Tom Gates, a refugee from the music industry, quit his job, sold everything he owned and set out on a mission: Travel 12 countries in 12 months, one month at a time. The countries: Chile, Argentina, Fiji, Bali, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, India, England, Germany, Italy, France (OK, there’s one extra; he’s apparently an over-achiever). The result is a book, WAYWARD: Fetching Tales From a Year on the Road. I haven’t read the book, so I’m not going to tell you that you should read it. But he does offer nine tips if you’re planning to travel abroad this summer and they make a lot of sense, so here they are:
Tweet the Tourism Board: Even the most drab countries and cities now have a social media “expert,” and many are desperate to show their bosses the value of their work. Tweet or Facebook these handlers and you may be treated to a red carpet of deals and insider info. Start your own blog about the time spent in their country and they’ll weep at your feet for positive feedback. Tourism boards are waking up to the fact that Aunty Becky’s 100 followers may be more apt to take her advice over that of Travel & Leisure’s endlessly repetitive reviews of “opulent rooms” and “mouthwatering sea bass.” Aunt Becky’s gonna put it plain: “This place kicks ass and the food's real good.”
The Cheapo Airlines vs. Trains/Buses: Particularly in Europe, the cheap flights can be huge scams. They’ll drop you at airports 45 miles from the city you’ve intended to go to, charge you baggage fees that would make US airlines blush, and you’ll be stuck on a plane with 200 18-year-olds who are downing mini bottles of Svedka like it’s apple juice, headed for an island where people with baggy pants will dance to vapid beats. Conversely, trains generally go to and from city centers, and an upgrade to a business class can be less than traveling coach, if you factor in all of the hidden “tolls” that airlines can hit you with. Let alone the $50 cab ride from Girona to Barcelona that you didn’t see coming. Flying into some countries will also smack you with an entry fee ($150 in Brazil, Argentina, Chile), whereas train or bus travel will whack you considerably less. I have been on a 16-hour bus ride through Argentina, during which I was fed veal and whiskey, with a La-Z-Boy sized chair, finally finishing the book I’d been trying to put away for a fortnight – and it’s my favorite transportation memory of my life. It was a $50 bus ride or a $600 plane ride. I won.