Women’s travel romance narratives

A listing of women’s travel books describing romances with foreign men, as well as a handful of books by gays and heterosexual males. These books are described in detail in Romance on the Road, some on a chapter entitled “Portrayals,” others in regional chapters. See also my list of travel romance films portraying wanderlust involving female protagonists.

• Fiction
• Anthologies
• History


Love Among the Butterflies: Margaret Fontaine

A 19th century trailblazer, Fountaine was a butterfly collector who fell hard for her Syrian guide. As a diarist, she is a a wonderful, witty and dry phrasemaker.

The love habit: The sexual confessions of an older woman: Anne Cumming

The “Book of Genesis” of female sex memoirs; a trailblazer describes her dalliances around Continental Europe.

The Love Quest: A Sexual Odyssey: Anne Cumming

And here is the Old Testament, as Cumming warms to her sex travel theme and provides juicy anecdotes from Morocco, Egypt, Iraq and other rendezvous points.

Changes in Latitude: An Uncommon Anthropology: Joana McIntyre Varawa

The search for a companion becomes a Homeric odyssey in Fiji when the frank and intelligent Joana encounters the loving but at-times possessed Male Varawa. A classic romance-on-the-road memoir.

Ma passion africaine: Claude Njiké-Bergeret

Fascinating memoir by the daughter of Christian missionaries who later married a polygamous chief in Cameroon. Available in French and German.

Quand le python se deroule: Jacqueline Roumeguere-Eberhardt

Another amazing memoir by a daughter of Christian missionaries — she married a Masai warrior in Kenya who later took additional wives. Available in French.

Eight Days in Provence: A Moment of Sensualite: Jennifer Huntley

A slender and beautifully packaged true-life tale of a woman and her guide who fall for each other during a trip to Provence. “Eight Days in Provence” has a miniaturist perfection, in its evocative descriptions of this beautiful region of France, the growing infatuation of the protagonists, and their dreamlike assignations in gorgeous hotel rooms after perfect meals. As with other similar memoirs, this travel romance comes in the wake of betrayal and hurt, which seems to limit the participants in pursuing their affair out in the “real” world. Still, both James and “Jenny” win points for likeability and cause the reader to ponder “what if” they could continue their romance, or if they had could have met each other before meeting others who bruised their innocence.

Serpent in Paradise: Dea Birkett

English travel writer pays dearly for a one-night stand on Pitcairn Island.

A Thousand Days in Venice: An Unexpected Romance: Marlena de Blasi

One of the sweetest, most romantic yet classic instances of romance on the road.

An Italian Affair: Laura Fraser

Classic tale of post-divorce healing and ultimately recovery with much insight.


Hideous Kinky: A Novel: Esther Freud

A daughter’s memoir of her mother’s affair with a Moroccan acrobat named Bilal in the 1960s.


Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone: Mary Morris

How not to treat one’s proud Mexican lover.

Patpong Sisters: An American Woman’s View of the Bangkok Sex World: Cleo Odzer

Rare depiction of casual sex with Thai men, valuable as the Land of Smiles becomes a major sex destination for women, both Japanese and Western.

Journeys to the Underworld: Fiona Pitt-Kethley

Ms. FP-K wryly engages with Italian ruin guides as she takes over Anne Cumming’s mantle as a free-lovin’ traveler. Her French lover in Naples proves most ridiculous.

The Pan Principle: Fiona Pitt-Kethley

More slapstick comedy as Ms. FP-K sneaks onto Greek roadsides and into matchbox apartments for less-than-earth-shattering liaisons.

African Saga: Mirella Ricciardi

Kenyan-born expatriate photographer describes her life, including an affair with a much younger Swahili youth that proves catastrophic for him.

The Weather Prophet: A Caribbean Journey: Lucretia Stewart

Stewart’s sex travels involve a number of slightly menacing Caribbean characters. She takes regrettable potshots at women who choose younger lovers yet offers frank and accurate insights into the bright flame of interracial sex.

Together Under the Baobab Tree: Rosemary Long

Divorced Scottish grandmother shocks herself on holiday by falling for a young Gambian in his 20s.

Give Sorrow Words: Maryse Holder’s Letters from Mexico: Maryse Holder

Wrenching look at sex travel as an outlet for the ugly woman. Disorganized but with gems scattered throughout.

White Savages in the South Seas: Mel Kernahan

Kernahan doesn’t describe romances with the local islanders in her travels in the Cooks and French Polynesia, but writes with great insight on the radically different calculus employed by islanders in assessing the value of the male vs. female sex traveler.

Kite Strings of the Southern Cross: A Woman’s Travel Odyssey: Laurie Gough

A cloying writer with many fans among the starry-eyed young poets wandering the circuit, Gough describes her romance with a young Fijian and what drove her to leave him.

