The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure

( 11 )

Overview

Rachel Friedman has always been the consummate good girl who does well in school and plays it safe, so the college grad surprises no one more than herself when, on a whim (and in an effort to escape impending life decisions), she buys a ticket to Ireland, a place she has never visited. There she forms an unlikely bond with a free-spirited Australian girl, a born adventurer who spurs Rachel on to a yearlong odyssey that takes her to three continents, fills her life with newfound friends, and gives birth to a ...

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The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure

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Overview

Rachel Friedman has always been the consummate good girl who does well in school and plays it safe, so the college grad surprises no one more than herself when, on a whim (and in an effort to escape impending life decisions), she buys a ticket to Ireland, a place she has never visited. There she forms an unlikely bond with a free-spirited Australian girl, a born adventurer who spurs Rachel on to a yearlong odyssey that takes her to three continents, fills her life with newfound friends, and gives birth to a previously unrealized passion for adventure. 

As her journey takes her to Australia and South America, Rachel discovers and embraces her love of travel and unlocks more truths about herself than she ever realized she was seeking. Along the way, the erstwhile good girl finally learns to do something she’s never done before: simply live for the moment.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Since childhood, Friedman knew she was going to be a professional viola player, but in her freshman year of music school, she realized that professional musicianhood was not for her. Afraid of an uncertain future and its endless possibilities, the 20-year-old fled to Ireland for four months. She discovers there's more to life than having the perfect plan—and that the American outlook on work, travel, and life is more limited (and limiting) than she'd realized. Thus primed, when her Australian friend (and Galway roommate) Carly invites Friedman to visit after graduation, the author accepts, and embarks on a yearlong adventure through Australia and South America. She takes risks (the Death Road passage is particularly harrowing), becomes enchanted with Buenos Aires, and falls for New Zealander (and eventual husband) Martyn. Friedman deftly moves from musings on family to specifics about working abroad to first-rate travelogue about the places she visited, striking just the right balance between personal and universal. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"Friedman's coming-of-age memoir captures the excitement (and bewilderment) of testing out life's possibilities on the far side of the world.  You'll laugh and empathize as you get lost with her."
—Rolf Potts, author of Vagabonding

"Curious, candid, energetic, and witty, Rachel Friedman is the ideal travel mate, and her sense of humor makes every page of this book a pleasure to read. A beautifully written and engrossing story, The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost reminds us how much a person can grow when she defies the expectations of her parents, her culture, and her youngest self. Rachel, like so many fresh college grads, doesn't know what to do with her life. Just be warned: Rachel's company is so delightful, you won't want to come home."
 – Colleen Kinder, author of Delaying the Real World

“Teeming with warmth, The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost is a wonderful read for anyone who wants to travel, misses traveling, or has ever entertained thoughts of dropping everything to go explore new territory. With humor and honesty, Rachel Friedman beautifully captures the pitfalls and exhilaration of backpacking, ultimately reminding us that our world is an infinitely fascinating and (mostly) open-hearted place.  Please read this funny, insightful, adventurer’s book.” —Rebecca Barry, author of Later, at the Bar

"Friedman deftly moves from musings on family to specifics about working abroad to first-rate travelogue about the places she visited, striking just the right balance between personal and universal." -Publisher's Weekly

Library Journal
In this memoir, Friedman (literature, John Jay Coll. of Criminal Justice) abandons her musical career and college plans for a summer on her own in Ireland in the hopes of finding a new direction for her adult life. Her time abroad, it turns out, is depressing despite new friends (via hostels, bar and restaurant jobs, and an abundance of alcohol), one of whom provides the impetus for Friedman's further travels. The sunny, relaxed atmosphere in Australia gives Friedman the courage to expand her horizons still further, this time to South America, where she bumbles through Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, and Chile. Times are good and bad, and connecting with her Australian friend proves difficult. True love appears near the end of the South American adventure. How could it not? VERDICT The book begins with a table of contents featuring cutesy chapter synopses (also used at the beginning of each chapter); aside from this grating misstep, Friedman proves herself an able first-time author. Contrary to the misleading title, this is an enjoyable memoir of a youthful journey of self-discovery. [Library marketing.]—Janet Ross, formerly with Sparks Branch Lib., NV
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385343374
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/29/2011
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 275,828
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Read an Excerpt

