Aloha Wanderwell (born Idris Hall) had an interesting life. At 16, she applied to Walter Wanderwell’s casting call for an endurance race around the globe in Ford Model Ts. Together with him, she wandered across the world as translator, driver, and filmographer on adventures that included:
- Coming through Italy as Mussolini was coming to power
- Braving food riots in post-WWI Germany
- Camping at the base of the Great Sphinx in Egypt
- Disguising herself as a man to pray at Mecca
- Befriending Chinese bandits
- Nearly dying of thirst in the Sudanese desert
- Being granted the title of “Honorary Colonel” in Siberia’s Red Army
- Getting stranded on the Paraguay River and receiving help from the indigenous Bororo people – of whom Aloha got the first photographic evidence!
Throughout their journeys, the two fell in love and were married — although this was quite possibly to keep the FBI off Walter’s back, as he’d long been suspected of being a German spy. Their marriage lasted just seven years, as Walter was murdered on their boat in Long Beach, possibly by a mutineer from one of their previous adventures.
After her husband’s death, Aloha continued traveling, learning to fly a seaplane and heading to Indochina. She was definitely an imperfect person – she recounted on more than one occasion shooting elephants for what sometimes seems like hardly any reason – but she nevertheless broke down barriers for women travelers and was one of the most famous women of the era. She died peacefully at the ripe old age of 89.