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Farewell to the Frugal Traveler

Matt Gross, the Frugal Traveler for the New York Times, announced today that he is putting down his pen. In his column, he talks about what he’s learned over the past four years. For one, frugality is in the eye of the beholder. Also, anywhere can be frugal. Perhaps most significantly, friends are worth more than dollars. “As valuable as the Internet is, nothing will save you more money — or make travel as meaningful — as actual people. From the start, I’ve relied on an ever-expanding network of friends of friends (of friends) for tips, advice and, most important, companionship,” writes Gross.

Big Think sat down with Gross a few weeks ago to talk about what experiences have stuck out for him along his journies. Even though he’s known as the “Frugal Traveler,” it doesn’t mean he keeps to a strict budget when he’s on the road. To Gross, the key is deciding which priorities to focus on in a given country, whether it’s food, hotel, shopping or souvenirs. 

Gross also spoke about the value of a journey on foot. He recently walked from Vienna to Budapest, and Gross says the trip opened him up to sights he would never have seen on a train or bus. “If you’re walking, you wind up walking next to someone who’s walking their dog and they turn out to be an English teacher, and they invite you home for backyard wine and sweets and give you a nice bed to sleep in.” 

What’s it like being on the road for two weeks at a time? The lengthy trips surely took a toll on Gross. “I feel like a fisherman or a soldier going off and making the money and then coming back, or maybe not coming back, things are unpredictable sometimes,” he says. Does home ever really feel like home? “New York, I love it, I don’t want to live anywhere else, but, hey, you know what? I could.” Gross spoke about how difficult it was to leave his newborn daughter for two weeks at a time; guess he’ll have more time to spend at home now, wherever that may be.


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