Nellie Bly Goes Around the World

It’s a fair question to ask what one packs to travel around the world in less than 80 days.

For Nellie Bly, it was two traveling caps, three veils, silk bodice, dressing gown, blazer, underwear, slippers, ink-stand, pens, paper, needles, thread, flask, cup, handkerchiefs, cold cream.

She had less than 48 hours to pack. But she was of the belief that “nothing is impossible if one applies a certain amount of energy in the right direction.”

Ms. Bly had pitched the trip to her editor at the New York World one Monday in 1888. (I will interject here to say that 1888 was 15 years after Jules Vernes’ blockbuster novel, Around the World in 80 Days, was published.)

The trip idea had come to Ms. Bly like this: she couldn’t think of any pitches for her editor, then wished she were on the other side of the world, then thought it would be interesting to travel around the world, then bet she could do it in less than 80 days.

Impossible for a woman, her editor said. You would need protection. You would have too much baggage to travel quickly. A man will do it, her editor determined.

“Start the man,” Ms. Bly asserted. “I’ll start the same day for some other newspaper and beat him.” (I will interject here to say that Nellie Bly was also of the belief that if we “wish to accomplish anything ourselves, it will never do to harbor a doubt as to the result of an enterprise.”)

Her editor believed her assertion. On November 12, 1889, he asked if she could start the day after tomorrow.

Ms. Bly packed everything from caps to cold cream into one handbag in two days. And traveled around the world in 72 days.

It’s a fair question to ask how one does something gutsy like that. But Nellie Bly undertook many gutsy things like that. And as she wrote about one of them:

“I said I could and I would. And I did.”

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