Around the World with “The Lost Girls” [Book Review]

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This post about The Lost Girls book was originally published in 2010. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content. 

I’ve been traveling with a beefy book in my bag for the last little while; one called The Lost Girls : Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World. It’s somewhat appropriate that while I’ve been reading about three girls who circumnavigated the world on a gap year journey of inner and outer exploration, the book has been by my side through about five countries on my own journey.

But this post isn’t about my journey (so much); it’s about the journey of Jennifer, Holly, and Amanda: three New York City girls who quit their jobs and put their lives on hold to travel the around the world together for one year.

Initially, I found the book riveting. Having made the break from the “rat race” myself (three and a half years ago) and adopted an unconventional lifestyle of full-time travel, I was fascinated with the emotional and logistical process the authors also go through. From wrenching themselves from their career-bound lives, to extricating themselves from relationships (temporarily or permanently), to getting their finances together and planning the trip, I identified with much of the process.

But that’s just the first 60 (of the formidable 530) pages. Then they hit the road, and the authors have quite an adventure. They get their travel legs under them in South America, volunteer in Kenya, get overwhelmed in India (something I would do – in spades – seven years later), party in Asia, and enjoy ‘shrimps on the barbie’ in Australia.

They backpack their way around the world, staying mostly in hostels and paying for inexpensive tours. Along the way they meet all manner of other travelers (and a few locals), kindle on-the-road romances, embark on individual journeys at various junctions, and strengthen their relationships – both with each other and with themselves.

I really enjoyed how the book is written; each girl writes alternating chapters that weave the story together beautifully. Although it takes a while to get to know each author, this writing style rounds out the story in an interesting and comprehensive way by showing different angles of a similar situation or relationship. One girl starts a sub-plot, and the next chapter (and author) carries it through – from their point of view.

I also liked following along their journey through countries I have already been to, like Thailand, New Zealand, and Australia. In fact, the authors were also World Nomads Ambassadors in Australia shortly before I arrived and participated in the same program myself! Reading of their tales living in a camper van in Australia brought back memories.

However the book isn’t perfect. Where it fell down for me was in the relative juvenility of the authors’ attitudes. Being in their mid-to-late twenties when they embark on the trip, they identify themselves as going through a “quarter-life crisis”; experiencing a state of insecurity about where their lives are going and whether they are on the right track. Okay, I understand this to a point. I did something similar myself.

They really lose me, however, when they continue to harp on about this invisible looming deadline (being the end of their 20’s), and their assumed shift of life that needs to go along with it. They regularly have panic attacks about being “so old”, with no husband, kids, job, or settled life (you know – white picket fence stuff). It’s a constant theme, and one that grates on me – to the eventual point of becoming offensive (as somebody over the age of 30).
News flash, girls: Life doesn’t end at 30! There are still eligible single men, jobs to be had, and eggs in your ovaries. (The authors, now all over the age of 30, have probably – possibly sheepishly – come to realize this).

There is also a theme around the girls not wanting to be alone, with a driving need for a partner/boyfriend/husband. Although I was initially interested in their honesty about relationships, it began to seem to me like they feel their lives wouldn’t be complete without a boyfriend in the long term (and again, ideally before the age of 30). Although part of their transformation through travel and through the course of the book includes a more self-reliant, self-confident way of being, even in the Epilogue there is a strong focus on what their current relationship status is.

I must admit that my criticisms are coloured by the fact that I myself am over the age of 30, and started my full-time travels at 30 no less. I am also somewhat newly single, but far from unhappy with my relationship status. I’m not obsessed with meeting “Mr. Right” any time soon, and I certainly don’t consider myself to be “over-the-hill” as a traveler – or as a person. So my beefs with the book could well be far more personal than would be for another reader.

Overall, this book is great if you want to live vicariously through somebody else’s travels, learn some of the lessons of the road (without leaving home), and gather some fodder for places you might like to go (or avoid) yourself. There is a big focus on the personal development aspect of travel (since travel tends to reveal all sorts of personal lessons), and the journey of growth each of the three girls goes through.

You can learn more about the authors at The Lost Girls World, and you can purchase a copy of The Lost Girls here.

(Editor’s Note: I received a free copy of the book for review, and there are affiliate links in this post).

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11 thoughts on “Around the World with “The Lost Girls” [Book Review]”

  1. Nice honest review Nora. I haven’t read it but I could see where that running theme would be annoying. Sounds like they’re perpetuating what’s drilled into us by society as “normal”. And to be otherwise would be wrong or abnormal.

  2. I really like your honesty in your review, most people I believe were a little nervous to criticize in any way. I’m in the midst of reviewing it myself, but I’m finding it hard to get through such a long book.

  3. Mmm, “somewhat newly single” , hope it went smoothly xxx (and is obviously NONE of my business)

    Great review, with two of my children that age, I can imagine that conversation from some of their friends. Thankfully they are pretty self reliant and confident with their “self” (as you obviously are)


  4. *** Newsflash *** Newsflash*** Newsflash***

    We interrupt this program to relay the following statement made by scientists in the early hours of this morning.

