BOOK REVIEW Not Your Average Travel Guide

“Spontaneous Tourism” Informative but Broad

Spontaneous Tourism: The Busy Person’s Guide to Travel

By James C. Samans

Published by CrystalOrb

Now Available

I decided to graduate from MIT a semester early so that I would have a few months off before graduate school, and now that my break is here, everyone keeps asking me what I’m going to do. Travel? Here’s the thing: I’m not a huge traveler. Sure, I like going places, but I usually get so stressed about planning the trip and how much it’s going to cost that I avoid it. And I think wherever I go, I need to spend enough time there to make it “worth” it, thus adding to the expense and hassle. Well, it turns out I’m not alone: James Samans has written a new travel guide called Spontaneous Tourism: The Busy Person’s Guide to Travel, for people like me.

Samans, whose day job is as a technology consultant, has traveled around the world and compiled this book to encourage others to do the same. Essentially, this book is not about where to go or what to see, but how to travel. He stresses that travel can expand your view of the world and doesn’t have to be stressful. Once I got past the fact that this is not a typical destination travel guide, I appreciated it much more for the information it does offer.

Most of the book focuses on the different modes of transportation and the varying types of accommodations, with the last quarter of the book featuring a page or two of information on roughly two dozen major destinations. The author also evaluates all of the frequent flyer/traveler clubs for each destination.

One of Samans’ greatest points is that no matter how much time you have, you can travel; if you only have a weekend to visit Paris, so what? Cram as much as you can into your days, figure you’ll catch up on sleep when you get back home, and know that you can always go back – in fact, you should go back. When I first read this, I thought it was a bit ridiculous. If I’m going to spend six, eight, or ten hours flying somewhere, I don’t want to visit for only 48 hours. But then I started thinking back to vacations I’ve taken, some of my favorites were some of the shortest. Those short sojourns were much less stressful (and far cheaper) than many of my longer trips because I didn’t have all of the hassles of being away from my life for a week, yet still got to get away. And you know what? A weekend in Paris doesn’t sound so bad.

While encouraging people to take shorter vacations more frequently is one of the high points of the book, I have a few problems with this guide. First off, while Samans does a good job of describing the different types of travel, some of the descriptions are too broad. Sure, each airline is different, but more in depth information on the popular carriers, or the ones he finds the best would be useful (although it should be noted that he does give Web sites for finding more information). In addition to needing a little more depth, the book over-stresses cheap travel. I understand that knowing how to travel cheaply is important, but the fact is I’m not necessarily going to stay in a hostel. Again, this may be useful information for some people, but more luxurious accommodation information would be appreciated, too. Finally, some of the suggestions are just a bit unrealistic, particularly for a girl. For example (and maybe I am just far too girly), I cannot go anywhere with just one pair of shoes. When I travel, I usually like to go out to a nice restaurant at least once, and sneakers and a backpack just won’t cut it, despite what the author says.

Spontaneous Tourism is a good guide to have for reference. I may not agree with all of the author’s advice, but I learned a few things and will be sure to use the information somehow. And hey, maybe one of these days I’ll decide to stay in a hostel and I’ll be sure to look to this book for advice. Yes … maybe someday.