[1]

Our heroine, verily drowning in self-pity at the tender age of twenty, embarks on a grand adventure that is not yet either grand or an adventure but, rather, a hastily concocted plan to escape the confines of her current existence and the quotidian yet oppressive pressures contained therein.

The plane descends through a thick belt of clouds into blinding light. I haven’t fully registered the transition from night to day until sun pours through the oblong windows, jarring me out of semi-consciousness. For the past eight hours, ever since I waved goodbye to my father at the airport and marched myself onto a plane bound for Dublin, I’ve been wondering if I was in some altered state when I planned this trip, because the reality of it feels distinctly like a bad hangover. Being bathed in golden light only adds to my surreal arrival. Isn’t it supposed to be raining in Ireland?

We thud against the tarmac, and my fellow passengers shuffle to life, folding in half to gather their belongings from beneath the seats. Eager to depart, the frizzy-haired girl in the row ahead of me springs up like a jack-in-the-box as soon as the seat-belt light clicks off for the last time. I remain belted in, doing my best deer-in-headlights impression. I might just stay on this plane all day, ride it round-trip like I did once when I was little and too frightened to get off the revolving ski lift at the top of the mountain. The elderly woman sitting next to me, a tiny person with papery hands and merlot-stained lips, leans over and taps the book sitting in my lap: Angela’s Ashes.

“Oh, that poor Angela,” she sighs in one of those lilting Irish accents that make a grocery list sound like a Yeats poem. “Heaven knows she did the best for those boys, then Frank comes along and airs their business to the whole bloody world.” Her tone is heavy with disdain, as if the author sold naked photos of his mother to the tabloids, not penned a Pulitzer Prize winner about his Irish childhood. Coming from the land of “all publicity is good publicity,” I’d just assumed McCourt’s native country embraced his memoir, proudly adding him to their long list (suspiciously long, really, considering Ireland’s size) of distinguished writers. But like I was wrong about the weather, it seems I am mistaken about this, too.

Here are the facts of the present moment. It’s 2002. I’m twenty years old. I’ve just embarked on four months in a foreign country alone. I’m carrying six hundred dollars in traveler’s checks, money saved up from waitressing last semester. I booked two nights in a Dublin hostel before I left. Other than that, I’ve got no plan. And this greatly confounds me because I always have a plan. At least I used to be the kind of girl who always has a plan.

In a few months, I’ll be a college senior. School has been the organizing principle of my existence for as long as I can remember, and I have no idea what comes after that. My academic parents raised me to be ambitious and goal-oriented. In particular, my father, a film professor, molded me into a second-wave feminist whose duty it was to burst forth into the world and crush the male competition. He used to routinely deconstruct the PG films we watched together to comment on the functioning of the male gaze, say, or to illustrate how gender is performative. I still remember his lecture on The Little Mermaid: “It’s just not equitable. Ariel has to give up everything for this guy—first her voice, then her home. On a very real level, Rachel, she has to give up who she is. What are we to make of this?”

“Jesus, Lester,” my mother would sigh.

I was eight.

But I listened. I always listened.

I was a scholarship kid at a small, eccentric college-preparatory high school, the kind of place where you juggled two dozen AP classes at once. Much of my teenage world revolved around studying, carefully calibrated extracurricular activities, and endless rounds of practice SATs.

