Travel Book Reviews: The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost, A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure by Rachel Friedman
This one is simply about a girl, the world and how getting lost can actually lead you to where you are meant to be.
We’ve all been there; that moment when we wonder what on earth we are doing with our lives – what the point is – what our purpose is. A native New Yorker, Rachel Friedman took off to Ireland with a backpack for a summer to try and figure these things out. There she met Carly, a travel-mad Australian, and tasted the possibilities of adventure. When she finished her college degree and friends got jobs that involved offices, power-dressing and Blackberries, she couldn’t resist the call of travel and instead spent nine months in Australia and South America. This book is the memoir of those three places, the travels, the mishaps, the self-discovery.
So far it sounds a lot like Eat Pray, Love, you may be thinking. True, this is a story of a solo female traveler in search of what matters in her life, but it is written with dynamism, vitality and enough self-deprecating humor to make it a witty and rather breathless world tour. Perhaps this book was particularly engaging for me since I am also 22 and currently on a solo adventure in South America (although this made some of it rather nail-biting reading!) but Friedman’s honest, the open tone will have a wide appeal. Her transformation from the suitcase-toting novice traveler in Ireland to seasoned backpacker taking on Bolivia’s ominously-named Death Road is one to which we can all relate in some way – she illustrates the power of travel to show us a side to ourselves we never knew existed.
The chapter intros begin to grate a little after the first one: each starts ‘our heroine…’ in an attempt, I suppose, to give it a storybook feel, but it doesn’t quite work. Some parts could also have been slowed down a little and have had a bit more detail added – as readers we want a travelogue to evoke a sense of place; at times this becomes a bit of a whirlwind tour. However, these are minor gripes; it’s challenging to pick out the defining moments of extended travel, and Freidman certainly manages this successfully. She is also entirely straightforward and never sounds as if she is boasting about any of the things she has done – from bungee jumping in Australia to camping in the Amazon jungle. She simply relates it as it happens, leaving the reader with an even greater sense of wonder.
She describes her experiences very candidly, never getting caught up in rose-tinted memories. She shows that there are problems when travelling and that nothing ever goes exactly according to plan. She enlightens the reader that this is half the fun: there are unexpected surprises that reveal things about yourself you never could have imagined, and these personal challenges can lead to becoming a stronger person than you thought you ever could be. She also hints deliciously at the beginnings of the relationship with the man who became her husband, but it is clear that is another story. This one is simply about a girl, the world and how getting lost can actually lead you to where you are meant to be.
Anyone who has ever felt guilty about traveling or is unsure about what they are achieving in concrete terms, bewildering their relatives who expect to measure success on the traditional scale of career, mortgage and marriage, will be able to relate well with this book. Friedman was the good girl who defied these societal expectations, got wilfully lost and discovered that it is possible to live in the moment, not for the past or future.
If this book doesn’t make you pick up your passport then not much will. Mine’s in my bag and ready to go. I’m also a good girl just beginning to get very lost indeed, and after reading this, I’m glad I am.
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