Book Review: Europe on 84¢ a day

My apologies again for anyone who tried to comment on the “Bedtime Stories” post.  Somehow I managed to turn off comments on it.

europe-on-84 A couple of times I’ve referred to a trip across Europe I took after my second year of my undergraduate degree.  I was originally inspired to take the trip after Gil White came to my university and gave a slide show about his various backpacking trips abroad, and articulated his vision of ulta-low cost student travel (and hawked his self-published “Europe on 84¢ a day”).

The 84 cents in the title of his book isn’t meant to be taken literally, as he admits that some days he spent far more than this (and others he spent nothing).  It was more meant to capture the reader’s imagination that there are other ways to travel instead of the pre-packaged (and expensive) tours or Euro-rail passes.

His philosophy of travel is built on the idea that most people are good, nice individuals who are interested in learning more about travellers (and telling them about their own lives and cultures).  He feels that travellers fears keep them isolated from the real countries they travel to, and much like in all-inclusive resorts, we end up paying top dollar to have a sanitized experience.

His major suggestion to save money is to hitchhike.  While everyone these days lives in terror of people they don’t know (“stranger danger”) he believes that hitchhiking is far safer than most people realize and has seldom had a bad experience.  My experience was the same, and after hitchhiking for most of 4 months I only had 2 experiences that could be classified as negative (and they weren’t THAT bad).

His recommendation is for men to hitchhike alone, and for women to hitchhike with one other person (either another woman or a man).  He says, rightfully, that two men will have a hard time getting picked up.  He also admits that its a double standard, and feels that hitchhiking is generally safe, however a woman on her own is at the threshold of acceptable danger and is better off with another person.  Having met a woman who was raped while hitchhiking alone, I wholeheartedly agree (feel free to call me sexist, I can take it).

He pushes this further, providing some ideas on how to get the people who pick you up to let you stay with them over-night.  He claims that many drivers are willing to host people they meet, but assume that you wouldn’t want to stay with them (and justifies trying to get them to let you sleep over as “letting them know you WOULD like to stay with them).  This goes beyond what I’m comfortable doing, and the two times this happened for me (once in Germany and once in Finland) they were AWESOME experiences, but I still felt like a bit of a mooch.

In this 1995 edition, he provides extensive information about most European countries, including maps and embassy contact info.  Like the “Let’s Go” travel series, this sort of information is obsolete before the book is published, and modern travellers are able to dig this up on-line.  I think in a current version this should all be chopped out and his book should focus on the core value offered:  his philosophy on travel.

I’ve searched for the book (and author) on-line, and he still seems to be visiting universities in Canada and the US, but I have no idea if the book is still available or in print.  In the 1995 version it has the contact address for the author as “R.R. #1, St. Anns, Ontario, L0R 1Y0 Canada”.  If anyone knows where this books can be purchased on-line (other than used copies at Amazon and E*Bay), please post the info in a comment below.  Thanks in advance!

3 replies on “Book Review: Europe on 84¢ a day”

BB: Yeah, the safety element is definitely everyone’s big fear. I think MOST people will have very good (and cheap) experiences travelling this way, but that’s probably small comfort to the minority who don’t.

My fiance? and I consider ourselves travellers when we’re abroad vs. tourists. There are a lot of things we’ve done and plan to do that are free or of little expense that are vastly better experiences than paid tours. When you go off the beaten path your experiences tend to be more original and worthwhile as I found out in 2005 when I travelled in Australia for a month.

For hostels you just have to do your homework and look for YHA sites.

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