The Practical Nomad and Other Recent Travel Books

Reviews by William Caverlee

The Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World (5th Edition)
By Edward Hasbrouck

The chapter on air transportation in Edward Hasbrouck’s The Practical Nomad takes up 148 pages—about a fifth—of this exhaustively researched handbook for around-the-world travelers. As everyone knows, trying to decipher modern-day airfares is to be trapped in a waking nightmare—one almost as unpleasant as the flight itself. For example, in today’s brave new world of deregulation:

“Many people think that travel websites are designed to help them get the best deals and find the lowest prices, but that’s not true. With rare exceptions, they are designed to maximize the profits of airlines and travel agents by getting you to pay as much as possible for your tickets.

There are several million different published fares in effect at any given time just between points within the United States.

If you want to fly from A to C, with a stopover in B, the obvious (although not necessarily the only) choice is an airline based in B. An airline in B probably flies between A and B, and between B and C. Flying the airline of B between A and C probably requires a change of planes in B anyway, and some of the fares of the airline of B probably permit a stopover there. Distance permitting, the airlines of A and C probably fly nonstop between A and C, not stopping in B or anywhere else.”

Probably, there are times in every traveler’s life, snowbound, say, for thirty-six hours in an airport in Bulgaria or New Jersey, that you’d sell the souls of your children to be back home upon a Barcalounger, watching reruns of Two and a Half Men. Hasbrouck, however, doesn’t have the liberty to opt out in such ways in his 712-page handbook (fifth edition); indeed, The Practical Nomad is a stunning achievement of data gathering and travel lore. Chapters on rail, road, and water transportation adjoin the section on air travel. Next comes an overview of documents: passports, visas, etc. Take heed: “In 1993, an entire tour group from Malaysia was arrested on arrival in Boston by immigration officials who couldn’t believe that they were really tourists on a US$6,000 per person around-the-world package tour, rather than illegal immigrants . . .”

Then there’s baggage, border crossings, safety, and cameras.

The Practical Nomad includes a hundred-page appendix with names of books, magazines, and websites geared to RTW travelers. Here are guidebooks and links on every imaginable topic: Hostelling International; Go Girl! The Black Woman’s Book of Travel Adventure; Cruise & Freighter Travel Association; even this webzine.

Regarding U.S. Department of State publications, Hasbrouck advises, “Don’t count on too much from the U.S. government.”

Get your copy at Amazon, Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, or Fishpond (Austrailia/New Zealand).

Read the other May 2012 travel book reviews of TASCHEN 4 Cities and Across Many Mountains: A Tibetan Family’s Epic Journey from Oppression to Freedom

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