I finished the book this morning. (I'm not a slow reader, just got bogged down with other things, such as getting ready for my two-week trip to Costa Rica starting this Saturday!!!!!)
There's another discussion about this book elsewhere in the forum. There it seems there was a lot of debate about travel philosophy. This book isn't about travel philosophy, although Seth does have one, and his point of view stems from his view that the best travel experiences involve meeting people, and that the friendliness of people is inversely proportional to the number of tourists who visit the place. So he likes to seek out places to visit that have little or no tourist infrastructure at all.
There's a lot in this book that won't shock or surprise people. Much of it is common sense, and much overlaps with the things Rick talks about in Europe Through the Back Door. But I learned a few very valuable things:
- How to use online review sites (like TripAdvisor and Yelp) to get real factual information about a place rather than making decisions based on aggregated reviews.
- Some good strategies for allowing chance and unplanned opportunities to alter travel plans
- How professional travel writers are given complimentary products and services in exchange for their reviews, and how that can't help but influence the review (because even if the writer is completely honest, the hotel or the restaurant knows who they are and makes sure they get the best possible experience).
- A sane approach to assessing risk when traveling (in spite of our complete and utter irrationality in calculating and reacting to danger).
- A smart strategy for relying less on technology and more on human interaction and being in the moment.
- Useful suggestions for minimizing the environmental and ecological impact of traveling.
Seth also travels to places with far far less tourist infrastructure than Rick does. Many of his stories are about Asia, Africa, and South America. Rick says he visits places and makes mistakes and figures things out so we all can visit those same places more efficiently. Seth does nothing of the sort. I can't imagine traveling to many of the places he has visited, like Tofo, Mozambique, or Quingeo, Ecuador. But his stories of visiting those places have stirred a curiosity in me to try to find places to go that aren't on my bucket list.
I also found the writing highly engaging. Seth doesn't shy away from telling the truth about questionable decisions he has made along the way. This I found refreshing.
If you're interested in reading travel books that aren't guide books, I recommend this one.