A few weeks ago I had the chance to read a new book called The Lost Girls (HarperCollins, 2010). It’s the story of three girls in their mid-twenties who leave behind their jobs, friends, relationships & high-stress city-lives to backpack around four continents. I’ll say this quickly about the book: don’t try to read it in an airport, or you’ll end up on the first flight out of the country!
**BOOK GIVEAWAY** Simply by leaving a comment on this post, you’ll be entered to win a FREE copy of The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World. This contest is now over.
Also, if you’re interested, I had the chance to pick the brains of Jennifer, Amanda & Holly on some of my more pressing questions: what to pack, where to go, would you do it again…
They have some useful insight on the usefulness of head lamps, brief intermissions in America, how to travel with a friend and how to get a book deal.
Interview with the Lost Girls
Do you have any travel tips for soon-to-be RTW travelers?
When it comes to planning a RTW trip, we recommend leaving yourself open to the possibilities that travel can bring by only loosely planning out where you want to go in advance. By being flexible, you’ll allow for the kind of spontaneity that can bring some of your greatest trip memories. For example, we gave ourselves about six weeks in our first country, Peru, but we weren’t sure exactly which towns and cities we’d visit apart from landing in Lima and hiking the Inca Trail. We hadn’t known about one of our favorite activities—sandboarding over enormous dunes in Huacachina—until we’d talked to other travelers after we’d arrived. Since we’d left our itinerary open, we were able to hop on a bus to check it out.
Also, we wish we’d known that stuff such as tampons and almost any type of toiletries are available even in the most remote places (and if they’re not, chances are that you’ll have gone through a big city before arriving and can pick up whatever you need there). So when it comes to stuff like sunscreen and pain reliever, you don’t have to bring a year’s supply if that’s how long you’re planning on traveling.
Our headlamps proved to be one of the best investments. We used them to read on night bus and plane rides, and they came in handy whenever we were camping or staying in places where there was no electricity. Also, those metal pac safes that go over your backpacks and lock your belongings are really useful when you want to doze off on long bus or train rides and not have to worry about letting your guard down with potential thieves.
If there was one thing we wished we brought that we didn’t, it would be a rolling backpack. They let you pull your luggage when you have smooth ground, like at an airport or on city sidewalks, but convert into a backpack when you’re in more rugged terrain, like hiking a mountain. Holly used one from the High Sierra line for a later trip to China, and she loves it because it has tons of compartments to make organizing easy.
Over the course of your trip, you made several stops back in America. Holly calls it “cheating on a year abroad” but were you each glad to return to the States at various points?
The reasons why people travel and how we travel are deeply personal, and as varied as individuals themselves. And that’s the beauty of travel—it can be anything you want it to be, depending on your current circumstance and life stage. But it’s always creative, and you can find a way to make it work for you.
So it really depends on the trip and where we are in our personal and professional lives whether or not we’d take another trip back home again. Sometimes going home can delay some aspect of self-discovery during a long journey that we might not have made had we restrained from re-entering our “comfort zone.”
On the other hand, giving ourselves permission to go home and reconnect with the people and things that matter most to us in order to recharge during an extended trip helped us get more out of the journey because we came back feeling energized.
The choice to go home is always personal, and we don’t think there is any right or wrong answer.
Would either of you travel on another big trip again? Was one year enough?
Yes, we would love to take a big trip again. It’s impossible to not be bitten by the travel bug. The more places we visit, the longer our travel wish-list actually gets!
I was really interested to read how the 3 of you got along throughout the trip. My own trip is mostly solo, but I’ll be traveling with a friend for 2 full months. Any tips you can pinpoint in surviving travel with a best friend from home?
Compromise and communication are key, of course. You really have to put the needs of the group above your individual needs most of the time in order to avoid major blow-ups. Of course, you can’t agree about everything and, just like with any intimate relationship, you sometimes must agree to disagree and let it go.
It’s best to discuss expectations before you get on the road. If you think an ideal day is wandering through museums while your travel partner believes it’s watching football at the local bar, you’d better know this before and work out a plan.
Also, pick your battles but don’t hold too much in or else you’ll explode. Most tense situations can usually be softened with a healthy dose of humor, and a bit of empathy.
Lastly, travel can reveal so many different sides of people’s personalities that you might not get to see in normal, everyday circumstances—both bad and good!
