In case you haven’t realized it yet, I’m a HUGE reader. I love books, reading, and getting lost in a great story. I probably read more fiction than non-fiction, but I’m always up for a good story. Last year’s reading adventures took me around the world, with 80 books taking me to 80 nations. This year, I’m just [“just”?] aiming for 100. With audio books on my iPhone and a Kindle Paperwhite, reading while going around the world is quite easy.
I guess as a female writer, I find myself drawn to stories about women or by women. Just this past month, I read two interesting non-fiction books with memorable females, and titles, although two topics couldn’t be more different. “Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery” by Robert Keller is the true horror story of the murders of young girls caught up in Internet prostitution. Keller, an incredible investigative journalist, delves into these girl’s lives, all the messy parts of it, and lays out the final days, and the aftermath, of their deaths. These women used Craigslist & Backpage to advertise their “services”, and as the serial killer still hasn’t been caught, one can only conclude that it probably contributed to their deaths. Keller uncovers so much about the girl’s motives, thoughts & desires, that you could assume he interviewed the girls themselves.
“The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World.” by Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett, and Amanda Pressner has nothing in common with the first, just a similar title. It’s the grand travelogue of these three 20something women, tired of the rat race, the 9 to 5, and looking for a change, looking for adventure. So they take an entire year from work, and from “real life” to travel the world. From Peru to Kenya, to Thailand to New Zealand, these “Lost Girls”, as they named themselves, make the most of their year abroad. They recount travel mishaps, culture shocks, new friends, and lost loves on the road. Some places they wrote about I’ve been, and others made me long to go. They were each looking for parts of themselves, and I hope they found it.
These two books stick with me, and I didn’t choose them based on title alone. “Lost Girls” was a fascinating look at prostitution in the US, a topic I’m all too aware, as the last 5 years of my life has been dedicated the awareness, education and eradication of human trafficking in our world. Prostitution is a conversation that accompanies trafficking, and hearing these girl’s lives, choices & spiral downward, just broke my heart. Trafficking is never a choice, and sometimes prostitution can be. But what circumstances dictate those choices? That’s another conversation. “The Lost Girls” challenged me in a different way. I didn’t read it as an armchair traveler, I’m literally traveling the world as I write this. But am I capturing my own travel adventures? Am I living them, or only writing & photographing them. When one of the Lost Girls has this same revaluation, spending too much time in internet cafes and on a laptop, I had to stop and ask myself the same thing. Am I experiencing everything this culture has to offer? Am I truly connecting with the people? Or am I just writing a good blog, or posting a good Instagram? I hope it’s not the latter. I want to make a difference with my life, and I want to be shaped by the culture around me. As we travel through Asia, as we seek to live with purpose, as we strive to bring an end to modern-day slavery, I want to go through life with my eyes wide open, not my iPhone.