The Lost Girls – reviewed

The Lost Girls – reviewed

“Three friends, four continents” is the cover tagline of this rewarding, if lengthy, account of modern independent travel – our guides Amanda, Jen and Holly launch themselves several zip codes outside their comfort zones, then write it all down.

The eponymous lost girls are three New York-based media sector worker-bees whose (frankly scary) ambition has perceptibly shifted into promotion and career success, but share a nagging worry that the corporate hamster wheel might not be the One True Path. It opens with the trio on a typical US-style vacation – equal parts of enjoying the travel experience and worrying if their employers might decide that workers who take vacation time aren’t what the business needs – Jen’s description of taking ten days off work as being like a “prison break” is something few Europeans but many Americans will understand. Captivated by their holiday pleasures, the age-old “what if this holiday never ended” conversation starts. The difference of course, is these girls actually followed through with the dream…

Unsurprisingly, cool travel tales abound – Amazonian jungle exploration in Peru, giving a little back at a Kenyan school, two very different sides of modern India (Goa’s party scene versus a month of ashram discipline), treading the well-worn South East Asian backpacker trail and adrenalin tourism in New Zealand all keep the narrative brisk. It’s not all cargo pants, dodgy toilets and rucksacks though – Jen, Holly and Amanda are definitely more Prada than Patagonia, so the nightclubs of Lima and Rio get thoroughly explored, along with the realities, disappointments, dangers and possibilities of the backpacker dating scene.

Thankfully, a healthy dose of self-deprecating humour just about counters the feelings of green-eyed envy their adventure will arouse in most readers – buying a copy of “How to Pack” in preparation for a round-the-world trip is a great idea, but actually taking it with you on the road? Epic fail Holly…

So, “The Lost Girls” could potentially have been a fluffy, skin-deep travelogue pitched solidly at the younger end of the soccer mom demographic – pure concentrated escapism denied to most by America’s “work is everything” cultural orthodoxy. But, what rescues this from such pleasant inanity is an acceptance of how a year on “holiday” isn’t all sweetness and light – we get an insight into the darker aspects – the sexual safety of women travellers, tensions between hedonism and credit card limits, and how to stay sane when long-term travelling with friends.

Holly, Jen and Amanda take turns at the book’s 30-odd chapters and each develops a clear authorial voice. Technically, Amanda is the most accomplished writer of the three, but loses brownie points for starting out as an annoying, career-obsessed machine who just can’t let go, an introduction which gives real depth and traction to the inner journey she then experiences during the year away. Her travel mates similarly relate how their characters and motivations are challenged and changed by their shared experience in a warm, but not excessively confessional tone – “Eat, Pray, Love” is the elephant in the room which is surprisingly easy to ignore.

Downsides? There’s a little too much backstory re: boyfriends back home / past loves, and intermissions back in the US prevent a clean narrative “voyage” from emerging. But, these are details – “The Lost Girls” is a likeable story of travel, friendship and personal growth which is well worth a read. The irony is, there’s one market this book won’t reach, and that’s travellers themselves – sorry girls, at 542 pages, it’s just too heavy for the backpack…

12 Responses to The Lost Girls – reviewed

  1. Great Review Christian. I have been debating as to whether to read their book or not. I can’t really relate to “NYC corporate America taking a year off” kind of traveling. It sounds like there might be some parts I may enjoy. I would like to read it but I’m in no rush!

    • Yep, I wasn’t sure when I started it. But, they do mange to step well outside the cliche of “NYC Corporate year off” and Amanda in particular does stuff I would never have expected, so worth a look. But, the hardback is soooo heavy, so not ideal for travel!!

  2. Hey Christian,

    Just needed to pop up and thank you for this very thoughtful, in-depth review! We agree that the book is way too heavy (we can’t believe our editors didn’t force us to cut it down more!) but we’ll make sure that the paperback is a lot leaner, we promise.

    Jen, Hol and I are headed back to SE Asis this winter…we couldn’t let this year represent the beginning and end our our journey…


    Amanda

    • Hey, thanks for stopping by Amanda – you’re officially my first celebrity visitor (I’m sure there’s a setting somewhere on Google Analytics to track these…)

      Well done with the book – it’s a really nice read, and good luck with promoting it and the site. Glad to hear the three of you are going to get back out on the road – I’m trying to pull together a cunning plan myself to get 25 days in SEA over Xmas – you’ve got to love that European vacation time…

  3. Thanks for the great review Christian. I have debated for quite some time if reading this book was for me. Although I will not be rushing to buy it now, this review has definitely pushed me to read it some time in the near future. It will be interesting to see their perspective on long term travel.

  4. Thx for stopping by Ayngelina – it does weigh a ton but I’m not ready to go digital yet – I always enjoy passing books on when I’ve finished with them, especially when travelling. Hope Columbia improves for you – you’re right about the freezing cold buses!!

  5. Awesome-thanks for the thorough review. Like your other commenters, I have also been hearing about this book and am interested in checking it out. I have also At 542 pages, I may need to wait until I have just a little bit more time to lounge around and laze the day away though ;)

  6. You are an incredible writer, Christian! This is a great book review. Loving your website!!! We will definitely keep reading and checking back regularly. Keep up the great work! :) Also, thanks for the nice comment on our blog!!

    • Thank you, I had no idea how hard a “proper” book review was until I wrote this, but have had some really generous feedback – cheers!

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