Your stories about freelance writing while on the road were particularly pertinent to me (and many of my readers, too). I guessed that you had set up lostgirlsworld.com before leaving, but did you go into your trip with big travel writing plans?
During the trip we’d occasionally fantasized about someday writing a book about our adventures, but that was really just a pie-in-the-sky notion we didn’t pursue while traveling. As writers by trade, Holly and Amanda did pen a few pieces for magazines while we were on the road–while Jen parlayed her TV background into becoming an impromptu photo journalist. But aside from writing the occasional articles and maintaining our travel blog, we didn’t want to squander our time on the road holed up in Internet cafes working—we wanted to have authentic experiences and adventures exploring the countries we’d traveled so far to visit.
Although in the end, our blog was what inspired our travel memoir. What started out as a creative means for staying in touch with loved ones soon became a matter of public interest. Apparently, our family and friends weren’t the only ones reading our website. Thanks to the viral nature of the web, news of The Lost Girls travelogue (www.lostgirlsworld.com) started to spread—first in the US, then overseas –and soon, tens of thousands of readers began logging on to live vicariously through our journey. Once we provided a dedicated email address for correspondence, readers wrote to us directly, sharing how our stories had inspired them and even changed the direction of their lives.
As luck would have it, a few agents and one editor at a major publishing house stumbled across our blog while we were still traveling, and wrote to express interest in maybe turning our tales into a book. Of course, no one actually wanted to meet with us until we’d composed a polished book proposal, so the three of us holed up for an entire month at Holly’s family’s house in Syracuse to put together our 60-page document together. Once we’d completed the proposal (including three sample chapters), we found an agent whom we really trusted at Writer’s House, and he managed to sell our book to HarperCollins.
In my experience, every time someone hears you’re traveling for the next 12 months or so, everyone has a place to recommend. How do you deal with the endless list of places to see, and the desire to see it all?
Part of what lured us to go on a RTW adventure in the first place was our desire to see everything, to get lost, and to explore. And so we’d sometimes try to fit in too much and take a whirlwind tour. By the time we were more than halfway through with our trip and in SE Asia, we’d learned that moving too quickly through places was a prescription for getting road weary and jaded.
The most memorable parts of our trip were in the places where we slowed down and really dove into another culture rather than hitting up all the “must-sees” and moving on. When we volunteered in Kenya and lived on a farm for a month, or when we moved into our friend’s apartment in Bondi Beach, Australia, we felt much more connected to the people and the place that we were visiting.
There’s always going to be another “must-see” attraction, but to get the most out of each place, we think it’s best to slow down and try to just stay put for awhile. For us, those were the times when we found travel most rewarding.
Are there any places you’d like to go back and visit?
There are so many places we’d like to return! Kenya tops the list because we’d like to see how the school and town where we volunteered in Kitale has grown or changed, and to see where the student who we taught while we were there are now. New Zealand is also a place we’d like to go back to because we didn’t know how beautiful the world could really be until our month-long road trip through that spectacular scenery.
And….. any big trips planned for the future—the three of you together?
We made a pact to take a reunion trip together every year for the rest of our lives. Though we were a little late on our first anniversary trip, the three of us took a surf vacation to Panama last August.
We’re definitely taking our second reunion trip this year, but haven’t decided on a destination yet. Some ideas are South Africa, Ireland, or Napa in California since the three of us have never been any of those places together.
A few things…
Big thanks to Jennifer, Amanda & Holly for taking the time to answer my questions. And to HarperCollins for the review copy of the book. For a limited time, the Lost Girls have pledged to donate 15 percent of the purchase price of every book purchased via the link below to Village Volunteers, a non-profit organization. First, why don’t you LEAVE A COMMENT to be entered to WIN A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK. If you don’t win, just come back here and buy the book through the link below:
Also, this post will almost certainly by the first and only on travelsofadam.com to use the word “tampon.” While The Lost Girls is written by three girls, I can vouch that the book is just as applicable for traveling men—if not more so because now I know how backpacker girls think.
Book Giveaway — Enter by 21 May 2010
Leave a comment below to be entered to win a copy. I’ll use random.org to randomly select a winner on May 21. (Full disclosure: HarperCollins sent me a review copy of this book. And they’ll be sending the winner a copy as well.)