How I Travel: Amanda Pressner

Amanda Pressner: Doesn’t Mind Being Lost

Amanda Pressner is best known by the quasi-pseudonym she shares with two of her closest friends: The Lost Girls. Theirs is a story of three young professionals who waved goodbye to New York in order to seek the sort of experiences that only long-term travel can provide. Pressner, along with co-authors Holly Corbett and Jennifer Baggett blogged their journey at which has become an online hub for savvy female travelers thirsting for adventure. Upon returning home, they signed a book deal and over the summer, their joint-travelogue The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World. was published by Harper Collins.

This week, with her book in stores and freelance deadlines looming, Amanda found time to talk with How I Travel about her favorite beach, why she likes soup in the morning and how getting lost can be a good thing.

BootsnAll recently compiled a list of Top 101 Books for Independent Travelers. The Lost Girls is a part of that list. Be sure to check out this list that we’re always adding to based on reader suggestions!

The summer I turned 9 years old, my parents decided our family would road-trip across the country in a van nicknamed “The Blue Moose.”

The van was both our wheels and our mobile hotel—we never sprang for fancier lodging. Over three months, we hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, explored Indian ruins in Colorado, downed all-you-can-eat lobster in Maine and panned for gold in Tennessee. Because I loved riding shotgun and shouting map directions to whichever parent was driving, I earned the title of Trip Navigator.

Lost Girls aboard elephants

I’d call myself a budget-conscious adventure traveler.

Which is somewhere squarely between a vagabond and jet-setter. I’m not going to sweat it out in a windowless hostel dorm or hitchhike from town to town just save a few extra bucks (especially when it’s far easier to save for travel at home), but I’ve never dropped $400 a night on a hotel room either. I’m only willing to splurge on things that are truly once-in-a-lifetime experiences, like a four-day trek through Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula or a boat trip up the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar (I find no shame in bargaining for a great price though!).

When Jen, Holly and I set out on our trip, we expected to have these big, earth shattering epiphanies that would help us discover exactly what we wanted out of life…

…But after being home for a while, we finally realized that the journey really wasn’t really about finding ourselves. It was about learning to embrace being lost. 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 curve balls that inevitably get thrown our way.

Travel, by its very nature, gives you the perspective to know that things will eventually get better, people are inherently good at heart, and you will always find your way back to a safer and better place.

On the road, we discovered that if we missed one train, or rickshaw or water taxi, another one would eventually come along. If we were in a tough situation or needed assistance or guidance or just someone to listen, someone in the crowd would step up and help out.

Lost Girls with the Yagua Tribe of the Amazon

Fellow bloggers are some of my greatest travel motivators!

Reading their work reminds me that there’s still a massive world out there to explore, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. After being home in New York for a while, the travel inertia slows down greatly and you can start believing the old rhetoric that “I don’t have time to travel” or “I don’t have the money right now.” Checking in with my online travel buddies snaps me out of that funk and reminds me that it’s time to dust off the backpack and get back out there!

So…I definitely got a little flabbier during parts of my RTW trip.

Most surprisingly, in Kenya and India (two places where I was sure I’d lose weight). The food was really rich in Kenya (lots of heavy starches and lard) and too amazing in India, and kept telling myself that I was only traveling around the world once, and I’d better enjoy it. Sevens pounds later, I realized that I needed to modify that attitude if I planned to keep wearing the clothes in my backpack! I continued to eat what I liked (after all, food is one of the greatest travel pleasures!) but I scaled back a bit on portions and started most meals with the local soup of the day.

Amanda at the market

I’ve found that I love eating soup for breakfast.

That might seem weird back home, but savory stuff in the a.m. is totally the norm in parts of Asia. Besides being filling and fairly light, I’ve learned that soup often tends to represent the mix of flavors preferred by the locals in any given country or culture.

I didn’t necessarily fall in love on the road, but I really enjoyed the lighthearted flirting that goes on between travelers.

It’s part of the joy of staying in a hostel! My five-month relationship ended just before I left for my RTW, and I wasn’t sorry to be single once my trip really got underway!

I do carry a guidebook, if for no other reason than to get some back story on a particular location and to orient myself before I arrive.

