In 1957, Arthur Frommer wrote and published “Europe on $5 a Day,” his first book of what turned out to be very popular series of travel books. (His latest version is “Europe on $85 a Day,” but I’ll get to that later.) In 1962 I purchased a copy of Frommer’s book and planned a long-desired trip to Paris. It wasn’t actually that long, because I was rather young. Additionally, I had flunked a course in French, which dampened some of my enthusiasm for France, but seeing a few of Bridget Bardot’s films more than compensated for it. So did Gene Kelly in “An American In Paris,” but for different reasons.
The following summer, in July of 1963, I finished my first year in the Air Force and was a newly commissioned second lieutenant making a whopping $222 a month. I had 30 days of vacation coming, and I could easily afford $5 a day in Paris since a month there would only cost me $150. I would get a military flight over there and back, avoiding any transportation costs.
The realities of the trip didn’t support my optimistic planning. The "cheap" left-bank hotel was more than $5 a day, I had to eat while I was there, and I was unable to obtain a military flight home. I spent a month and a half’s salary just to fly home commercially on Pan American Airways. Even Pan Am. went out of business, so I guess they couldn’t afford Europe either. I concluded from this experience that Arthur Frommer was full of shit. And if you think you can now see Europe for $85 a day, as Frommer seems to think, you had better plan on going in warm weather and sleeping on park benches.
Travel opportunities still tempt me from time to time, so about a year ago I subscribed to Condé Nast Traveler magazine. I didn’t subscribe to it because I liked it. I subscribed to it because a gorgeous young lady came to my door selling subscriptions and talked me into it. She could have also talked me into taking her to Paris, so I was lucky she didn’t try. Thanks to Condé Nast I now look at the cost of traveling with a new perspective.
The latest issue of Condé Nast Traveler has a short article titled “Great-Value Vacations.” According to this article, you can visit Buenos Aires for under $225 a day, Tunis for under $300 a day, and Hong Kong for under $350 a day. Their so-called “bargain lunches and dinners” ranged from $70 to $140 for two people. These are not my ideas of bargains, so I looked on the Internet for extremely frugal vacation opportunities.
The least expensive vacation opportunity I could find that wasn’t in the United States was a two-week horse trek along the old Silk Road in Kyrgzystan, where I would live in tents, visit with nomadic people, and drink sour goat’s milk. That would cost me about $122 a day. Transportation to and from Biskek was not included. I really didn’t want to spend almost $4000 to live in a tent for two weeks and drink sour goat’s milk, regardless of how scenic the trip might be. But every other vacation option I found was more expensive.
Tijuana is starting to look really good. It is inexpensive to travel there, and for that same $122 a day I can get nice accomodations, food, and a woman. Olé!