There was never a question of whether I would attend college—only where. And I was desperate to go, both because my parents’ divorce when I was fifteen had left me without a place I truly identified as “home” and because I genuinely loved school, where the formula for success was straightforward. Study and you get good grades. Simple, safe. But no class has prepared me for the post-student leap I am facing now, and being an eternal overachiever who bases her self-worth on her GPA, I am woefully ill-equipped to take on the unpredictable, unscheduled life awaiting me after college graduation. I am terrified of this unknown.

In the Dublin airport, confident, purposeful travelers swirl around me, off to meetings and reunions and homes. All of them seem to know exactly where they are headed—except me. For a few moments, I am frozen and directionless, lost amid the drifting crowds. My brain works in slow motion, registering my tasks: pick up suitcase, exchange money, find hostel.

I’ve never been to a foreign country alone, though I’ve been abroad a few times, starting with Germany when I was ten. My brother Dan was stationed there, and I flew over with my parents to visit him. We rented a car and dashed all over Europe. Ten days in at least as many cities, pausing just long enough to snap photos. It was exhausting, and I’m told I didn’t appreciate much of it. Every few years, my brother reminds me, shaking his head with renewed disgust, that I slept (slept!) through the pristine Alps.

After my sophomore year of high school, my parents discharged me to Israel with a temple youth group, even though I had recently articulated that I was “so over Judaism.” But it was difficult to stay pissed off for an entire summer, especially on a bus with twenty-five other teenagers and Yamud, our gigantic, hairy Israeli graduate-student guide who insisted on blasting “We Built This City on Rock and Roll” on his boom box every morning at six a.m. as we boarded the bus, still bleary-eyed. If you were drooping sleepily into the aisle, one of his enormous flailing wrists would smack you in the head. You might slip quietly into a window seat in the back and shut your eyes only to find his meaty fingers jabbing them open.

Each of us was assigned an identifying number and forced to shout it out (in order) at least twelve times a day, making our trip resemble one long Sesame Street episode. Peter, an unruly Canadian, insisted on substituting his name for his number. He was Rastafarian and claimed he was simply “too burned out to remember my number, brotha.” We found this, along with the dreadlock wig he wore over his shaved head and the fact that he smoked an invisible joint for hours at a time, across-the-board hilarious. Our Israeli guides, so unlike our regimented parents back home, just smirked and checked him off the list. They told the bus driver—a skinny man with the same real cigarette burning out of the corner of his mouth, seemingly for days, as if fueled by miracle menorah oil—that we were all accounted for and ready to go.

My souvenir from this first semi-independent trip to a faraway land was a small tattoo. I acquired it in a dingy corner of Jerusalem from one of those muscly guys who have inked every available nook of their flesh canvas. The tattoo is a simple quarter-sized blue flower on the lower-right side of my back: five blue petals with a hint of purple at the base, outlined in black ink. Tiny tendrils poke out like rays of sunlight. I arrived at the tattoo parlor with two quivering guy friends who insisted I go first. I smiled reassuringly up at their worried faces as the needle scratched into my bare flesh. I felt incredibly wild.

But this trip to Ireland is my first time alone in a foreign country: no family, no friends, no crazy Yamud making sure number twenty-eight is on the bus. I have only myself to rely on—which is precisely what worries me. My friends’ and families’ collective concerns echo in my brain: Where will you live? How will you find work? Won’t you be lonely? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. All I knew was that I needed to get away. I hadn’t actually pictured myself on the other side of that con- viction.

“You’re so brave to go off on your own,” my best college friend, Erica, told me a week ago, bestowing “brave” upon me with the distinct tone usually reserved for the word “insane.” Erica is interning at an art gallery in New York City this summer. It’s the kind of thing I think I should be doing, trying out my career instead of skipping town for no discernible reason.