I know there are purists who think we should all burn our guidebooks, ask locals directly for recommendations and discover the hidden gems just by walking around, but there’s a very good reason that guidebooks were invented: most of us don’t have the time or funds on a short visit to start the travel research from scratch. When you’re worn out, or it’s really late a night, sometimes it’s nice to have easy, at-your-fingertips advice on where to grab a bite or a bed. So long as you don’t follow every recommendation in the book and make some of your own discoveries along the way, there’s no reason not to toss that Lonely Planet or Let’s Go in your backpack before taking off.

Lost Girls...and a sloth

When, Jennifer, Holly and I completed our round-the-world journey, we made a pact that we would travel together at least once a year as a group.

Last year, we spent several days surfing, horseback riding and scuba diving in Santa Catalina, a rural village on the Pacific coast of Panama. This year, we’re trying to plan a reunion adventure to Laos, Malaysia and the Philippines, since we didn’t get to do those countries together during our last trip.

We have quite an abundance of fantastic street food in New York, but I rarely think to make a meal of it when I’m home.

When I’m on the road, though, I definitely do—there’s something very satisfying about choosing a cart on a whim and sampling something totally new. Plus, in Southeast Asia, I’m charmed by the whole culture of grabbing a $1 dinner and settling into a little plastic kiddie chair to slurp up my noodles or stir-fry.

To beat jet-lag, travel to Latin America and you won’t have to change quite so many times zones!

I’ve also heard that if you start eating your meals on the schedule of your destination, rather than where where you departed from, your body can adjust more quickly to the time change.

Amanda practicing Capoeira

A universal memory card reader goes with me everywhere.

This $15 device allows me to quickly and easily take pictures from my new friends’ cameras while we’re still on the road, rather than relying on them to email me (which realistically, rarely happens).

When backpacking, I can’t live without Eagle Creek packing cubes, which keeps all of my stuff separated and work kind of a like a compression sack.

When I arrive at a destination, I pull out the cubes and boom—instant drawers.

While I was away I really missed celebrity gossip magazines!

There’s something so fantastically guilty and indulgent about keeping up with the Kardasians—not to mention Snookie and The Situation, Angie and Brad and all the others. But I won’t pay $10 for a month-only issue of US Weekly while I’m traveling!

Amanda with kids in Luang Prabang, Laos

Trains are my all-time favorite way to get around.

They still feel very glamorous to me, and I like that you can get up and walk around.

The Hostal Don Victor in Puno, Peru was the most memorably bad place I’ve ever stayed.

The guidebook reviewer had clearly been paid off by the owner to give this place stellar write-up. The “sweeping vistas” from the “expansive patio deck” turned out to be nothing more than a firsthand look at Don Victor’s underwear drying on a clothesline atop a filthy, unfinished (and likely rat-infested) rooftop. The inside, the hostel was almost pitch black, the rooms were institutional and we were the only people staying in the property. Clearly, the word had spread to other travelers but had somehow missed us!

As for the nicest hotel? The Alvear Palace in Buenos Aires in 2005.

I was on assignment back then for a now-defunct magazine called Travel Savvy, and Jen, Holly and I got to stay in an enormous suite outfitted with Hermes bath products, a zillion thread count linens and our own 24-hour butler. We didn’t know quite what to do with ourselves and ended up staying up ‘til all hours ordering bizarre things from room service and generally acting like goofballs on a sugar high.

The Lost Girls hike New Zealand's Tongariro Crossing

Whenever Toto’s “Africa” comes on the radio, I’m immediately taken back to the weeks we spent planning our trip to Kenya.

And Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” must have played in every internet café, club and laundromat we visited during the first part our RTW trip—that one brings us back, too! When we returned home, the band New Day wrote a song for us called “Lost Girl” which we’re kind of obsessed with! (Check it out on website and by following their Twitter feed.)

“How I Travel” is a BootsnAll series publishing every Tuesday in an effort to look at the unique and diverse travel habits of some of the world’s most well known and proficient road warriors. Got ideas for who we should talk to? Drop us a note.

You’ll find links to all the “How I Travel” articles on the How I Travel archive page, you can become a fan of “How I Travel” on Facebook, and you can follow the @howitravel profile on Twitter to get updates as soon as new features in this series are published.

All photographs provided by Amanda Pressner & The Lost Girls and may not be used without permission

Filed under: featured, How I Travel