Because I have so much free time on my hands, I have been reading a ton. I just finished “The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost, A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure” by Rachel Friedman– which was awesome but also really the worst book for me to read at exactly this point in my life.
The book is about me… well, somebody almost exactly like me. Unsure about her post-college future, the author spends a summer in Ireland. She leaves the US without distinct plans and it is when she is living outside of the hell (really) that is go-go-go USA, she realizes that there is a different pace and lifestyle observed in other parts of the world.
She meets an Aussi on her travels and over the next few years, they make plans to meet up. The author lives with the Aussi’s family while working menial jobs, saving up just enough to travel throughout Australia. They also travel through South America– trying to see Machu Picchu (and failing), spending time in the Amazon, going to Argentina. She does the last trip right after college, then returns to NY (she had graduated from UPenn) where she finds herself changed by her travels– unable to connect truly with her old college friends (who are braving finance and non-profit jobs in NYC). The end of the book (as she is traveling through South America) focuses on her mounting anxiety of returning to the “real world” where she will have to get a “real job” and start on the “real road” through the rest of her life.
I know exactly what she was going through when she experienced the events that make up this book. I spent my final year of college abroad and it was in these travels as well as subsequent trips that I realized, wow life is better when you’re effing around in a foreign country. And then you come back to the US where ppl get maybe 10-15 days of vacation a year (and don’t use it!) and I dunno: you start wondering what the point of it all is.
There was a woman at one of my former employers who took a few months off (or maybe quit) to do the Kiva fellowship in Southeast Asia. And basically: she never came back. Not that she got sold into sex slavery or anything like that. She started doing independent consulting, had clients, and because it is so cheap there, manages to live a pretty darn good life. She is probably drinking out of a coconut right now. And when I was doing my quarter abroad in Brazil, I shared an apartment with a British girl who lived in Rio teaching English. Now, Rio is very expensive so it’s not like she was rolling in the dough. In fact, she was probably just breaking even. At the time, she seemed to be frittering her life away, not getting into a relationship and setting up a real adult life. But now, I look at her with envy. How I would love to be in Rio right now, just getting away from it all.
I say this because I have a friend who up and quit her job to move to Australia, primarily to live with her girlfriend. But I’m sure part of it was the draw of moving somewhere new. As she was planning her move, she said that she was hoping to quickly square something away once she got there and she literally got a job like the first week. Crazy. And she had made the comment: hey! You should just move to Australia! And I’m like Nooooo! My parents will beat my butt and I’ll have to endure another comment from my mother about living my “Peter Pan lifestyle.” But shoot, I’m having no success here in the SF Bay area, where jobs aren’t really that plentiful (unless you’re an engineer) and housing is astronomical and out of your reach (unless you’re an engineer) and you can’t really look around and find a suitable mate (unless you’re an engineer in which case your standards are probably pretty low.)
Shoot, this book has me thinking, you know, thoughts.
P.S. On a total aside: I am incredibly awesome when backpacking. I should clarify. By “awesome” I really mean “comical.” Anytime people see me (a slight, short Asian woman) wearing my humongous rucksack, it elicits comments because I think it looks like one of those ants carrying a big piece of something. Once, my friend and I were waiting for our taxi in Brazil. The guy ran up, apologizing, pointing at me and saying something in Portuguese. Now, my Portuguese is incredibly poor; however, even I could tell based on his words and gestures that he was saying: I’m sorry for being late. You are so small! And your bag is so big! Ok, let’s go to the taxi! Sometimes taxi drivers will just flex their muscles at me, after putting my rucksack in the trunk of a car. The universal sign for: you strong, girl!