I can barely heave my massive red suitcase off the conveyor belt. It feels twice as heavy as when my father and I launched it into the trunk of his Hyundai before heading off to the airport. I’m here for just over four months (an impossibly long time, now that I think about it) and have, I think, packed accordingly. Several outfits for day or night, flats for walking, sandals for warm days, sneakers for running, boots for trekking (will I be trekking anywhere? I don’t trek back home), two pairs of pretty heels for nights out, though, of course, I don’t know anyone in Ireland to go out with. I’ve packed toiletries, twelve books, twenty pairs of underwear, ten pairs of socks, three sweaters, two jackets, three swimsuits, enough vitamin C to turn me into an orange, and two fluffy bath towels.

A guy with greasy blond hair and Atlantic-blue eyes hoists a backpack onto his shoulders. He snaps it around his waist. It’s half the size of his body, and I could fit four of them inside Big Red. Surely, with such modest gear, he must be traveling only for a week or two. And he must be moving around a lot. I plan on staying right here in Dublin. My instinct, as always, is to settle down, dig my heels in, and work hard at something, even if that something is only waiting tables. But it will be waitressing in a foreign country, far away from home. The backpacker strides swiftly out the door, looking carefree and unencumbered, leaving me with the exhausting thought of maneuvering my monstrous luggage through an unfamiliar city.

Why Ireland? Well, for starters, four hundred dollars (my parents’ generous, hesitant contribution) is enough to purchase a student work visa, something available in only a handful of countries, two of them—Australia and New Zealand—instantly ruled out because they are too far to find cheap airfare. Also, the rainy Irish weather appeals to me. If I am going to be miserable, I want the skies to match my mood. Last fall I took a course on Joyce, and I’ve been conjuring up long, dreary days wandering like Ulysses, rainy nights in cafés punishing myself with Finnegans Wake. This portrait appeals to my romanticized notion of melancholy, the kind I plan to undertake in Ireland, not at all like my current depressive state of pondering my postgraduate future, which consists of numbly attending lectures, sleeping twelve hours a day, and when I’m feeling really ambitious, staring blankly at the wall. Most of all, I just want to be somewhere else. When it comes to Ireland, it’s not so much a matter of Why here? as Will it be far enough?

It is not solely the post-graduation unknown that has unhinged me recently. It is also the fact that I was not expecting to be facing the abyss at all because I’ve had a very specific plan for my life since fourth grade. Up until recently, I fully expected to transition smoothly into the “real world,” riding into the gloriousness of my adulthood on the coattails of my one true calling: music. Viola, to be specific, the instrument I devoted myself to since I was eight. I even spent my freshman year of college studying with the principal of the Boston Symphony. But somehow, everything fell apart that year, and I was no longer on my way toward being a professional musician.

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Table of Contents

Author's Note xvii

Part 1 Ireland

1 Our heroine, verily drown in self-pity at the tender age of twenty, embarks on a grand adventure that is not yet either grand or an adventure but, rather, a hastily concocted plan to escape the confines of her current existence and the quotidian yet oppressive pressures contained therein 3

2 Our heroine discovers a strange tribe of people with no steady residence or employment, among them one of her neighbors to the north, a riddling Italian, three fearsome giants, and a confounding native who speaks a strange repetitious tongue. She bravely orders a meal to be eaten all alone while pondering the age-old question: Is one really the loneliest number? 11

3 Our heroine undertakes a journey of insignificant length and significant comfort to the west of Ireland. She relateth her impressions of Galway, a very fine city, and explores the traveler's constant companions-transience and loneliness. She battles a mighty winged one and determines to find gainful employment and permanent residence 22

4 Our heroine takes up residence with three strangers of various and unaccountable natures, one of whom is an entirely-different kind of girl species indeed 34

5 Our heroine considers some advice from her unnervingly wild new friend. She finds steady employment and an even steadier drinking habit, though it is not her intention to imply that the fine country of Ireland is in any way responsible for such youthful debauchery, other than to note that it does have a very high number of excellent bars in conjunction with an over abundance of rainy days. Our heroine might choose church, another fine, dry place in which to ponder life's questions, but alas, she is Jewish 50

