Rachel Friedman was one of those people who always did what was expected of her - that is, until the summer before her senior year of college, when she found herself in Ireland on a whim. This one spark of rebellion opened her up to other possibilities in life and gave her insight into a different Rachel Friedman - one who lived for adventure, travel, and encounters with new people. The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost is as much a memoir of self-discovery as it is an account of her travels.
A music school dropout, Friedman is following a careful plan for her life: study hard, graduate from college, and get a job. But she finds herself disillusioned and apprehensive about her future. In a drastic act of avoidance, she buys a plane ticket to Dublin. The plane’s descent into Dublin’s airport is where this book begins.
Friedman soon discovers that Dublin isn’t a good fit for her, but Galway is better. It is there that she finds a job and a home among two men – Spanish and Basque, respectively - and a young Australian woman named Carly.
Friedman is trying to figure out her life, and she’s surprised by Carly’s laid-back personality and passion for adventure. It is a revelation to her that Australians place a huge importance on travel, something Americans don’t really do. In Galway, with Carly’s help, Friedman begins to nurture her wanderlust.
Once Friedman returns home, she finds that she no longer fits her old life. Before long, she sets off to live with Carly and her family in Australia for a time, taking solo trips to the Outback, among other places. When her Australian trip ends, she already has plans to meet up with Carly in South America.
Just as Friedman’s narrative describes the people, sights, sounds and smells of each location she visits, it also delves into the events in her life that led her to this new lifestyle and new sense of self. Her prose is so evocative – yet simultaneously witty and charming – that you feel as if you’re accompanying her on her journey.
Well-traveled Americans may recognize (and empathize with) Friedman’s struggle to deal with foreigners’ perceptions of America in a post-9/11 world. It’s also easy to sympathize with the inevitable mishaps that occur on her travels, but those mishaps never taint Friedman’s perceptions of the country she is visiting.
Even if you’re an armchair traveler, you’ll be delighted to have Friedman as your tour guide. The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost is a good book to get lost in, and Friedman’s experience demonstrates just how leaving your comfort zone can be an empowering, life-changing act.