behind-the-scenes stories from National Geographic, listen to our podcast, Overheard. Subscribe here, or get tickets to our live podcast in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.

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Come back tomorrow for Victoria Jaggard on the latest in science. If you’re not a subscriber, sign up here to also get Rachael Bale on animals, Whitney Johnson on photography, and Debra Adams Simmons on history.

One last glimpse

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Traveling While Female, 1920: What was travel like a century ago? “Really,” writes Becky Little, “you weren’t supposed to travel alone in the first place.” Here’s a story about those women who did. Pictured above: Men walk alongside two American women traveling by kajeveh, basket-like litters used in the area then known as Persia.

This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard. Have an idea or a link? I'd love to hear from you at david.beard@natgeo.com . Thanks for reading!