In 1911, French former opera singer and Buddhist scholar Alexandra David-Néel promised her husband she would be back in 18 months and embarked on what would end up being an epic 14-year expedition through Asia to the forbidden city of Lhasa, vowing to "show what the will of a woman can do". She trekked through the Himalayas in the freezing winter, slept in the snow and allegedly ate leather from her boots to stave off hunger, before disguising herself as a beggar to sneak into the Tibetan capital in 1924, aged 55. In doing so, she became the first European woman to enter Lhasa, which was then sealed off from the outside world.

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