The Lost Girls: A Yearlong Worldwide Adventure
In 2005, Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, and Amanda Pressner were living the dream in New York City when, faced with sudden doubts about the permanence of their high-pressure media jobs (not to mention impending milestone birthdays), they decided to do what most travelers only dream about: Cut and run.
Apartments and jobs were given up. Goodbyes were said to family and friends. And in in June of 2006, the trio set out on a yearlong jaunt around the world in search of adventure and enlightenment. In their new book The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World, the women take turns narrating the story of the trip that spanned 12 countries and 60,000 miles, sharing all the terrifying, hilarious, and moving experiences they had along the way.
From Ashrams in India to sunsets in Kenya, errant taxi drivers in Hanoi to bungee jumping in New Zealand, the Lost Girls covered a lot of ground. I got the chance to speak with Amanda Pressner about the highs and lows of world travel and the art of keeping the peace in a group. You can check out our Q&A after the jump.
I drove myself crazy trying to plan a two-week trip on one continent, so I can’t even imagine what the planning stages for a trip of this scope must have been like. How did you go about organizing all the necessary dates, rates, documents, and information?
Back in the beginning of our round-the-world adventure, we made the mistake of trying to plan way too far in advance! We picked up guidebooks for every single country and tried to figure out all the best places to stay and things to do months before we were scheduled to show up. Then we realized: How the heck would we carry a dozen heavy guidebooks in our backpacks? Needless to say, we left most at home. (One tip: You can barter for or purchase gently used copies of guidebooks at many hostels and guesthouses as soon as you arrive.)
After traveling for a while, we realized that unless you’re planning to do something that requires reservations pretty far in advance (hiking the Inca Trail during high season, for example) you really only need to plan one country or city ahead–and even then, just to book the hostel or hotel you’ll be staying in upon arrival. It’s much more liberating to book lodging, find places to eat and choose activities once you’ve spoken with locals or other travelers you’ll meet in passing. One exception to this ultra-spontaneous, “it’ll all work out” attitude: Always check to make sure you’re not getting to a city during a major holiday or festival. Otherwise, you may very well end up with no bed for the night!
The three of you seemed to make it through your journey with friendships that were stronger than when you began. Do you have any tips for staving off that inevitable backlash toward traveling companions?
For us, “three’s a crowd” didn’t really apply. I think that’s because on most trips, there will be times when you want a buddy or two to join you for a trip through the local night market or a white water rafting adventure–and other times when you’d rather be alone.
Jen, Holly and I learned that voicing your expectations for your trip before you take off–discussing everything from the amount you’d like to spend per day to when you like to go to be to how you’d handle encounter with strangers–is absolutely essential to keeping the peace. It’s also important to put the needs of the group before your own in at least 90 percent of situations on the road: Pick and choose the times when you need to take a stand for or against doing something, and even then, share your thoughts in a calm but firm way. If your companions don’t understand that you’re truly uncomfortable with something (for instance, riding in that cheap, sketchy gypsy cab rather than a pricier government regulated taxi), then they can’t make adjustments to accommodate you.
Finally, if you need to vent to or about your other traveling companions, vent in a constructive way! It’s totally normal to get stressed and encounter differences of opinion while traveling–but try to stay productive rather than getting upset and taking off in a huff.
You gave up a lot of stability — apartments, jobs — to travel for a year. What was the hardest part of re-planting your roots in the U.S. when you returned?
Quite frankly, we were broke as a joke when we got back! Coming home to New York in debt wasn’t exactly optimal, but we sucked it up and asked to say on friends’ couches for a few weeks while we looked for jobs and places to live. Emotionally, it was tough to be 29 and feel like we’d just graduated college and were jump-starting our lives all over again–but all too soon, we found work and went back to the cubicle life (our debt was repaid within a few months of getting back). Coming home to a life almost identical to the one we’d left was in many ways the hardest part of the trip.
What advice would you give to someone who has the desire, but not necessarily the means, to travel extensively?
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Choose a single country or region to visit rather than trying to squeeze in a dozen (as we did!) during your time away. If you’re interested in learning a language or volunteering during your adventure (or both), you can seriously defray lodging costs by doing a homestay with a local family–that will allow you to truly immerse yourself in the culture while learning and giving back in the community where you’re staying. We’d also recommend choosing regions where your dollar will stretch the farthest (e.g., Central America, Southeast Asia) and skipping any destination where the Euro is involved!
Given the opportunity to embark on this kind of yearlong globetrotting adventure again, what locations would you like to experience? Are any stops from your first trip worthy of revisiting?
Man, this is always a tough question! We only hit 12 countries during our trip and there are nearly 200 around the globe, so we’d probably try to hit all new ones on the next go ’round. The exception: Kenya, where we were truly impacted by the program that we did through Village Volunteers and the people that we met while living there.
High on our list of new places to visit: Nepal and Bhutan, South Africa, China and several of the countries in Eastern Europe. Personally, it’s my dream to learn to sail (or at least join the crew of a boat) and visit the island nations of the South Pacific. Anyone want to come with?
For more from Amanda Pressner (and her fellow travelers Jennifer Baggett and Holly C. Corbett), check out the Lost Girls’ website at http://www.lostgirlsworld.com. You can also follow the trio on Twitter @lostgirlsworld. Photo: Stephen Bailey