This is the first book review I’ve ever done. Well actually it’s more of a discussion of a book written by my buddy, Matt Kepnes, better known as Nomadic Matt. I first met Matt in Las Vegas a few years ago after buying an e-book of his about making money with your blog. We have since become friends and now hang out a fair amount as he has recently moved to New York City. We were also recently on a trip to the Bahamas together where the oxygen masks came down on our plane-he’s the guy two rows behind me taking a picture of me taking a picture of myself!
Matt recently came out with a book called How to Travel the World on $50 a Day. Although my travel style now is different than Matt’s, I have to say it is pretty impressive-even though he misspelled my name in the acknowledgements section (Abamonte instead of Abbamonte). I enjoyed the book and can really relate to it.
I didn’t always travel in the fairly luxuriously manner I do now. My first 6-8 years of traveling from about 1998-2006, were done pretty bare bones. I was more concerned with seeing the places and experiencing them than where I stayed. I traveled with a backpack, often stayed in hostels and guesthouses, used discount cards and did many of the things Matt talks about in his book. Some I still do-I still have an ISIC card!
My favorite part of the book is how Matt breaks down costs and tips for saving money in certain areas of travel such as online banking or foreign bank accounts. I also love how he breaks down credit cards and points/miles as a way of really earning some free trips or other awards. I couldn’t agree more with many of his points about using credit cards to get free miles and trips and how opening credit cards doesn’t hurt your credit score.
I have an 800 credit score and have had several credit cards from various airlines at different times. The key to maintaining a good credit score is to not miss payments and avoid those stupid department store credit cards that can kill a score.
Matt also does a great job of talking about travel insurance and buying a backpack; which I think are two very important things for budget travel. I no longer carry a backpack but I use an Osprey bag that can be converted into a backpack if I wanted to. I find it more appealing for myself these days as I do more luxury and business travel. However, in my backpacking days I used an Arcteryx bag religiously and loved it.
As I mentioned, Matt speaks a lot about travel insurance and I agree you cannot be cheap about your health. I know a guy who had to get air lifted off Mount Kilimanjaro and it would have cost him some $30,000 if he hadn’t had trip insurance. I have never actually filed a claim myself, knock on wood, but I am covered as I write this on the Eurostar between London and Paris just in case from STA Travel. I have used their insurance for years. Matt recommends World Nomads; which is also very good I have heard.
Finally, Matt breaks the world down into backpacker friendly destinations and regions. He targets the world to where most backpackers go and gives great tips on how to save money and budget for the trip.
I agree with most of his points on many regions of the world and in fact, I couldn’t have said it better many times. However, I do disagree with him on a few points around Australia, Western Europe and in general. Australia used to be a cheap destination but now with the weakness of the US Dollar, it has become one of the more expensive destinations in the world. I don’t think it’s feasible to travel Australia, especially in a major city like Sydney or Perth on $50 a day. I suppose it’s possible but then you’d be sacrificing the experience to save a few dollars; which to me is the ultimate sin in travel.
The same goes for Europe where the price of the Euro has really hurt US tourist dollars. You can certainly travel Europe (in some places) on $50 a day but you’d have to do minimal sightseeing, tours, events, nightlife, etc. And by minimal I mean basically none after accommodation and cooking your own basic food. You need to save where you can obviously but not miss out on the reason why you are traveling in the first place!
For me personally, if I wasn’t able to eat the good local food, i.e. restaurants and street food, and experience the local nightlife, culture and sites, it wouldn’t even be worth it. You might as well just save longer/more and target a place you really want to experience as opposed to simply being there and challenging yourself to not spend money. That backpacking mindset has always been odd to me-travel longer by doing less.
That said, I think How to Travel the World on $50 a Day is a great reference for beginning budget travelers. It lays out how to plan for your trip, helps explain how to get over your fears and how to thrive on the road on a budget. This is good advice from someone who has traveled budget for years.