Going it alone in far flung lands

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When you're sitting astride your horse on a rickety bridge in a foreign land and six burly strangers approach, you have a choice. You can either act as though you're about to be robbed or you can make the men your allies.

Christina Dodwell is speaking from experience. The intrepid British explorer has spend years traveling the wilder territories of the world - many of them alone.

As a woman, she says, you learn to defuse situations before they get beyond your control. "It is what you inspire in other people and how they respond to you" that often determines the outcome, she explains in a phone interview.

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Her latest adventure is rather tamer - traveling the United States to talk about "Explorations: Great Moments of Discovery From the Royal Geographical Society" (Artisan, 2002). The book is a collection of extraordinary historical photos from the society's archives, with essays by seasoned explorers including Ms. Dodwell, Sir Edmund Hillary, and Wilfred Thesiger.

The stern portrait of David Livingstone's ferryman, who took the dying explorer on his final journey across the Lulimala River in 1873, is just a few pages beyond a color picture of Edmund Hillary and sherpa Tenzing Norgay enjoying a celebratory cup of tea after scaling Everest in 1953.

Dodwell's own treks through Papua New Guinea, the Congo, and other exotic locales have taught her to travel alone. "If you're alone, it's very easy for people to take you into their lives and their culture. You don't threaten.

"If there's two of you, somehow you have a bubble around you and are looking at everything as a twosome," she says. "If there's only one, the world is looking at you."

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