Less that three hours after we'd started, our group sat cross-legged on a stone terrace to soak up the moment we'd trekked twenty-six miles to witness: The first rays peeked out from behind the sprawling ruins of Machu Picchu. As the sky morphed from pink to gold to periwinkle, the light pushed shadows across the stones, making them appear to be living, breathing beings.
After reading my last memoir/travelogue, I thought I was done with them. It was mostly because the authors were either in a mid-life crisis and decided to travel or the whole self-discovery phase felt a bit strange or impersonal to me. But I took a short or rather long detour when I saw this book on the TLC Book Tours listing. Because, I just loved the sound of it. Three girlfriends who drop everything - work, life, relationships - and take a one year trek around the world. Now, who among us hasn't fantasized about something like that? I won't say that I envisioned leaving everything for a year or even half, but a month is usually what I've imagined. I've always disliked being tied down to or by anything just as much as I love having something (work, family) to belong to. Those are very conflicting emotions, which is why I was curious about how the authors of this book did it. They all had jobs that could easily replace them on the merit of even a half-day absence. Two of them had boyfriends they were seeing seriously, and asking them to wait for a year is never an enticing option. And yet, somehow they decided that they needed to make this journey. I absolutely loved these girls!
The plan to go on a one-year visit sprung when Jennifer, Amanda and Holly visited the Iguazu Falls in Argentina/Brazil. Far away from home and work, it was easy to envision doing this again, over a longer period. And so they decided to start saving and begin planning. It wasn't that simple. Amanda's career was spiraling downward. Jennifer's boyfriend of four years was not happy to hear about the plan. Holly didn't have enough money. All problems other than a mid-life crisis, which is definitely a serious problem (I'm not belittling that). And I go through a life crisis every once in a while, but there's only so much about it that I can read. These three girls supported each other and each knew that they can't make this trip with even one of them absent.
The Lost Girls was very entertaining to read. The girls' travels and adventures were quite fun, literal and not too symbolic. It wasn't dry like reading a book from the travel section of a bookstore, nor was it philosophical enough to be a spiritual or a self-discovery read. Rather, the girls had enough fun, learned a lot from the people they met, and worried about their links back home. I didn't feel them hold back anything as they shared their worries, squabbles and dreams. Staying with the same people every day for over a year can mean fights and disagreements, which they readily admit to. For instance, Jennifer wanted them to stay away from any kind of work, because to her, the whole purpose of the trip was to get a break from work. Amanda, however, could not abstain from sending pitches to a few editors back in the States. She couldn't totally divorce herself from writing, which to her is an outlet for expression, and not work, as it is for Jennifer.
The writing is however, not stellar. I found this to be the one demerit of this book. I didn't find it an issue that three different people co-authored this book. In fact, I found their writing styles to be very similar, that I didn't have to worry about slipping from one person's perspective to another. (The chapters of the book are alternately written by the three girls.) Instead, I feel a better editing job could have been done. There are a lot of repetitions, and quite a few typos. In fact, at one point, even a religion is misspelled. Some of the dialogue felt contrived to me. I get that some must have been in place for our benefit, but it felt too obvious and forced at places. Initially, I found it amusing how matters of the toilet were foremost in their minds as they went from place to place. However, after a while, it stopped feeling that important or interesting to read about.
Overall, this has been a delightful read and has quite inspired the traveler in me. I doubt I'll ever do something as wild, but I do want to get out more often. What I most loved about this book was how strongly the personalities of the three girls laced the pages, and how very much like normal girls they were. When they visited Machu Picchu, I admit I was insanely jealous. How much I've wanted to visit that place since I read about it in my History book at school (at least there was some benefit to learning about all that in school)! And my most anticipated chapters were the ones in which the authors visited India (of course). I've always been fascinated with the outside-in perspective and found it interesting how some of their observations felt like deja-vu to me. Mostly, I loved feeling that I was a part of their group as I was reading the book, and that makes this 500-page travelogue a win for me.