6 Our heroine returns to her former life as a student, where she normally would be comforted by books and the lofty ideas contained therein, but finds herself unable to muster the necessary enthusiasm for anything but list making and bellyaching. Somehow she finds the will to both graduate and entertain her relatives. An unexpected call answered 63

Part 2 Australia

7 Ourheroine alights on Australia, a faraway land she has only read about, and not much at that, and is ferried to the exotic suburbs of Sydney by her native friend and guide. Though she is much jet-lagged and rather perplexed by her host's progenitor-a skilled caller of birds-she nevertheless finds herself quickly and comfortably ensconced in her welcoming new abode 75

8 Our heroine embarks on a brief journey to the Outback, wherein she meets a rock of indecent proportions and heat of insulting voracity. Locates gainful employment of coffee and curry, philosophizes and questions-questions and philosophizes 87

9 Our heroine learns much about the so-called Down Under and the people who reside therein. She considers the nature of families and homes, dingoes and the British. Resolves to avoid encounters with magpies at all costs 109

10 Our heroine and her trusty guide consider life, adrift in waters neither deep nor treacherous, with many adult beverages to guide their meandering trains of thought. Our heroine questions happiness and the means by which one might obtain it 125

11 Our heroine, her trusty guide, and a goateed suitor depart the sunny suburbs of Sydney and journey south. The trio encounters malformed birds and cities, strange prostheses and mysterious landscapes. They welcome in the Year of Our Lord two thousand and four 135

12 Our heroine musters her rawest courage and lightest bottle of shampoo for a solo jaunt up the east coast of this fine country. The path is rife with backpackers, a camel-like species with belongings like humps on their weary backs. Relates to readers some history of Australia, though not much, for this book is not meant to boreth but rather to exciteth 145

13 Our heroine dives into the depths of the briny sea, then launches herself from great heights. Survives the crocodile's lair and a particularly strong current, is rewarded with some small insights 152

14 Our heroine reluctantly returns to the bosom of Saint Diego and to her family, who express concern over her future misadventures. A stranger insists she cannot go to Brazil, though her ticket sayeth otherwise; thus, she prepares to depart for the Paris of the South instead 168

Part 3 South America

15 Our heroine arrives in Buenos Aires, city of tango and turmoil and of much delicious food and drink. She takes up with a merry band of backpackers. Consciously determines to meet up with her trusty guide but unconsciously procrastinates 175

16 Our heroine is coughed up in Tilcara, a small locale with many fine crafts and hippies. The effects of altitude are gravely endured until she is cured by a native medicine known for its darker properties. Departs for Bolivia in the company of a love-struck Australian and a travel-struck Swiss 180

17 Our heroine boards a crowded and not entirely pleasant-smelling vehicle for Tupiza, alongside her two temporary companions. The threesome is soon joined by two more, and the five begin an excursion both cursed and blessed by fickle Mother Nature, who maketh thunder and hail, pink flamingos and salt flats 200

18 Our heroine and her trusty guide reunite. The two make haste to La Paz, where misfortunes beset the heroine, who must question herself and her fears and attempt to make some sense of the tricky pair 214

19 Our heroine and her trusty guide battle the great and mighty Death Road, which is much feared by peoples other than the native inhabitants of the equally great and mighty Bolivia. Descends into a drug-induced slumber and emerges with an epiphany|p225

20 Our heroine and her trusty guide brave the heart of darkness, or at least the very edges of it. Insects of massive proportions and thirst are encountered, along with many strange and curious creatures. The author learns the only thing to fear is fear itself. And snakes 236

21 Our heroine and her trusty guide reach Peru, where the islands float and the mud slides. A bearded stranger enters their midst, followed by a dreaded illness. The adventurers depart for Chile 247

22 Our heroine and her trusty guide reach Chile, where they consider their impending separation and a good many churches. Our heroine searches the heavens for answers 266

23 The two friends take their leave of each other 270

24 Our heroine returns home, where many unanswered questions await her 279

Epilogue 289

Acknowledgments 291

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First Chapter

The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost

A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure
By Rachel Friedman

Bantam

Copyright © 2011 Rachel Friedman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780385343374

[1]

Our heroine, verily drowning in self-pity at the tender age of twenty, embarks on a grand adventure that is not yet either grand or an adventure but, rather, a hastily concocted plan to escape the confines of her current existence and the quotidian yet oppressive pressures contained therein.

