Three Stripes South by Bex Band, reviewed by Dawn Finch

First the blurb…

In 2016, desperate for a drastic change, Bex Band decided to walk the length of Israel with her husband: a 1000km trek including a dangerous crossing through the vast Negev desert. She’d never done anything like it before and the experience changed her life, building back her confidence and self-esteem. Three Stripes South tells the story of this transformative adventure – battling heat, exhaustion, self-doubt and prejudice – and the new life Bex built for herself when she got home, founding the Love Her Wild women’s adventure community.

‘Lacking confidence is something that a lot of women can relate to’ says Bex. ‘For me personally, it began at school with undiagnosed dyslexia and bullying. This fed into my adult years where I found myself in a vicious cycle of unhappy jobs and bouts of depression. I had low self-esteem and a belief that I really wasn’t capable of achieving much in life.’
Fast forward to today and Bex has transformed her life, tackling gender inequality in adventure travel, and championing women in the outdoors through regular talks, blogging and leading women on adventures all over the world. Nominated for multiple awards for her work advocating women in adventure, her story is an inspiration.

I’ll be honest, I’m not usually a reader of travel writing. I feel the genre is all too often dominated by the kind of posh fellas who like to brag in the pub about their hardships “on the trail” while posting the kind of instagram pics that make me roll my eyes almost back into my head. You know that type – artistically messy beard, chapped lips, frowny stare across a rugged landscape, instagram posts showing hideous feet or balancing on a precarious boulder…

Yawn

I want to make it absolutely clear that Three Stripes South is NOT one of THOSE books.

Followers of Bex Band’s brilliant social media community, Love Her Wild, will already be familiar with her writing style. Band writes just like she talks – with wit and charm, and this instantly comes across in the book. From the first page you are drawn into the adventure as she confides in the reader. When she talks about the hows and whys about this grand adventure the reader feels wholly invested in the process. The decision to make this long walk seems both logical, and bonkers. I could absolutely understand why Band and her husband decided to throw it all in and set off to walk over a 1000km through Israel.

It’s a phrase as well worn as Band’s hiking boots, but I could not put this book down. It’s so well written that I kept forgetting that it was non-fiction and that Bex and Gil had really done all this! On a very dreich Aberdeenshire week I was swept away to high mountains and burning deserts. Every person (all men it’s worth pointing out) they meet along the way is so perfectly described I felt like I’d met them too.

Inspiring is a word that is often bandied around when people are talking about travel writing, but is is accurately used here. I was at once invested in the journey, and at the same time incredibly glad I wasn’t doing it!

It is no surprise to me that Bex Band inspires people both with this book and with Love Her Wild. For many of us the thought of travel alone or through harder and more challenging territory has become literally a step too far. In the pages of Three Stripes South (and the many thousands of posts by community members on the Love Her Wild platforms) Band has created a sense of the possible and that very much comes across in this book. She never fools us into thinking this was easy, but she does express a great sense of how rewarding a challenge like this can be. That is very inspiring – that sense that anything really can be possible.

I won’t be packing my hiking boots and heading to the airport just yet, but I have done some wild swimming and I do feel braver about new possibilities thanks to being part of the Love Her Wild communities. Three Stripes South is a great addition to the bookshelves. I would love to see a companion edition with photographs of the journey so that I could armchair travel and see it through Bex and Gil’s eyes.

I know that Band has since had a number of other adventures and I very much look forward to reading those too.

Three Stripes South by Bex Band is published in the UK by Bradt Guides

ISBN

Dawn Finch is a writer and the current chair of the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Committee at the Society of Authors.