On Books

My book of the month: How to Travel the World on $50.00 a Day

You’ll know by now that travel is one of my things, and that it’s a family thing. John and I had both spent extended time overseas before we met, way back when. Once the children arrived our family holidays nearly always involved getting off the beaten track somewhere in New Zealand, often exploring The Great Walks of New Zealand.

As parents one of our greatest pleasures has been joining our children on their adventures, seeing them in their new territory, and learning from them. Most recently this has involved travelling with them in Thailand and in Laos.

When I decided to start this blog they were my first teachers. When I realised that photography would enhance my blog  they showed the way. And now that John and I are making some big changes that mean we’ll have more time to travel but a whole lot less money they have had some thoughts about that, too.

Follow Nomadic Matt, they said. Which I did.

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And now I’ve read Matt Kepnes’, aka Nomadic Matt, book as well. The great thing about this book is its accessibility. Matt says what he’s got to say quickly and simply. I’ve never met him, or heard him speak, but I have a hunch he writes how he talks. And in this format, for this type of book, it’s an approach that works.

Matt doesn’t mince his words. Want to travel, and not doing it, he’ll tell you how. Argue that you can’t because of the cost, he says that no matter your income it’s all about choices, about where travel comes in your priorities.

Matt puts his opinions and beliefs right out there. I like that. His style does mean it’s easy to absorb what he has to say, decide whether it it will work for you, and get on with the business of planning and enjoying your travel experience.

He presents an alternative to the the options promoted in glossy travel brochures. With my penchant for getting off the beaten track this is a book that was bound to suit me.

His aim is to assist you to travel “better, cheaper, and longer.” As he says:

‘This book is about using your money wisely and knowing the tricks to save you money. You don’t need to be rich to travel – you just need to travel smart. I don’t go to Italy to avoid a nice meal. I don’t go to Bordeaux to avoid a wine tour. I didn’t save money at home so I could cook cheap dinners in a hostel. I don’t go to Australia because I dream about the Outback only to turn around and say “No, that trip is a bit out of my budget. Maybe another time.”‘

How to Travel the World on $50.00 a Day is presented in three sections. Part One includes suggestions about preparing for your trip. Here Matt discusses strategies for saving money while you plan your trip and how to manage your money so that it goes further. Some of the latter are specific, I think, to the US. But, nevertheless, he’s got a lot of good ideas.

Part Two tells you how to save money on the road, how to save on food and beverages, transport,and activities.

Some of his suggestions don’t work for me. I’m not a fan of sleeping in dorms. And I like my own bathroom, thank-you very much. That could be an age thing. I put it down to experience. Twice in SE Asia I’ve had a temporary problem with my tummy which has necessitated frequent and urgent visits to the bathroom. Times like that, this girl just doesn’t want to share. And I’m a fan of air conditioning – especially in the tropics. It means I pay a bit more, but for me it’s worth it.

Even with these requirements Matt has plenty of suggestions about how and where to find cost effective accommodation.  WOOFing, house sitting, airbnb, and hostels, and, in SE Asia family operated Guest Houses and hospitatlity exchanges such as couch surfing, are just a few.

In Part Three I flicked straight to the countries I’m familiar with, beginning with New Zealand. I heard more than once, during our recent trip to Laos, how expensive travel is in New Zealand. It’s certainly costly to get here. And, as Matt, points out, while day to day living isn’t expensive, the outdoor activities we’re famous for, bungee jumping, jet boat rides, ballooning, sky dives, are very high priced. His suggestions are practical and, based on my experience living here, they reflect the actual situation.

His section on SE Asia was particularly interesting to me, too. On our first trip I was worried about eating the street food, which is in plentiful supply and cheap, especially in Thailand. Nomdic Matt has this to say:

Many travelers are worried that street food isn’t safe, but I assure you it is. If it made people sick, people wouldn’t eat at these stalls in such large numbers. Your risk of food sickness is no greater than in a restaurant, and probably even less. Afterall, food at the stalls is cooked fresh in front of you and used every night. It doesn’t sit around.

The two times I’ve been sick, myself, reflect this. On one occasion I didn’t see the food prepared in front of me. I suspect it had been sitting around for too long. And on the second occasion I’m pretty sure it was from food I ate in a restaurant, rather than a street stall.

This is a book that will suit the long term and the short term traveller and anyone in between. It debunks a few myths about travel. Nomadic Matt points out from the beginning that cost effective travel is about knowing which tourist traps to avoid, and which ones to buy into. He’s given me a few ideas to try in the future.

Highly recommended for the keen traveller.

Tell me, what are your favourite travel tips?

13 replies »

  1. Hi Jill – I am going to be playing catch up for a bit, and I started with this post because the title is interesting – I have never heard of Matt’s work, but sounds very in tune and experienced. I sometimes hate traveling, but love the outcome and experience – whew – anyhow, enjoyed your review and be back later – sending you a nice blog high five today. ❤

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  2. Nomadic Matt is definitely a trusted resource and one of the most successful travel writers I know of. I will definitely check out the book Jill.one of my best travel tips is to stay healthy by having hand sanitizer handy at all times. Don’t think about eating without washing your hands well or using some. I clip some to my pack /bike bag etc so it is always handy.

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  3. Sounds great. Ordering it now. In traveling cheaply, we have bought bread, cheese and fruit and carried it to eat outside even at places like Versailles. The places to eat near popular tourist attractions are expensive and seldom very good.

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    • Exactly, what I like to do, too Eileen. Having said that one of my most memorable travel experiences was getting trapped in the bathroom of a cafe. We were on our way to Versailles. The bathroom was at the end of a long corridor and it seemed like a very long time before anyone came to my rescue. Later, after I was freed but before I’d recovered my composure, my son remarked: we wondered what the pounding nosie was.
      Maybe I should tell that entire story in a post one day.

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  4. Style of travel is critical. It is something my wife and I always squabble about (we squabble about everything). She likes to bag tourist attractions like a trophy hunter – and that is expensive. I like to stay in a small town B&B until the bakery clerk knows me by name.

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    • Hah, and I like to do both! In a strange town, especially touristy places, I love staying ling enough to decide on my favourite place to eat or to explore and going there several times. Sadly, time constraints usually get in the way. But in a few more months, maybe not so much.

      Liked by 1 person

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