When we think of some of the best writers who have written about nature, we usually think of Thoreau, Emerson, etc. But does Isabella Bird ever come to mind?
Isabella Bird was an English traveler and writer who fantastically wrote about her adventures exploring and settling in America’s outdoors.
Isabella was born in England in 1831. At a young age, Isabella suffered from various illnesses and ailments, but she still had a passionate spirit and loved to write. As she got older, to combat her melancholy feelings after an operation, her doctors recommended she do some traveling, ideally across the sea.
In the mid-1850s, Isabella first traveled to the United States and Canada by steamer and wrote about her experience in her first book, “The Englishwoman in America.” It was around this time Isabella realized she had a love for both travel and travel writing.
Around 1872, Isabella decided to travel to America once more and landed in Hawaii, where she spent her days climbing volcanoes and riding through the island’s natural beauty on horseback. Her time in Hawaii prompted her to write her second travel book, “Six Months in the Sandwich Islands.”
Around 1875, she learned about Colorado and heard the mountain air was good for those suffering from illness, so she traveled there next. When Isabella hit Colorado, she was mesmerized by the state’s beautiful Rocky Mountains and traveled through 800 miles of them.
Isabella particularly fell in love with the land in Estes Park, and she is now referred to as the “mother” of that region for the way she wrote about it so tenderly and lovingly. During her time in Colorado, Isabella wrote many letters about her adventures there to her sister and later compiled all the letters to make her third and most famous book, “A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains.”
A few years later, Isabella became fascinated with Asian culture and traveled throughout the continent, visiting countries like Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam, etc. In 1881, she returned home and married John Bishop, a surgeon from Edinburgh, Scotland.
After suffering from more health issues and illness, Isabella used her last bit of strength to travel to India and several other countries. While in India, she helped establish the John Bishop Memorial Hospital there in honor of her husband, who had passed away before her journey.
She continued traveling into the 1890s and became the first woman allowed to join the Royal Geographical Society in 1892.
After her final journey, which was a trip to Morocco, Isabella returned home to Edinburgh, where she passed away at 72 in 1904.
In 1985, she was posthumously inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame. If you love reading about travel, adventure, and nature, you should certainly give Isabella’s books a try.
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