The plane descends through a thick belt of clouds into blinding light. I haven’t fully registered the transition from night to day until sun pours through the oblong windows, jarring me out of semi-consciousness. For the past eight hours, ever since I waved goodbye to my father at the airport and marched myself onto a plane bound for Dublin, I’ve been wondering if I was in some altered state when I planned this trip, because the reality of it feels distinctly like a bad hangover. Being bathed in golden light only adds to my surreal arrival. Isn’t it supposed to be raining in Ireland?

We thud against the tarmac, and my fellow passengers shuffle to life, folding in half to gather their belongings from beneath the seats. Eager to depart, the frizzy-haired girl in the row ahead of me springs up like a jack-in-the-box as soon as the seat-belt light clicks off for the last time. I remain belted in, doing my best deer-in-headlights impression. I might just stay on this plane all day, ride it round-trip like I did once when I was little and too frightened to get off the revolving ski lift at the top of the mountain. The elderly woman sitting next to me, a tiny person with papery hands and merlot-stained lips, leans over and taps the book sitting in my lap: Angela’s Ashes.

“Oh, that poor Angela,” she sighs in one of those lilting Irish accents that make a grocery list sound like a Yeats poem. “Heaven knows she did the best for those boys, then Frank comes along and airs their business to the whole bloody world.” Her tone is heavy with disdain, as if the author sold naked photos of his mother to the tabloids, not penned a Pulitzer Prize winner about his Irish childhood. Coming from the land of “all publicity is good publicity,” I’d just assumed McCourt’s native country embraced his memoir, proudly adding him to their long list (suspiciously long, really, considering Ireland’s size) of distinguished writers. But like I was wrong about the weather, it seems I am mistaken about this, too.

Here are the facts of the present moment. It’s 2002. I’m twenty years old. I’ve just embarked on four months in a foreign country alone. I’m carrying six hundred dollars in traveler’s checks, money saved up from waitressing last semester. I booked two nights in a Dublin hostel before I left. Other than that, I’ve got no plan. And this greatly confounds me because I always have a plan. At least I used to be the kind of girl who always has a plan.

In a few months, I’ll be a college senior. School has been the organizing principle of my existence for as long as I can remember, and I have no idea what comes after that. My academic parents raised me to be ambitious and goal-oriented. In particular, my father, a film professor, molded me into a second-wave feminist whose duty it was to burst forth into the world and crush the male competition. He used to routinely deconstruct the PG films we watched together to comment on the functioning of the male gaze, say, or to illustrate how gender is performative. I still remember his lecture on The Little Mermaid: “It’s just not equitable. Ariel has to give up everything for this guy—first her voice, then her home. On a very real level, Rachel, she has to give up who she is. What are we to make of this?”

“Jesus, Lester,” my mother would sigh.

I was eight.

But I listened. I always listened.

I was a scholarship kid at a small, eccentric college-preparatory high school, the kind of place where you juggled two dozen AP classes at once. Much of my teenage world revolved around studying, carefully calibrated extracurricular activities, and endless rounds of practice SATs.

There was never a question of whether I would attend college—only where. And I was desperate to go, both because my parents’ divorce when I was fifteen had left me without a place I truly identified as “home” and because I genuinely loved school, where the formula for success was straightforward. Study and you get good grades. Simple, safe. But no class has prepared me for the post-student leap I am facing now, and being an eternal overachiever who bases her self-worth on her GPA, I am woefully ill-equipped to take on the unpredictable, unscheduled life awaiting me after college graduation. I am terrified of this unknown.





