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We’re baaaaacckk! I haven’t had much cause to do these reviews, partially because I hadn’t received that many books for review. Lo and behold, three come my way in as many days… So here we go!
Going Local – Experiences and Encounters on the Road – Nicholas Kontis
When your book has a quote from the co-founder of Lonely Planet on the cover, expectations are set high from the start.
Quotes by people from the businesses and associations are good, and even interviews in a few places. The first section talks about how the sharing economy / industry has revolutionized where people stay (in other people’s homes), while acknowledging the steps more traditional entities have taken to stay competitive. I hadn’t heard of a number of the companies mentioned here, a reminder that even a well-traveled person like myself won’t necessarily hear or know about all the options.
The next section on food is similarly set up, highlighting options that didn’t exist 10 years ago. From cooking classes to food tours to home-cooked meals by professional chefs, we are reminded that the sky is the limit. The list of food tours could easily be organized by country or continent.
Next up, extensive looks at responsible travel and volunteering abroad, each offering a mix of better-known and lesser-known offerings. Other sections include living overseas and some interesting interviews of travel industry icons sharing some encounters they’ve had while traveling.
My biggest complaint here is that too many entries feel like advertisements for the company in question. There’s also the assumed notion here that ‘going local’ requires going with a company or tour that thinks different. It doesn’t — companies or tours are likely streamlining what individual tourists were doing (or trying to do) years before they came along.
The book makes clear you have many more options for traveling than previous generations ever did. You can experience, try, eat, drink, or offer so much more than you could in the past. It’s still up to you to chart the path, but there are plenty more places to go — and these are the companies that’ll help travel on your terms.
Talking Tico – Joe Baur
A first-person look at Costa Rica with new wife in tow. Tico, as the book explains early on, is the nickname of Costa Ricans, used to denote something is particularly small. The book starts an uncomfortably familiar story with battles related to apostilles and an unfamiliar (but comforting) story about the name of the Costa Rican airport. A word with its dictionary-like definition breaks up the chapters, though I wouldn’t have minded a chapter number or name to tag along.
A look at their house comes with the culture shocks many have experienced, and the author takes a delightful look at the inevitable language barriers that come with living abroad. While being karaoke-shamed or chasing a huge moth doesn’t sound like it would make for a fun story, the author makes some poignant points about the life. Other chapters are scenes from their lives, which will remind the reader that making your life abroad is a perfect place to try. The story on the ‘simulation’ near the end of the book is one of several I thoroughly enjoyed.
It’s not written as a guide for living abroad, but if you’re looking to live abroad, it’s a good primer for what to expect. Your life can be a lot of things whilst living abroad, and this book’s a great reminder of that.
The New Freedom – Rob Cubbon
OK, full disclosure: I’m in this one. I’m one of a number of “ordinary people” living “extraordinary lives” that was interviewed for this book. It’s not about travel per se, but is about the lifestyle that allows traveling and otherwise doing what you want in life.
It doesn’t take long for the author to get to his first divisive point: “The absurdity of traditional life”. If you’re living this, you probably know it, but haven’t thought about it in those terms. The single goal here is to get you packing and living life your way, work while traveling, and otherwise take advantage of the arbitrage that is working for US dollars but spending far less on things in your country of choice.
The first major section focuses on getting you ready, listing resources, things to think about, and naturally takes you through the author’s life story. Parts might seem a little new-agey, but then again thinking differently is part of our MO. It highlights a few places to begin your journey (primarily southeast Asia since it’s cheaper, but also worthy cities in Europe), with links to each locals-only digital nomads Facebook group. Do note that the prices it gives are ‘best-case’ scenarios — your mileage will vary.
The second major section (essentially the last third of the book) are the interviews. Each interviewee answers the same set of questions, which gives you some idea of where people have ended up. While I’d hate to see you pick this up and pick a person to emulate, I’d remind you that the lifestyle of traveling and living life on your terms is one that can be had by anyone — old, young, man, woman, with kids, without kids, gay, straight, somewhere in between, etc.
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