07/26/2013 03:33 pm ET Updated Sep 25, 2013

5 Women Who Changed the Way We Look at Travel

The world is full of powerful women who change things for the better each and every day. Here are some influential women who have impacted the way we look at traveling.

1. Laura Ling: In 2009, Ling and fellow journalist Euna Lee were imprisoned for five months in North Korea on charges of illegal entry and hostile acts. Ling's case drew global attention as the two were sentenced to 12 years in a labor prison and her sister, journalist Lisa Ling, worked diligently to help bring her home. While political tension reached an all-time high, a visit from former president Bill Clinton resulted in her pardon and ended the 140-day captivity.

In 2010, Ling wrote a memoir about the experience called Somewhere Inside: One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring her Home.

What She Taught Us: Travelers can sometimes be pawns to more complex issues of politics. And North Korea don't play.

2. Sarai Sierra: Sierra, a New York mother of two, was tragically killed in Turkey this past February while on her first solo trip abroad. Her murder stunned much of the world and drew solo female travel into the spotlight. Public reaction was across the board -- as some called solo travel 'risky' and declared bewilderment as to why a woman would ever want to travel alone, seasoned solo female travelers insisted on its importance and safety.

Though her murder was undeniably tragic, her death caused an open and necessary discussion about solo female travel and the greater issue of violence against women.

What She Taught Us: One incident should not deter anyone from traveling solo, but violence against women is still a worldwide problem.

3. Sarah Shourd: One of three U.S. hikers imprisoned in Iran after unknowingly crossing an unmarked border, Shourd was ultimately released from prison by Iranian authorities for medical reasons after 410 days spent in solitary confinement. Her fiancée Shane Bauer and friend Joshua Fattal were released six months later. The world watched eagerly as Sarah returned home, and the work she has done since then is truly inspiring. Since her release, Sarah has fought for prisoner's rights, has spoken out against solitary confinement, and has founded the grassroots organization United4Iran.

What She Taught Us: Light can come from even the darkest of experiences.

4. Eve Ensler: Author of the Vagina Monologues and founder of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls. In 12 years since V-Day began, the organization has raised over $80 million to help end rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation and sex slavery. In 2010, she helped V-Day to open "City of Joy," a refuge for women who have suffered sexual abuse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

What She Taught Us: As a survivor herself, Eve has dedicated much of her life to helping empower and heal women around the world. She's taught us that women can unite and overcome even the most terrible of circumstances.

5. Carmen Sandiego: Though we've been talking about some heavier issues today, we can't forget the woman who taught us as children that the world was full of excitement and wonder, now can we?

What She Taught Us: The world is beautiful and traveling is one big adventure.