In the Dublin airport, confident, purposeful travelers swirl around me, off to meetings and reunions and homes. All of them seem to know exactly where they are headed—except me. For a few moments, I am frozen and directionless, lost amid the drifting crowds. My brain works in slow motion, registering my tasks: pick up suitcase, exchange money, find hostel.

I’ve never been to a foreign country alone, though I’ve been abroad a few times, starting with Germany when I was ten. My brother Dan was stationed there, and I flew over with my parents to visit him. We rented a car and dashed all over Europe. Ten days in at least as many cities, pausing just long enough to snap photos. It was exhausting, and I’m told I didn’t appreciate much of it. Every few years, my brother reminds me, shaking his head with renewed disgust, that I slept (slept!) through the pristine Alps.

After my sophomore year of high school, my parents discharged me to Israel with a temple youth group, even though I had recently articulated that I was “so over Judaism.” But it was difficult to stay pissed off for an entire summer, especially on a bus with twenty-five other teenagers and Yamud, our gigantic, hairy Israeli graduate-student guide who insisted on blasting “We Built This City on Rock and Roll” on his boom box every morning at six a.m. as we boarded the bus, still bleary-eyed. If you were drooping sleepily into the aisle, one of his enormous flailing wrists would smack you in the head. You might slip quietly into a window seat in the back and shut your eyes only to find his meaty fingers jabbing them open.

Each of us was assigned an identifying number and forced to shout it out (in order) at least twelve times a day, making our trip resemble one long Sesame Street episode. Peter, an unruly Canadian, insisted on substituting his name for his number. He was Rastafarian and claimed he was simply “too burned out to remember my number, brotha.” We found this, along with the dreadlock wig he wore over his shaved head and the fact that he smoked an invisible joint for hours at a time, across-the-board hilarious. Our Israeli guides, so unlike our regimented parents back home, just smirked and checked him off the list. They told the bus driver—a skinny man with the same real cigarette burning out of the corner of his mouth, seemingly for days, as if fueled by miracle menorah oil—that we were all accounted for and ready to go.

My souvenir from this first semi-independent trip to a faraway land was a small tattoo. I acquired it in a dingy corner of Jerusalem from one of those muscly guys who have inked every available nook of their flesh canvas. The tattoo is a simple quarter-sized blue flower on the lower-right side of my back: five blue petals with a hint of purple at the base, outlined in black ink. Tiny tendrils poke out like rays of sunlight. I arrived at the tattoo parlor with two quivering guy friends who insisted I go first. I smiled reassuringly up at their worried faces as the needle scratched into my bare flesh. I felt incredibly wild.

But this trip to Ireland is my first time alone in a foreign country: no family, no friends, no crazy Yamud making sure number twenty-eight is on the bus. I have only myself to rely on—which is precisely what worries me. My friends’ and families’ collective concerns echo in my brain: Where will you live? How will you find work? Won’t you be lonely? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. All I knew was that I needed to get away. I hadn’t actually pictured myself on the other side of that con- viction.

“You’re so brave to go off on your own,” my best college friend, Erica, told me a week ago, bestowing “brave” upon me with the distinct tone usually reserved for the word “insane.” Erica is interning at an art gallery in New York City this summer. It’s the kind of thing I think I should be doing, trying out my career instead of skipping town for no discernible reason.

I can barely heave my massive red suitcase off the conveyor belt. It feels twice as heavy as when my father and I launched it into the trunk of his Hyundai before heading off to the airport. I’m here for just over four months (an impossibly long time, now that I think about it) and have, I think, packed accordingly. Several outfits for day or night, flats for walking, sandals for warm days, sneakers for running, boots for trekking (will I be trekking anywhere? I don’t trek back home), two pairs of pretty heels for nights out, though, of course, I don’t know anyone in Ireland to go out with. I’ve packed toiletries, twelve books, twenty pairs of underwear, ten pairs of socks, three sweaters, two jackets, three swimsuits, enough vitamin C to turn me into an orange, and two fluffy bath towels.

