We spoke with Amanda Pressner about her round-the-world trip and newly released book: The Lost Girls: Three Friends, Four Continents and One Unconventional Detour Around the World. Here's what it took to prepare, how it was to return, and lessons learned:
Who are you? Where did you spend your year of travels?
In June 2006, we—three friends and media professionals, Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett, and Amanda Pressner—left our jobs, boyfriends, apartments, and everything familiar behind in New York City to embark on a year-long search for adventure and inspiration. We journeyed across four continents, a dozen countries, and 60,000 miles, sharing our experiences with other aspiring vagabonds on our website, LostGirlsWorld.com.
How did you decide to make the big break and go travelling?
Our journeys didn't begin the second we got on the road: They started while we were still in our cubicles, trying (and often failing) to strike a balance between our careers and "real life." Ditching my job and leaving New York to backpack around the planet seemed a completely illogical decision. At the time, I'd just gotten my toe in the door at my dream job as a magazine editorial assistant. But there was always another part of me—one that grew more vocal and insistent the longer and harder I worked—that kept trying to warn me just how much I was missing by spending every night (and many weekends!) inside of a dark office while the real life took place outside the window.
I think at some point, we realized that this RTW trip was not just some wine-fueled vacation fantasy. We actually had a very rare, and special opportunity before us: If you have two friends willing to quit their jobs, pack up their apartments, and put their relationships on hold to backpack around the world for a year, well then... you don't question it. You just go—and we did.
Have you got any planning tips for long term travel?
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!
What was it like coming home again?
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 was the best thing you learned or thing that surprised you about long term travel?
I think some things about yourself will never change but I believe that emotionally, I'm forever altered. For the most part, I do not get so stressed out by the curveballs that life throws at me and I'm much, much more comfortable with uncertainty. Even when I don't know exactly where life is headed, I have some sense of trust that things will work out. I think constantly being disoriented and in a state of flux on the road—and always eventually getting where I needed to go—gave me that peace-of-mind. I also realize that there are other things in life that inspire me, and that I'm good at, besides my career! I now understand that you don't have to travel in order to learn about yourself, and to grow—but it's one amazing, intense way to take a crash course on the study of you!
And now you've got a book about your adventures...
We updated our blog at least once per week to keep our writing skills sharp and to help stay connected with family and friends. As we updated it, our readership grew beyond our own loved ones—other "Lost Girls" were beginning to visit too and news of the website spread. Soon, thousands of readers were living vicariously through our journey.
As luck would have it, a few agents and one editor at a major publishing house stumbled across our blog while we were on the road, and wrote to ask if we'd ever consider turning the story of our adventures in to a book. Heck yeah! Once we returned home, the three of us holed up for a month and put together our 60-page proposal, found an agent, and started garnering interest. We eventually sold our book to HarperCollins... and it was released this year.
And with great reviews...
"The best travel adventures, the most memorable experiences happen when things don't go according to plan. And that's why I love this book."
-Peter Greenberg, Travel Editor, CBS News
Find out more about The Lost Girls book or order from Amazon, a great choice for an end-of-summer read. The Lost Girls is also Away.com's Book Club selection for September. Get to reading now so you can discuss with other like-minded travellers.
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