Celebrating Women Around the World


“What, sir, would the people of the earth be without woman?
They would be scarce, sir… almighty scarce.”

~ Mark Twain ~

In celebration of International Women’s Day, I started thinking about jobs. In our travels around the world, we’ve seen people perform all kinds of jobs.

Truth is, they’re pretty much the same jobs we do here at home … just in a different setting.

So today I wanted to share some of the women we’ve encountered in our travels. Hopefully you’ll see yourself through their eyes. Whether you’re cooking or cleaning, tending to business or enforcing the rules – we have more in common than we sometimes realize.

A talented chef gets ready for the lunch rush in a busy Bangkok street cafe.

The Chef. She’s a wizard with a wok, deftly adding mysterious ingredients while chatting with her customers. She prepares every dish to order, making sure that it’s tailored to individual tastes. And nothing seems to faze her. The day we met her, it was pouring rain outside, water was running in front of her booth, and the lights were flickering. She just smiled and turned out delicious food.

A woman gathers brush on a tea plantation in Ella, Sri Lanka.

The Recycler. In a land where very little is allowed to go to waste, this grandmother is a master recycler. She walks to the steep and hilly tea plantation, collects all the branches left behind after pruning, then bundles them to sell to locals for cooking fires. The load is both awkward and surprisingly heavy, but she wrangles it with practiced ease.

Getting ready to perform at Angkor Thom in Cambodia.

The Performer. Every day these two young women don elaborate costumes and makeup in preparation for their jobs. All day they perform traditional dances and tell stories to tourists who are visiting this famed archeological site. At the end of the day they remove the costumes, wipe off the makeup, and return to their normal lives.

A sleepy shopkeeper awaits her first customer of the day in the Morning Market of Luang Prabang, Laos.

The Proprietor. The dream of owning her own business has become a reality for this tireless shopkeeper. She rises very early to set up her wares and open her modest stall in Luang Prabang’s Morning Market. She knows that managing her business requires long hours and sacrifice to be successful.

The Lotto Lady of Athens, Greece.

The Dream Peddler. In Athen’s Syntagma Square, a Lotto Lady waits patiently in the chilly December weather to sell her next ticket … maybe a winner. Just a few days earlier, this square was the scene of a violent anti-government demonstration that sent police and civilians scrambling for cover as chunks of marble and firebombs were hurled. But she’s back at work like nothing ever happened, selling dreams to strangers.

Amila knows how to make you feel at home in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

The Housekeeper. She may be young, but she has the grace and poise that come with experience. Amila juggles waitressing, cleaning rooms, and general housekeeping while tending to hotel guests. She came here from a very small village and is proud of her job and her accomplishments. She has mastered the art of making people people feel comfortable.

TV Woman interviewing “the man on the street” in Athens, Greece.

The Persuader. As a well-known Athens TV personality, it’s her job to entice people to talk to her. She’s an attractive young woman who generally has no trouble coaxing folks to chat on camera … and if her brains and looks don’t work, there’s the cute puffball of a dog that kids love. As women we can all agree there are times you have to be The Persuader.

A dedicated grandmother beams at her granddaughter in Dambulla, Sri Lanka.

The Caregiver. All over the world, taking care of loved ones is a mix of joy, honor, devotion, and duty. And at times, it can be immensely challenging. This grandmother lives with her extended family and lovingly cares for her children’s children. She came to the temple on this day to celebrate a special occasion and proudly show off her beautiful granddaughter.

A woman arranges the daily offerings on a family altar in Ubud, Bali.

The Keeper of Traditions. Mornings are a special time in Ubud, Bali. As the town begins to awaken, women draped in sarongs (often covering their jeans) silently make their way through family compounds. They carry trays laden with freshly made offerings, sticks of smoking incense, and a bowl of water. Stopping at each altar, they place offerings and incense, then dip a flower in water and perform a blessing with graceful hand movements. Her traditions are alive and well.

Shakedown at the Green LIne in Nicosia, Cyprus.

The Enforcer. This may look like a tete-a-tete between girlfriends celebrating a shopping spree, but it’s not. It’s shakedown at Nicosia’s Green Line – the UN occupied buffer zone that divides the Greek and Turkish areas. People come and go through the checkpoint all day, but the Inspectors take particular interest in any shopping bags with prohibited Turkish leather goods. There were a lot of unhappy Greek women who found a bargain on the Turkish side, only to have it confiscated by the Enforcer when they re-entered. Sometimes, the rules are the rules.

Woman learning to drive a Tuk-Tuk in Ella, Sri Lanka.

The Chauffeur. Driving can be a joy … or sometimes a pain in the neck when we have to chauffeur people around. But we American women often take driving for granted, forgetting that it’s not a privilege shared by all the women of the world. This woman in tiny Ella, Sri Lanka, is taking a driving lesson in a tuk-tuk. She is both thrilled and terrified. This is a risky endeavor because women don’t drive a lot in Sri Lanka. In fact, she is the only women we saw driving in all of Sri Lanka! So the next time you’re tired of driving, think what it would be like if you weren’t allowed to.

And as all women around the world can tell you, sometimes work can be just plain boring. Even if you work in one of the most gorgeous places on earth … sometimes you just want to be somewhere else!


Last updated March 1, 2019

Author: gallivance.net

We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at gallivance.net.

