Mindful Tourist Book Review: The Lost Girls
The book “The Lost Girls” came out yesterday, the same day we finished our advance copy of the 539-page opus.
As a reader (and full disclosure, sometimes contributor) of their longstanding blog, we had been looking forward to reading this book detailing three women’s travel together around the globe. It’s a great story – who among us hasn’t wanted to quit our job, leave our hectic life behind us, take a year to travel around the world and in the process learn a little something? That’s what Jen, Holly, and Amanda did in real life and this book is their journey.
The way they structured the writing with each woman writing separate chapters from her own point of view as they move from country to country, is creative and allows the reader to understand the differences among the three, not getting bored with just one voice.
They start out in Peru and then move to Brazil. Truthfully, we thought the South America leg of their trip was the least compelling – maybe because they’re just getting started and as Holly notes, there’s a little too much partying and shades of spring break. Yes, there’s also trekking on the Inca trail but the interesting thing is that the fact that this part of their trip doesn’t excite us is exactly part of why this book works. As they become more and more seasoned travelers, they also become more mature people and it shows in their writing and experiences.
Each woman has her own internal struggles – Amanda and her workaholic tendencies, Jen and her need to control, and Holly and her boyfriend back home – and the reader gets just enough details that we feel like we know the authors, but not too much so that it becomes tedious and banal. The women’s experience volunteering in Kenya is a turning point and clearly makes a mark on them but our favorite parts of the book were their travel through Asia – the Indian ashram, Laos, and of course, since we’re suckers for romance, Jen’s (NOT Amanda’s) fun time in Thailand.
Each woman’s own personality, quirks, issues, and writing style are different and that helps the book become a fun read with some occasional introspective nuggets. Inevitably, the book will be compared to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, especially because of the time spend in Ubud and at the Indian ashram. Yes, if Gilbert were three people instead of one, twenty-something instead of thirty-something, had traveled around to more than a dozen countries instead of three, yada, yada, yada, there might be a connection. Some themes are similar – love, finding yourself – but these are found in so many books, travel and otherwise.
As far as mindful tourism goes, Holly, Amanda, and Jen did a fairly good job on the budget they had. They discussed how tourism affects native Americans in Peru, danced and let go like the locals in Brazil, wrote a play about a Kenyan environmental hero and worked with Kenyan girls to produce it, and met with complementary medicine healers in Laos. However, the backpacking life, while cheap, does not lead itself in all ways to cultural tourism. Staying at hostels is probably the cheapest choice but they were also surrounded by other foreigners instead of locals. Amanda describes the sometimes orgy-like atmosphere at the hostels – yuck. We understand the appeal of $5/day but wonder if there are less well-known alternatives, like renting rooms from local families, for example.
The travels end in New Zealand and Australia but the epilogue is fun to read also. We find out how their lives change (and remain the same) based on this one year of travel.
All in all, we recommend this book and hope that maybe the lost girls’ courage, realizations, and transformations by the end of their travels can rub off in small ways on all of us. Buy it from the lost girls site and some of the price goes to charity - happy reading and daydreaming!
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