An Indian Attachment: The True Story of an Englishwoman’s Haunting Love Affair with a Young Sikh: Sarah Lloyd

Engrossing story of an English architect who lived in absolute, turds-on-the-ground poverty in an Indian commune.

The White Masai: My Exotic Tale of Love and Adventure: Corinne Hofmann

Staggering life story of a Swiss boutique owner who married a Masai tribesman and endured a highly primitive life in a tiny hut during her pregnancy. Parallels “An Indian Attachment” in terms of Squalor Index.

Where the Spirits Dwell: An Odyssey in the Jungle of New Guinea: Tobias Schneebaum

Intriguing account by today’s most prominent gay sex traveler of encounters with ritual homosexuality in Papua New Guinea.

Kingdom of the Film Stars: Journey into Jordan: Annie Caulfield

Tale of attraction to a handsome, courtly Jordanian, with some petulance at his decision to marry a local women and have children when Caulfield spurns his heartfelt marriage proposal.

Desert Places: Robyn Davidson

The tender ministrations of Narendra Bhati Singh, the Indian friend whom Robyn meets early in her narrative, keep the author from truly flipping out given the privations of her journeys with the Rabari, desert wanderers who now weave their way through the filthy horror of much of contemporary India. She gives away no details of her growing intimacy with the political activist, but acknowledges their love as her tale progresses.


Platform: Michel Houellebecq

Brilliant look at sex tourism as an economic model for lonely Westerners and poor tropical people. I comment extensively on “Platform” in “Romance on the Road.”

Fear of Flying: Erica Jong

Jong both reflected and inspired female sex tourism … as does Terry McMillan in “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.” The echo chamber between “Fear of Flying,” “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” and the real world is examined in “Romance on the Road.”

Women of Sand and Myrrh: Hanan al-Shaykh

The character Suzanne explores sex with Arab men, though her relationship to her husband seems undeveloped.


These first three have both male and female essay contributors:

Love and Romance: True Stories of Passion on the Road (Travelers’ Tales Guides): Judith Babcock Wylie

Most accessible and real-world of these anthologies.

Brief Encounters: stories of love, sex & travel: Michelle de Kretser

More literary and artsy in tone.

Erogenous Zones: An Anthology of Sex Abroad (Modern Library): Lucretia Stewart

So artsy at times one wonders if one is reading about travel sex or ephemeral raptures, and with copious contributions by gays. Unlike its rivals, has entries from early in the history of sex travel.

These three contain some tales of romantic encounters and of pervasive harassment in many parts of the world:

Women Travel: First-hand Accounts From More Than 60 Countries: A Rough Guide Special: Natania Jansz

More Women Travel: Natania Jansz and Miranda Davies

Lesbian Travels: A Literary Companion: Lucy Jane Bledsoe


Sultry Climates: Travel and Sex: Ian Littlewood

Strong on Victorian era and early 20th century pilgrimages to the fleshpots of Paris and Italy.

Seductive Journey: American Tourists in France from Jefferson to the Jazz Age: Harvey Levenstein

Good on American travel to Europe, less explicit than Littlewood’s “Sultry Climates: Travel and Sex.”

Romance on the Road: Traveling Women Who Love Foreign Men: Jeannette Belliveau

Strong chapter on the history of female sex travel, from Cleopatra and American Indian tribal practices, through the Barbary Pirates, the Victorian and Edwardian eras, to the Jazz Age and the 1960s.

Wayward Women: A Guide to Women Travellers: Jane Robinson

While not per se about women indulging in romances, this collection of thumbnail biographies of prominent female adventurers stands as a valuable reference work.

Rebel Heart: The Scandalous Life of Jane Digby: Mary Lovell

The first of several biographies I relied on for the first true female sex traveler, and still my favorite. Recommended.


Isabelle the Life of Isabelle Eberhardt: Annette Kobak

Very professional profile of a traveler and writer who loved with a physicality and vigor of a Casanova.

The Wilder Shores of Love: The Exotic True-Life Stories of Isabel Burton, Aimee Dubucq de Rivery, Jane Digby, and Isabelle Eberhardt: Lesley Blanch

Re-release of purple prosy but valuable profile of Isabelle Eberhardt, Lady Jane Digby and other Victorian era women who dared to love unconventionally.


A Woman Unknown: Voices from a Spanish Life: Lucia Graves

The author, daughter of British I Claudius author Robert Graves, depicts in fascinating detail the arrival of Scandinavian women as sex tourists along the Costa Brava in Spain in the 1960s.

Sexual Encounters in the Middle East: The British, the French And the Arabs: Derek Hopwood

Interesting material on the relationship of the Arab man, especially the returning expatriate or the novelist, to the Western woman.