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