Book Review: High Heels and a Head Torch, by Chelsea Duke

Backpacking & Trekking, Travel Books & Movies — By on November 30, 2009 at 4:00 pm

By Kristen J. Putch
LG North American Travel Editor


There’s nothing like strapping on a hulking nylon backpack, ditching cute wedge sandals for Tevas and swapping out a spritz of DKNY perfume with a cloud of deet-scented bugspray to make a gal feel a little bit like, well-a guy. Many female travelers simply accept the loss of the all things girlie as an unavoidable part of the backpacker experience, but English traveler and author Chelsea Duke insists that you don’t have to become one of the boys in order to see the world. In her new book, High Heels and a Head Torch: The Essential Guide For Girls Who Backpack, she explains how adventurous women can maintain their femininity-and their dignity-as they explore abroad.

Duke’s book is not the typical “go here, see this, eat that” type of travel guide, but rather a quirky how-to manual for female travelers who don’t want to entirely sacrifice their sense of personal style and individuality as they make the trek from place to place. In addition to providing packing and shopping advice, she share show to stay healthy, safe, and in touch with loved ones throughout your journey.

The book is filled with anecdotes from Duke’s own personal travel experiences, and invaluable tidbits of advice that she gleaned along the way. She explains how to successfully cook a square meal in a tiny, ill-equipped hostel kitchen, the importance of rubber flip-flops in shared bathrooms and which items you really do need to squeeze in your pack (which does in fact include a head torch, but not waterproof pants).

Duke also isn’t afraid to tackle tougher subjects in her book, particularly when it comes to the safety of young female travelers and those traveling solo. In addition to the topic of general safety (for you and your personal belongings), she discusses the importance using “protection” abroad-especially when a sexy guy with an accent attempts to sweep you off your feet. She also shares how to maintain your sanity when constantly sharing a room with a dozen strangers (hint: Spring for a single room every once now and again).

One downside to Duke’s book is that is aimed towards the more adventurous traveler. So if camping in the Australian outback or hiking the Inca Trail isn’t your idea of a vacation, some of Duke’s advice, especially in the packing section, may be of little use to you. However, her advice on issues such as safety and hostels can be put to good use whether you are studying abroad in Europe or trekking through the Andes.

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