A Review of Bob Downes’s Planet Backpacker

[Note: Each Saturday this month, Vagablogging is featuring self-published travel books reviewed by self-published travel authors. This week, Grant Lingel reviews Planet Backpacker.]

Review by Grant Lingel

On the back of Robert Downes’ book, Planet Backpacker, there is a caution to readers: “WARNING: Reading this book could cause your feet to wander.” There really should be a warning on the cover as well, because by the time I finished reading I was ready to pack my bag and hit the road.

Robert Downes, a baby-boomer from Michigan, decided it was time to see the world. He left behind everything he had ever known and set off on a five-month trip through Europe by bicycle before venturing off the beaten path even further into Egypt, India and Southeast Asia. Along the way, Downes documented his journey in the form of an incredibly informative and detailed blog that he later transformed into this action-packed book.

What surprised Downes the most, and a lot of others who have taken a similar path, was the lack of Americans he encountered on the long and winding road of the backpacking world. He became one of the boys in a sub-culture dominated by twentysomethings, proving that pursuing a passion and realizing a dream has no age limit – the only requirement here is an open mind.

Beyond the remarkable story of Planet Backpacker, there is a wealth of advice and tips for those looking to follow in Robert’s footsteps and make the road their home. Whether it’s nomadic wandering through foreign lands, wild adventures by bicycle, or unexpected encounters with exotic strangers, anyone with a passion for travel will find Planet Backpacker an exciting and enjoyable read.

Grant Lingel is the author of Imagine: A Vagabond Story, which will be available September 1, 2009.

Posted by | Comments (5)  | August 22, 2009
Category: Travel Writing

5 Responses to “A Review of Bob Downes’s Planet Backpacker

  1. Casey Says:

    Awesome! I met up with Bob last week near his office. He is a great guy, and helped me solidify my ideas for a bike tour.

    I’d recommend his book to anyone. It’s an easy read, very ‘pick up and put down’ style, great for any level reader.

    The new maps added to the most recent addition help understand the undertaking he went.


    — Casey
    4-Month Bike Tour

  2. Dave Says:

    I read Planet Backpacker a few months back and really enjoyed it!

    Imagine: A Vagabond Story, the book by Grant Lingel the author of this review looks awesome as well… definitely gonna order a copy of that!

    Dave from Toronto

  3. Alison Says:

    Planet Backpacker sounds interesting.. I would love to bike through Europe.

    Imagine: A Vagabond Story looks to be pretty sweet as well… I traveled in Mexico for a few months and absolutely loved it there.

    Having these reviews is a great idea!


  4. Cheap Traveler Says:

    I think the “not many Americans travel” part is explained in part by the itinerary and timing. Having spent the past few years traveling around Latin America instead of Asia and the Middle East (where I did not run into all that many of my countrymen/women), I can say for sure there’s no shortage of American backpackers out there. You don’t meet as many Kiwis in Mexico as you do in Bali either, but that doesn’t mean they’re not traveling. Geography matters, as does the price of a plane ticket to Destination A instead of Destination Z.

  5. Hugh Says:

    I finished Planet Backpacker a couple weeks ago, and the back cover is right – I’m ready to hit the road. What I found most unique about the book were the history lessens sprinkled throughout. Bob is a curious traveler who likes to experience each location and learn as much about it as he can, and he does a wonderful job of passing his knowledge onto us readers. I’ve never been a big fan of history books, so this for me was an awesome way to learn about all the places Bob traveled.

    The other aspect that stood out for me is Bob’s open-mindedness on the road. He has a basic travel plan, but is able to consistently adapt to whatever the road throws at him during his travels. He doesn’t get discouraged when things go awry, but instead chalks up the mishaps to travel adventures.