74 thoughts

  1. Thank you for this excellent and inspiring post. I hope we all remember the woman in our lifes more ofteen then just on special days like this. Are all the photos from your travels? I would like to add how we are privileged to meet all these people abroad as many of them will never get opportunity to do something similar. Happy Women’s day Terri 😀

    1. Thanks O’Muppet. Yes, the photos are all from our recent Round-the-World trip where we encountered awesome people every day. And I love that you made the point that traveling is a privilege not enjoyed by all. Thank you for your kind words and keen insights. All the best, Terri

  2. A deserved and imaginative post. I can only imagine the time that’s required to search through all your pictures for “just the right ones,” especially when there are so many household tasks waiting to complete. Nicely done!

    1. Wow Tom, thank you. We encounter so many awesome people as we wander, and thankfully lots of women respond openly when we ask them about their everyday lives. It’s a great conversation starter. Just like us, they are always looking for ways we are alike rather than ways we are different. ~Terri

  3. i really enjoyed this post Terri . . . As a few others have noted, selecting each photo from your extensive travels took time and effort. Thank you for sharing an excellent post that celebrates women.

    1. Thank you Andrea. Great idea! I read your wonderful story of Jax with fascination and awe. What an incredible experience! One of my sisters was a preemie, though not as early as Jax, but I remember she sent my parents into overdrive caring for her. And she turned out brilliantly! All the best, Terri

  4. What an inspiring post. You have expressed in words and pictures our common humanity, a respectful tribute to women everywhere. We have been to many of the same places.

    1. Thank you Lynne. I love your phrase “our common humanity” – well said. And it does look like we’ve been to so many of the same places … and I also live on an island with the love of my life, my husband! How cool is that! All the best, Terri

    1. Thanks Laura. You are SO right. When I think of all the changes that have happened in just my lifetime, I’m amazed. Are you still soaking up the sun out west? ~Terri

      1. Yes I am! For another 2 1/2 weeks , then I head back to FL with my dad and then finally back to NH. I’m hoping the snow will all be gone when I get home.

      2. I hope the snow is gone for you too. We’re heading to Lexington KY soon and they just had 17 inches of snow. Yikes! These Southern toes may shrivel up! 🙂 ~Terri

      3. I hope you’re not leaving for KY too soon. You wouldn’t like the snow, it isn’t as inviting for bare feet as the wonderful sand in your neighborhood!

  5. This is not a big event in the UK. Too close to Mother’s Day perhaps? I first came across it in Riga in 2008 when we were visiting the city and the dates coincided.

    1. Andrew, I remember learning about it in school when it was considered part of a Socialist movement, but I didn’t really see it acknowledged until we moved to Sudan. When we lived in the UK it was pretty low key, but it certainly seems to have gained steam around the world in the past few years – quite probably attributable to today’s incredible communications networks. ~Terri

    1. Thanks Kasturika. I’m constantly pleased and amazed by the people of the world – both women and men – who strive to care for others and make the world a better place. I agree, rock on! ~Terri

  6. Lovely ladies, every one, and an imaginative photographer to capture (and catalog!) them. Not only are ladies captivating photographic subjects, they’re the world’s best traveling companions. Here’s to you and Louise, Terri!

    1. Aww Tom, you are too kind! And here’s to you and James – the world’s best traveling companions … and livestock wranglers. 🙂 How are the goats, donkey and chickens? ~Terri

  7. Thanks for reposting this enjoyable article. It must have been one I missed before I started following your blog. I have gained much from following your travels and, in some cases, your footsteps. – Mike

    1. Many thanks Mike! Your kind words are much appreciated. I think we’ve taken turns following in each other’s footsteps – one of the true joys of this “traveling community” we’re both part of. I hope this winter has treated you and Florence well – do you get much snow where you are now? ~Terri

      1. We have been getting the Pineapple Express, if you know what that is. Springlike conditions already — the daffodils are blooming already and the tulips will be up in 2-3 weeks.

  8. Happy Women’s Day to you Terri and to all the lovely readers out there!
    Your post was inspiring and amazing… It showed how many roles women have around the world… And how strong and resilient they are!
    Cheers to you for sharing this with us!

    1. Hi Lia! Thanks so much. We’ve been fortunate to meet some pretty amazing women (and awesome men) in our travels, and it was gratifying to know that we all face many of the same challenges. All the best, Terri

      1. Flowers are for all celebrations in Ukraine, but they have special significance on IWD, especially from one woman to another. It’s a holiday with a good ‘feel’ to it, isn’t it? (or maybe it’s just that commercialism hasn’t found this one quite yet – [;) )

  9. Terri this is a wonderful tribute to be sure. I love your creativity in naming the roles women play. Like another reader the search for just the right photos must have taken time. Very well written!

    1. Many, many thanks Sue. I guess I was inspired by the topic and all the wonderful women we’ve met over the years, both in person and online. I love women’s reactions when I ask permission to take their photograph – I can rarely predict what they will do. Some strike a pose, others act shy, and some just carry on doing what they were doing! 🙂 ~Terri

    1. Thanks so much! I’ve always found that behind an “ordinary woman” lies an extraordinary story and person. Watching all these women juggle the details of their day-to-day lives is inspiring! 🙂 ~Terri

  10. Wonderful post Terri! Very inspirational post. I would have included a picture of your sister, who donates her hair (I still remember that post, it was very moving)! Lots of love 🙂

    1. So many thanks, Virginia. And my sister Nancy thanks you too. We just cut her hair again last summer – for the umpteenth time – and sent it off. I guess I need an additional category called The Hairgiver! So glad you stopped by. ❤ Terri

    1. Thanks so much Curt! So sorry for the late reply – we’ve been out of town with limited internet for several weeks. Hope you and Peggy are doing great. 🙂 ~Terri

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