Mar 27, 2012 9:18:03 AM
Travel literature review: Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day
Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day by Doug Mack
Rating: 2 out of 5.
At a book festival in his hometown of Minneapolis, Doug Mack stumbles across a copy of Arthur Frommer’s original Europe on $5 a day, first published over half a century ago in 1957. Feeling ‘stagnant in life and stuck in a dead-end job’, it’s not long before Mack decides he’s due a little excitement, and hatches the idea of using the original budget travel guide to make his way round Europe. Following in the footsteps of his mother – ‘one of the original hippie travelers’ – and using the same guide she’d used as a young twenty- something in the 1960s, Mack hopes that this trip will be his ticket to relaunch his life and maybe even find a little romance.
The author decides that he’s going to have to make at least two separate trips, as he can’t take enough leave from his ‘dead-end job’ to go touring round Europe. This (very sensible, low-risk) decision sets the scene for the pace of the book. Mack describes himself in the opening chapter as ‘no bold adventurer’ – and, unfortunately for the reader, traveling around Europe with nothing but an out-dated guide for reference does little to galvanize him into action. After the first two stops in Florence and Paris, where the author plods through museums and ticks off anti-climactic landmarks, Mack returns home to save up for the next stage of his mission: when he returns to Europe one year later, it’s with an extroverted travel-buddy, Lee, who leads him on slightly more adventurous capers (pirate bars in Amsterdam, beer halls in Munich – a theme emerges).
Mack peppers his prose with historical tidbits about the places he’s in, observations on the changing face of travel, and snippets that make up a biography of Frommer and how the phenomenon of budget travel came about – all of which is quite interesting, but lacks a certain something to make the book a page turner. Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day also seems to lack the pace and humour of Brian Thacker’s Tell Them to Get Lost (published 2011), which was penned by Thacker after he traveled through Southeast Asia following in the footsteps of Lonely Planet founders Tony and Maureen Wheeler, using their original 1975 Southeast Asia on a shoestring guidebook.
David Gorvett works for Lonely Planet in the Melbourne office and has been a keen traveller throughout much of Europe, South America, and Asia Pacific.
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