Travel Books That’ll Knock Your Socks Off: “The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost”

Review of The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost

My latest book recommendation for solo travelers is The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost. It’s the true story of author Rachel Friedman’s personal evolution through travel. In the beginning, she’s your stereotypical “good girl.” She tries to please everyone and focuses so much on that, she can’t see anything beyond her immediate surrounds. And then she finds herself “lost” in travel. By the end of the book, she has become a different woman. Much more confident, much happier, and with a richer view of the world and her place in it.

Twenty second book summary

The book consists of three main sections: Friedman’s four-month stay in Ireland, her subsequent four-month exploration of Australia, and her five-month journey around South America. But it’s really more about Friedman’s personal transformation. From a tightly wound, anxious college student into a daring and adventurous world rover.

Best section of the book

For me, the best passage in the book is where Friedman decides to go bungee jumping for the first time. It’s not just that the unadventurous woman from the start of the book is now getting ready to bungee jump. It’s that she’s doubling down on bravery: bungee jumping on the same day she went parachuting for the first time. The following section is Friedman’s description of the sensations of waiting to leap off the bungee jumping platform, but the words have a broader application to life in general.

In order to jump, I do have to let go. I know that—of my fears, my anxieties, my ego. To fling yourself out into the abyss requires shutting off the analytic part of your brain, which wants to discuss the few pros and many cons in paralyzing detail—otherwise, you can’t jump. If you’re doing any talking to yourself up there, it’s talking yourself out of it.” Chapter 13, The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost

This is what Friedman has been doing throughout the book with increasing ferocity. Trusting herself and leaping into the unknown. The best line of this section is the one that comes after the bungee does its job and yanks the author back upwards. She writes, “A question appears before me as the adrenaline drains from my body: Have I ever been truly present at any moment in my life before now?”

Lessons for solo travelers

This book is a great read for a lot of reasons, but mainly because it shows how easy it can be for anyone to totally transform their life, even if they’re not a risk-taker. Friedman wasn’t a “born explorer”. She wasn’t naturally brave (or so she thought). And yet, she listened to the quiet voice inside her, took a chance, and headed off to Ireland alone. And the gamble paid off.

“That summer [in Ireland], maybe for the first time in my life, I existed wholly in the present moment, which is one of the liberating things about traveling to a place where no one knows you. I had no past or future, which suited me perfectly, since I did not wish to reckon with either.” Chapter 7

In the grand scheme of things, the risk Friedman took wasn’t particular large. She could have just turned around at any time and gone home if she wanted to. And yet, for her, that first small risk was monumental. And that seems to be the lesson of this book. That being willing to start taking risks is the first step in transforming your life. For Friedman, her actions tapped into a side of her that she didn’t know existed. And they gave her access to inner reserves of strength, courage, and determination that she never realized she had. From that point on, she was a different person. And according to her own words, she was a happier and more content one.

The details

Title: The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure
Author: Rachel Friedman
Published: 2011

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Related reading

If you liked this book, you might also enjoy the following:

  • Walking the Nile by Levison Wood. This gripping true story recounts the author’s successful attempt to walk from the source of the Nile to the Mediterranean. You can read my review of that book by clicking here.
  • Giant Steps by Karl Bushby. This memoir details Bushby’s attempt to walk from the tip of South America back to his home in England. I’ve reviewed this remarkable and fascinating book here.
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