With the US’s economy firmly in the tank and everyone keeping fingers furled tightly over hard-won income, Perceptive Travel editor Tim Leffel’s book The World’s Cheapest Destinations: 21 Countries Where Your Money Is Worth a Fortune couldn’t have popped out a 3rd edition at a better time.

It’s not just that Tim swings right into the heart of what travelers all over are facing now — lack of ready cash — it’s that he gives a little heart back to all of us. Optimism, a sense of possibility, qualities the entire world is in dire need of this year. And best of all, a sense of excitement about traveling again.

Tim Leffel also has a talent for getting straight to the point (unlike those less accessible writers who meander and wander in their words, and insert lots of parenthetical statements, ahem). From Argentina to Romania, with stops in Jordan and Vietnam and 17 other mouth-watering destinations, Tim sums up the attractions, the beauties, and what you can expect to spend if you go to, say, Bucharest rather than the Prague.

“The criteria” for choosing countries for this book, as, are for the last two editions, “simple. It had to be cheap, there had to be at least some semblance of a tourist infrastructure, and it had to be a place that attracted more than a handful of travelers — or had the potential to very soon.” So Turkey yes, anywhere in a war zone not so much (“tourist infrastructure” doesn’t include a bombed-out bunker). This is a practical guide, for those who love to travel but think their buying power right now is too pinched to go anywhere.

Most of all, The World’s Cheapest Destinations is a bit like the spring thaw that is moving over my snowbound home next week: it’s an uplift, a bit of sunshine and promise and practical solutions in an economic reality that seems pretty bleak. Just think, Tim points out, “many of the world’s most awe-inspiring sights are located in the world’s cheapest countries.” You might not be able to afford Paris or Patagonia right now, but wouldn’t you rather see The Taj Mahal or the Great Pyramids anyway?

You can find more information about traveling on the cheap by visiting Tim Leffel’s Cheapest Destinations travel blog.