A budget travel pioneer speaks out

Barnacles hostel in Ireland

A backpacker walks up to Barnacles hostel in Ireland. Photo: Barnacles Hostels / Flickr Creative Commons

Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine travel without digital cameras, Facebook, and iPods.  The New York Times was lucky to interview one of the original Frugral Travelers, John Wilcock:

A budget travel pioneer on a time when $5 a day was real (frugal) money

Wilcock has credentials that would make any aspiring writer mad with envy: he wrote some of the first guidebooks for Arthur Frommer, co-founded The Village Voice, and started up Interview magazine with Andy Warhol.

What stood out most to me was Wilcock’s reliable method of research: talking to people. Although websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp can serve that function these days, it’s essentially the same thing.  Word-of-mouth is the best way to find the hidden gems of a place.

The fascinating part was where he talked about the forerunners of websites we take for granted now.  In the interview, Wilcock described The Travel Directory, a project in the 1960s where people could sign up to offer spare rooms to travelers. This was CouchSurfing, decades before that website was even founded. Again, an old traveler’s practice that found its way online.

A refreshing change of tone was how Wilcock didn’t romanticize the past.  Certainly, we all know someone who criticizes anything new, but he doesn’t fall into that camp at all.  In particular, Wilcock actually criticized some of the ways travel writing was handled back when he worked for The Times.

How has travel changed since you first started?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Posted by | Comments Off on A budget travel pioneer speaks out  | October 29, 2010
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind, Travel News

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