The Captivating Story of Aloha Wanderwell, the Woman Who Drove Around the World

Aloha Wanderwell was born on October 13, 1906, as Idris Galcia Hall in Winnipeg, Canada. The seeds of her adventurous spirit were sown early in life. After the death of her father during World War I, she was sent to a French boarding school. But the confines of the school could not contain her wanderlust. By age 16, she had joined an expedition led by Walter Wanderwell, an explorer and adventurer. It was at this point she adopted the name “Aloha Wanderwell” – a name that would soon become synonymous with courage, exploration, and filmmaking.

The Global Expedition

In 1922, Aloha embarked on an ambitious expedition aboard a Model T Ford. Her journey began in Nice, France, and would span continents, taking her to places as varied as India, China, and Africa. Driving through treacherous terrains, crossing rivers, and navigating through political unrest, she embraced challenges that would have deterred most. Not just content with traveling, Aloha also documented these unprecedented adventures through her lens, giving the world an invaluable visual record of life across diverse cultures during that era.

Challenges and Triumphs

Aloha faced several roadblocks throughout her journey, both literal and metaphorical. Her Model T Ford required frequent repairs due to the rough conditions. Political instability in some countries posed risks, and she was even jailed briefly in India on suspicion of espionage. Yet, she persevered. For Aloha, these setbacks were not deterrents but rather essential parts of her global adventure.

Life in Reels

While her travels were extraordinary, what made Aloha’s journey even more remarkable was her commitment to documenting it. Armed with a camera, she filmed places and people, capturing the essence of a world in transition. Her films provided a window into worlds that were otherwise inaccessible to most people of her time. The footage ranged from everyday life in small villages to grand ceremonies in major cities. Aloha was not just an explorer but also an astute observer and a gifted filmmaker.

A Partnership Forged on the Road

During her travels, Aloha met Walter Wanderwell, who was an adventurer in his own right. Their meeting blossomed into a partnership that extended both personally and professionally. They married in the late 1920s and had two children. Together, they continued to explore, venturing into terrains less traveled and capturing their experiences on film.

Later Life

After years of adventures, Aloha and Walter eventually settled down. However, their passion for exploration never waned. They continued to document their travels, albeit closer to home. Tragically, Walter was murdered in 1932 under mysterious circumstances. Following his death, Aloha focused on her filmmaking and became an advocate for exploration and adventure. She continued to live a fulfilling life, raising her children, and promoting the spirit of adventure until her death in 1996.

The Untold Stories

While Aloha’s name may not be as commonly recognized as other explorers, her accomplishments are monumental. She was not just the first woman to travel around the world by car; she also showed what it meant to live a life free of societal constraints. Through her films, writings, and lectures, she provided a firsthand account of a world few had the opportunity to see.

#12 Aloha Wanderwell, Mary Pickford & Douglas Fairbanks

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Written by Heather Brown

Heather Brown is a writer and historian with a passion for all things vintage. She shares her knowledge of the past through her blog, with a particular focus on historical photos and the stories they tell.

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