A travelogue from a restless journalistic globe-trotter who has freelanced his way across the world.
For much of his adult life, BonAppetit.com editor Gross has been roaming around more than 50 countries on a budget and recording his meals and meanderings in the New York Times “Frugal Traveler” column from 2006 to 2010. In these previously unpublished essays, Gross chronicles his far-flung travels, beginning with a postgraduate sojourn to Vietnam in 1996, a reference point for many more spontaneous and memorable trips to follow. Disillusioned by robotic copy editing jobs that dampened his hopes of ever becoming “a real writer, whose words might outlive him,” Gross became a fearless travel author striving to be “the ultimate blank slate on which the world would leave its mark.” Jetting to Istanbul, Rome, Jamaica, Barcelona, Hong Kong and everywhere in between became simpler with Internet tip sites. Along the way, he met a wide swath of diverse strangers, including a Cambodian prostitute, resilient refugees and a barefoot French millionaire. The downsides included inconvenient parasitic infections in India and Kenya and the moments when Gross found himself unprepared for third-world poverty and the loneliness of solitary waywardness. His writings roll out in a disorderly, nonlinear fashion, and each piece contains further jerky time jumps. While fascinating, the rapid-fire references to movie reviewing for the Viet Nam News and the hundreds of Times assignments, combined with stories of his youth and vacations with wife and family, can be disorienting. A tamer version of Anthony Bourdain, Gross enthusiastically juggles food, wanderlust and a passion for foreign culture.
A vicariously entertaining whirlwind of scrapbook memories from an author who can’t sit still.