The Lost Girls Phenomenon: Cure for the Quarter-Life Crisis

By Ariel Newman

Lost Girls member Amanda Pressner with Laotian children in Luang Prabang
Lost Girl Amanda Pressner with Laotian children in Luang Prabang.

In the summer of 2006 three best friends, Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett and Amanda Pressner decided to leave their ordinary life for a year of extraordinary experiences.

They dropped their jobs, homes, boyfriends, families, and friends and set off on a year-long trek around the world.

Their RTW trip idea was sparked by a quarter-life crisis, as they write on their website: “Sure, 20-something burnout may sound a tad silly to anyone born before the advent of MTV, Atari or Guess jeans, but long workweeks at stress-driven offices had taken their toll.

“Despite having creative gigs that fueled our passions, we were frustrated that we’d let our careers become our identities. We were starving for real connections with family, friends, and significant others-who wants to date a woman already married to her job?”

Lost Girl’s Existential Struggle

They feel that the existential struggle they personally felt is something most young adults in this generation go through. “Though intense workdays left us little time for contemplation,” they explain, “we often found ourselves asking: ‘What exactly we’re we doing with our lives?’ Could we ultimately commit to one career, city and lifestyle (and man), when so many opportunities lie before us?”

“It turns out we weren’t alone. Like millions of young women in our generation, we were plagued with doubts about the paths we were choosing.”

They felt this trip was an opportunity to find who they are and what they had wanted out of life.

“Back when we set up to take this trip,” Lost Girl Amanda Pressner told GoNOMAD, “we expected to have these earth-shattering epiphanies that would somehow help us discover exactly what we wanted out of life and who we wanted to be as women.”

After coming home, however, they realized their trip brought them a completely different perspective. “We finally realized that the journey wasn’t really about finding ourselves, but rather it was about learning to embrace being lost,” Amanda said.

“Thanks to our trip, all three of us have grown a lot more comfortable with not knowing exactly what lies ahead of us in life — we can accept those the curveballs that inevitably get thrown our way.”

Lost Girls Jen and Holly on the Sapa Trail in Vietnam
Lost Girls Jen and Holly on the Sapa Trail in Vietnam.

Just like the Lost Girls, young women all around the world are dropping everything, getting out, and seeing the world. They call this phenomenon “getting lost” and they encourage all women to get lost at some point in their lives.

Documenting it All

Their blog feverishly documented every moment of their adventure from what they packed and wore, to where they went and what they ate. It later turned into a trusted comprehensive travel site by young women, for young women.

Not sparing any of the details, the Lost Girl website now gives guides, tips, and tricks for every type of travel. Everything is included, from financial planning and career management to lodging and sightseeing.

With a team of twenty-five contributors, Amanda says that they are to hoping to continue expanding the Lost Girls network; getting their readers to talk with one another, share information, tips, advice, and even planning to get lost with one another!

The Lost Girls’ next endeavor also includes a book about their year-long quest for adventure and enlightenment. After only two months on the shelves, the book has already received high praise.

Going on a trip, no matter the length or location, can take a lot of valuable time, money and sacrifice for young women.

All three Lost Girls at the Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand
All three Lost Girls at the Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand.

Amanda explains that if you are not sure whether you have the means to get lost, pick one or a few places, and really get to know the culture, language, and ins and outs of that city.

“We tried to pack a lot of destinations into a single year — twelve countries and countless cities — and we eventually learned that the more frequently you move locations, the more expensive and complicated your trip will be!”

However your trip is planned, Lost Girl correspondent Ashley Cheng thinks it is well worth the time and money.

“It’s just a matter of figuring out how important ‘getting lost’ really is to you and which reasons are keeping you from that goal,” Ashley explains.

“It’s a dramatic life change that requires a lot of sacrifices and may not be for everyone. However, in our busy lives, we box ourselves into careers and rigid self-imposed timelines, and it’s always good to think outside of the box! Or in this case perhaps the cubicle.”

Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a clinical psychologist and professor at California State University-Los Angeles, thinks that this “quarter-life crisis” a lot of young people experience may not be a crisis at all; but more of a period of growth.

“I think the desire to do a quarter-life re-invention via travel is sheer genius because it offers a young woman a sort of psychological ‘re-boot’ where she can get away from tired old assumptions and push her limits –- this kind of decision can open her up to unimagined opportunities, unrealized hopes and an opportunity to re-write her self schema.”

The Lost Girls in Peru holding an Amazon monkey
The Lost Girls in Peru holding an Amazon monkey.

Amanda added that by its nature, travel gives you the perspective to know that things will eventually get better, most people are inherently good, and you will always find your way back to a safer and happier place.

Where to Next for the Lost Girls?

Where are the Lost Girls going next? While they still vow to travel together at least once every year, the Lost Girls say that they are hoping to work together for years to come.

“It’s become our dream to turn The Lost Girls into a business, one that guides young people as they launch their own journeys in the US and overseas,” Amanda admits.

“The most rewarding process of writing the book and creating our own women’s travel blog is that we get to meet other travelers, share what we learned on the road and help people turn their dreams of seeing the world into a reality. It’s almost always a happy and empowered time in people’s lives — and we get to be a part of it!”

The Lost Girls are hoping to inspire women everywhere to get out and travel, to not be afraid of what this world has to offer, and most importantly, to never lose sight of their dreams, no matter how far-fetched they may seem.

Visit the Lost Girls’ website

Read an excerpt from The Lost Girls and the Wander Year


Ariel Newman is a former editorial assistant at GoNOMAD and a graduate of the University of Massachusetts.

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