A guy with greasy blond hair and Atlantic-blue eyes hoists a backpack onto his shoulders. He snaps it around his waist. It’s half the size of his body, and I could fit four of them inside Big Red. Surely, with such modest gear, he must be traveling only for a week or two. And he must be moving around a lot. I plan on staying right here in Dublin. My instinct, as always, is to settle down, dig my heels in, and work hard at something, even if that something is only waiting tables. But it will be waitressing in a foreign country, far away from home. The backpacker strides swiftly out the door, looking carefree and unencumbered, leaving me with the exhausting thought of maneuvering my monstrous luggage through an unfamiliar city.

Why Ireland? Well, for starters, four hundred dollars (my parents’ generous, hesitant contribution) is enough to purchase a student work visa, something available in only a handful of countries, two of them—Australia and New Zealand—instantly ruled out because they are too far to find cheap airfare. Also, the rainy Irish weather appeals to me. If I am going to be miserable, I want the skies to match my mood. Last fall I took a course on Joyce, and I’ve been conjuring up long, dreary days wandering like Ulysses, rainy nights in cafés punishing myself with Finne?gans Wake. This portrait appeals to my romanticized notion of melancholy, the kind I plan to undertake in Ireland, not at all like my current depressive state of pondering my postgraduate future, which consists of numbly attending lectures, sleeping twelve hours a day, and when I’m feeling really ambitious, staring blankly at the wall. Most of all, I just want to be somewhere else. When it comes to Ireland, it’s not so much a matter of Why here? as Will it be far enough?

It is not solely the post-graduation unknown that has unhinged me recently. It is also the fact that I was not expecting to be facing the abyss at all because I’ve had a very specific plan for my life since fourth grade. Up until recently, I fully expected to transition smoothly into the “real world,” riding into the gloriousness of my adulthood on the coattails of my one true calling: music. Viola, to be specific, the instrument I devoted myself to since I was eight. I even spent my freshman year of college studying with the principal of the Boston Symphony. But somehow, everything fell apart that year, and I was no longer on my way toward being a professional musician.

Continues...

Excerpted from The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman Copyright © 2011 by Rachel Friedman. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Posted April 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Rachel Friedman's memoir is an intriguing coming of age quest to find ones' self.

    As a child Rachel Friedman expected she would become a professional viola player some day. However, during her freshman year at college, Ms. Friedman realized that playing as a pro was not what she wanted in her life. Thus after years of aspiration she needed a new dream. The author goes to Ireland for the summer in hopes of finding what she wants. She meets many people in hostels and bars where the alcohol flowed too freely while she also worked at restaurants. From Ireland encouraged in Galway by Aussie Carly, Ms. Friedman journeys to Australia for a year and from there on a perilous South American tour where she meets New Zealand traveler Martyn.

    Put aside the overkill title and the excessive summarizing cute table of contents, Rachel Friedman's memoir is an intriguing coming of age quest to find ones' self. The Irish passage of rite is youth at its first freedom while the Australian sojourn is the maturing of the author. However, it is the final continent in which Ms. Friedman risks her life that is the most fascinating segue. Throughout there is a strong sense of family as Ms. Friedman muses how they would react to what she is doing; and the problems faced by an young American expatriate abroad especially employment. Readers will enjoy travels with Rachel who brings to life her getting lost and found on three continents.

    Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2014

    Are you looking to get a taste of travel(even just in book form)

    Are you looking to get a taste of travel(even just in book form)? Looking for a book that tells the tale of finding one's self and stepping out of your comfort zone though different experiences? This is for you. I enjoyed this book. I wish there were more books like this one. It truly was a great read and would recommend it to many people looking for a unique book.

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