Alexandra David-Néel is maybe the coolest lady explorer ever. As well as exploring the East extensively at a time when ladies were not encouraged to travel on their own, she was a spiritualist, Buddhist and writer. Born in 1868 in Paris, by the time she was 18 she’d travelled extensively around Europe and was a member of the Theosophical Society. She wrote her first book when she was 30, and when she was in her forties she travelled to India to study Buddhism, met a prince, and possibly had an affair with him. During her extensive travels in Asia, she lived in a cave, adopted a monk (yes, adopted) and travelled to Tibet at a time when it was closed to foreigners. In Tibet she met and hung out with the 13th Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, which no European lady had ever done before. She kept travelling with her adopted monk companion until she was 78. She kept writing about her travels and spirituality until she died AT THE AGE OF 101. Also, she opted for a double-barrelled surname when she married, instead of ditching her name in favour of her husband’s. An amazing woman.