Book Review: The Lost Girls

by Gray Cargill on May 8, 2010

The Lost Girls book image

You may already be familiar with the Lost Girls of the website, but in case you’re not, here’s another chance to become acquainted with them:  Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, and Amanda Pressner have written a book chronicling their travel adventures, titled (appropriately): the lost girls: three friends, four continents, one unconventional detour around the world. I spend so much of my free time on this blog that it’s been awhile since I’ve read a good book, so I was excited to receive  a free advance copy to review.

Here’s the skinny on the story:  In their late twenties, these three friends ditched their cool jobs in the New York media scene and left behind their comfortable lives (including two boyfriends) to go backpacking around the world for a year to figure out what they really wanted for their lives, their careers, and their relationships.  To be honest, I really only intended to read and review the sections on solo travel, but decided to read the first chapter to get the background.  It opens at a ceremony in Kenya where the three young women are initiated as honorary members of a tribe of Maasai wanderers amidst a swirl of colors and dancing.  That hooked me.  How did these three young women from Manhattan wind up here? I wondered.  A hundred and fifty pages later, it became apparent I was going to be reading the whole book, not just the parts about solo travel.

Following the opening scene in Kenya, the book backtracks to the months leading up to their trip and tells the story chronologically from there.  Throughout the book, each Lost Girl takes a turn telling the story from her point of view, as they travel through Brazil, Peru, Kenya, India, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia, and Panama. The multiple first-person point of view works really well here.

I don’t know if male readers will feel the same way, but I feel most female readers will see at least a little bit of themselves in these pages.  I laughed at funny things that happened, worried when they became violently ill on the road, empathized with them when they found themselves in cultures where the men were too aggressive, sputtered like someone’s mother when the girls got themselves into sketchy situations, feared for them during a particularly harrowing experience with a Hanoi cab driver, and smiled at the revelations that could only have come from being in the right time and place, from choosing travel in the first place.

Mostly, I reconfirmed for myself while reading that I couldn’t travel the way they did. The round-the-world backpacking scene is not for me.  I could completely relate when Holly finally snapped and decided she couldn’t stay in hostel dorms any more because she just couldn’t sleep with all those people around all the time.  And the cockroaches they experienced in more than one locale would have been a deal-breaker for me.  There were times when there was tension between them because their travel styles didn’t entirely mesh and their goals for the trip clashed, and I thought “Then why don’t you split up and go your separate ways for a while?”  But then, that’s the solo traveler in me.

While this is a tale of three amigas traveling together, there are bits and pieces of solo travel here and there.  Holly spends a few weeks in India at an ashram while her friends sample the beach life, and Jen spends a week in Thailand by herself. I especially enjoyed reading the Thailand chapter.  When Jen sets the scene of her first night in her hostel by herself, wondering exactly how not to look pathetic as a solo traveler and wondering how to be alone after always traveling with her friends, she speaks for the first-time solo traveler everywhere.

If you love to travel, if you’ve ever thought about taking a leave of absence from your everyday life to do some long-term travel, or even if you know you never will do that, but just want to live vicariously through the adventures of other people, I recommend this book.  There are two journeys that take place here for all three: the external journey and the internal one.  How do their year-long travels change them and influence their lives? I’m not going to spoil it for you; you’ll have to read it to find out.

the lost girls is for sale at bookstores and online retailers now.

Interested in long-term solo travel, but not sure where to start? You can now buy The Art of Solo Travel: A Girl’s Guide by Stephanie Lee, which contains all the basic information you need to get started on your long-term solo journey. Read my review of the book here.

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