The former “Frugal Traveler” columnist for the New York Times encourages anxious tourists toward more adventurous travel in this helpful, humorous, and opinionated guide.
Using anecdotes from his plentiful experience to illustrate his points, but without indulging in personal history for its own sake, Kugel makes the case that low-budget, minimally planned travel can be more rewarding than a journey insulated from risk and serendipity. As he writes, “people who inhabit the still-plentiful tourist-free swaths of the planet tend to be not only just nicer, but also more curious.” The author isn't afraid to complain about what he sees as problems in the tourist industry, such as the tendency of travel writers to be funded by the places about which they are writing, resulting in unnaturally positive reviews, and the use of points programs to choose a place to stay. He advocates for gradually upping one's tolerance for adventure. “Talk to three strangers a day,” he writes. “Smile and ask a question.” Or try the “microadventure” of “ordering a menu item you've never heard of. If you hate it, you still have a story to tell.” Though Kugel offers a few pieces of advice from female travelers, he writes primarily of his experience as a straight white American male. While recognizing the value of travel apps, he recommends that travelers use them sparingly. Instead of using TripAdvisor to find a predictably pleasant restaurant, for example, he recommends wandering around looking into windows or asking a stranger for advice. Appendices get down to the nitty-gritty of preparing for a trip, including detailed recommendations for assessing and reducing risk at every stage of travel, from “preliminary thinking” (“realize you're not perfectly safe back home, either”) to “prior to departure” (“consider evacuation insurance”) to “during the trip” (“Dare to ask taxi drivers to drive more slowly”).
Travelers both timid and daring will find plenty of useful advice in this perceptive and provocative volume.