International Women’s Day 2023: 15 Women Shaping the Way We Travel
Carla Simón Before deciding to make films, Carla Simón “wanted to be a writer for
Before deciding to make films, Carla Simón “wanted to be a writer for a travel magazine in order to see the world.” But then she started watching movies and decided she liked that medium better, not knowing yet that it would also allow her to travel frequently. Her debut feature, Summer 1993, premiered in Berlin in 2017, and suddenly the world opened up to her. “I went from Barcelona to Copenhagen, London, Busan, Mumbai, Taiwan, and back to Barcelona in 20 days. It was intense but very cool,” she says. With Alcarràs, her second film, which won the Golden Bear at the 2022 Berlin International Film Festival, she turned her attention closer to home, highlighting the forgotten region of inland Spain it is named after. For Simón, filmmaking has offered her a way of traveling in which she is both a visitor and a guide. Her two films are pieces of her personal history as well as portraits of a rural, inland, and hyperlocal Spain that is “normally undervalued” and overlooked by both pop culture and tourism. “Cinema is a window into the world,” she says. “When we talk about the importance of supporting cinema culturally, this is it.” The 36-year-old, who was raised in northern Catalonia, is about to leave the city once again in favor of rural life, both to give her son the opportunity to experience the same connection with the land that she had growing up—and to tell more stories about this disappearing part of Spain. Her work is proof that neglected parts of every country deserve their moment on a bigger screen. “How much of what we know about Japan or the U.S. comes through their cinema?” she says. “Everything. Film is an opportunity to export ourselves and make ourselves known.” —Irene Crespo
Travel writers have always waxed poetic about the magic of train journeys. Paul Theroux did so in his books The Great Railway Bazaar and The Old Patagonian Express. Rick Steves has offered countless tips on rail routes to follow and night trains to sleep on. Train travel has even arrived on TikTok thanks to viral trainspotter Francis Bourgeois. But British journalist Monisha Rajesh didn’t see stories she wanted to read—or recognize herself in any of them. “One of the reasons why I wanted to do my book [was] because I had never read anything that I could relate to or that inspired me,” she says. “I thought, There’s nobody who’s a woman that I can find who’s written about this—’cause I bet that experience is different.” Rajesh has penned three books since that realization: Around India in 80 Trains (2012), Around the World in 80 Trains: A 45,000-Mile Adventure (2019), and Epic Train Journeys: The Inside Track to the World’s Greatest Rail Routes (2021). Her reporting has taken her everywhere from the Alps on the Bernina Express to the Qinghai–Tibet railway, with stops in places like Sri Lanka, North Korea, and Russia along the way. But it’s crisscrossing through India that has had the most impact, deepening her relationship with the country her family is from—and a place that has long been represented through a singular Western male lens when it comes to travel writing. “A lot of Indian people have this real sense of national pride,” she says. “They really liked the fact that I’d come back as an Indian-born, obviously Indian person with Indian origins, with a genuine interest in the country and wanting to discover it.” Rajesh notes that she finds herself “moving much more towards trains” in light of the ongoing climate crisis and hopes her writing will encourage others to explore in more eco-friendly ways. But what else keeps her train hopping after a decade of adventure? “I love it,” she says. “There really is no more complicated answer than that. I absolutely love train travel.” —L.A.
You can listen to the complete interview with Monisha Rajesh on the Women Who Travel podcast.
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