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Review of NomadicMatt's "How to Travel the World on $50 a Day"

by Jason Wire Mar 28, 2011
Jason Wire checks out the tips on budget traveling on a “weak dollar” in Nomadic Matt’s latest ebook.

I like to think of myself as a pretty capable internet search ninja, with a specialty in price-slashing. So before turning the digital page on NomadicMatt’s “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day” eBook, I really wondered if he’d have much to say about traveling on the cheap–which I’ve been doing for almost a year–that I didn’t already know.

Turns out, Matt is the Bruce Lee of budget-foo, with the real art of his skill shining through in how efficiently he packs his information. Concise and detailed, it’s clear that from his experience, both traveling and writing about it) that he could go on for hundreds of pages. But he fits just about everything you need to know in less than one. This makes both reading and re-referencing his tips both easy and useful.

There are some obvious caveats to the book before buying: much of Matt’s advice won’t apply for a two-week Eurotripper, much less a weekend traveler. Stretching the amount of time you travel also allows you to stretch your budget further, and this often counterintuitive idea is one that Matt emphasizes throughout the book. Matt doesn’t even discuss whether it’s possible to find a cheap way to check extra bags–the book’s biggest target audience is certainly backpackers–but all types of travelers can learn something useful from his experience.

The guide does include a couple moments of obvious filler: stay at hostels, not hotels, and couchsurf if you’re up for it. Cook your own food. Buy local. But from the most obvious parts of travel to the less-considered, (how to choose the right credit card rewards program?), each has its own monetary value which in the end adds up to the idea that a lifestyle of long-term traveling is both incredibly affordable and fulfilling.

No matter what your experience level is, the tips Matt provides on getting your finances right before traveling are right on the money, and probably the most essential pieces of advice in the book. Ideas about setting up a separate liquid savings account that can accrue interest faster, while not necessarily adding up to a huge difference, makes the point that putting just a bit more effort into every step of your planning will cut your costs dramatically.

One thing I didn’t expect was his dividing up the book by regions (not continents) of the world: South America, Australia, New Zealand, United States, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia all have dedicated sections, with the rest of the world getting smaller bits of attention. This is both helpful in terms of thinking about how to plan one’s time abroad, and altogether interesting to see the dramatic differences in cost.

While readers are likely to grab a copy of “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day” in hopes of finding lesser-known tricks of frugality from a seasoned traveler like Kepnes, the book does a much better job of showing how a traveler’s lifestyle can be much more efficient and rewarding than one spent in a fixed location. “With a weak dollar, it’s time to start thinking differently,” he writes, a solid declaration for both the traveler and the homebody. Regardless of your location or what direction you’re heading, it’s never a bad idea to look differently at where you are and where you’re going. Price: $19.97

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