    Scientists have found conclusive evidence that there is life after thirty. One scientist was quoted as saying that, as we long suspected, there is so much life out there, we hardly know where to begin investigating this momentous discovery.
    This re-writes everything we were brought up to believe.
    We will keep you updated as the story develops.

    We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

  5. @Carlo – Indeed…I think my review might broach on “harsh” given these common societal perceptions of “normal” and the pressures that go along with it. I understand the plight of these girls….I just found it to be a bit repetitive.

    @Andi – Having trouble getting through it, huh? It is truly a beefy book, and it took me a while to read it too, but I thought it was just me and my routine of getting into and out of reading paper books. Why are you struggling?

    @Frank – You picked up on it! (I wondered how many readers would. This is a testament to your dedicated and attentive reading – thank you)! I’ve been quite subtle about the “big breakup” between me and Kelly, not really knowing how to broach the subject and not wanting to put my personal life front-and-centre either. But yes….we made the split shortly after I left Australia. I am, however still going back to Oz to tie up loose ends (as it were) and to visit my friends and “chosen family” there.

    @Dick – LOL! I wonder when scientists will make the big announcement about 40….and then 50…and (*gasp*) 60!!!

  6. Very good, honest review. I am in my mid-30s and single, dreaming of the day I can take off and travel around the world. I picked up the Lost Girls with great anticipation and I felt very similarly about it once I got into it. They did seem to have this attitude that the big 3-0 was this horrible looming deadline that they were fighting against and I didn’t appreciate that at all.

    Unlike you, I had a hard time following the narrative from one girl to the next – I was constantly going back to remind myself who was narrating each chapter because I thought they sounded very similar.

  7. Thanks so much for your honesty Nora. Sorry to hear about your break up but glad that you are doing well. Just thinking out loud here, but I think that you should have a book out that we over 30 somethings can relate to:-) Your writing rocks and you’ve been everywhere. Now that I would read.

  8. @kazari – Thanks. No worries….

    @Dave & Deb – Hmm….well, I’ve certainly thought about the book thing…even drafted a manuscript a few years back, but I think I’ve got an even better book brewing in me. I just need to find the time to craft it! Yikes… 🙂

    @Katie – I must admit that I too, had a little bit of trouble following the narrative – or rather getting a sense of each girl’s individual personality – with the changing of authors in each chapter. I often had to flip back to the beginning of the chapter to see who was writing it. Eventually, the three girls’ personalities sort of melded into each other, and I just started reading the book as if it was written by one person.
    I did, however, enjoy how their individual perspectives of the same situation changed from chapter to chapter. I think it was a very creative style of writing a narrative, and one that probably took a fair bit of coordination and work on their part.

  9. I haven’t read this book yet (just ordered a copy from Amazon!) but I can understand why you felt how you did about the “dreaded” 3-0. It is very silly to think that a birthday (and a pretty young birthday at that) is the hill that seperates the eligible bachelorettes from the “old maids.”
    But having just turned 22 and preparing to embark on a very similar round-the-world journey with a girl friend myself, I think I’ll be able to relate to those fears. It feels like all of my friends and I have been on the same schoolschoolschool track for our entire lives, and now that university is coming to a close, people are beginning to branch out in different ways for the very first time. Peers are starting careers, getting engaged, even having children, and though I definitely am not ready for all that, there’s the near-constant (and very irrational) fear that if I don’t join the pack, I’m going to miss my chance. I breath a sigh of relief for being single one minute and feel a cringe-worthy pang of “ohmygodIhavenooneI’mgoingtodiealone” the next. And I’m only 22!
    So go easy on them. As annoying and repetitive as their fears are, it’s admirable that they decided to follow their passion for travel instead of settling too early and being unhappier for it. 🙂

    Huge fan of your blog! I found it only recently and have been working my way backwards through every post (hence this very late comment). It’s done wonders to help me plan this monster of a trip- especially your advice on frequent flyer miles and securing your finances. I’m grateful for people like you that help pave the way for the less experienced! Thank you!

  10. @Holly – Duly noted! I think you’ll find as the years pass that there’s always something to “keep up” with in terms of matching your peers in their life course. Getting an education, getting married, buying a house, having kids, yadda, yadda, yadda. Hence the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses!”

    It takes courage and strong conviction to break that mould, and it’s a constant process as well. I’ve noticed some long-term non-conformist travelers have recently decided to stop traveling and, well, “settle down”, and I can only imagine that it will be a matter of time before they meld back into the framework society that is ready and waiting for them.
    Give them 5 years and they’ll be pushing strollers and comparing suburban lawn mowing techniques. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…)! 🙂

    And thanks for reading my blog so thoroughly! A great place to start to sum up the last four years is this post, with lots of contextual links and funny stories!


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