If there is one quibble I have with this book (and there is only one), it is with its title.
Please be warned: this book is limited neither to solo travelers nor to first-time passport-users. Anyone and everyone is going to find useful information in here, no matter how many visa stamps they may have accumulated over the years or how many companions they have traveled with. This is one of the most useful travel tools that has come down the pike since the compass was invented, trust me.
I was skeptical at first. I always travel alone and have for decades—what could this book tell me? Quite a bit, as it turns out, and I’m willing to bet that every reader is going to come away with more information than they had when they began to read the first of the seven tips. And this is information that’s fun to read, like a chat with the author over an ice-cold Asahi draft (and yes, I am fully qualified to make that comparison.)
“Travel is a jolt to the soul”—this quote from Kevin Kelly sets the tone for this book, with Mitchell later observing that travel can, as the cliché says, broaden your mind but it can also change your mind. He’s living proof of that himself; his travel lust has endowed him with a new home in the world, a new livelihood, and a delightful enthusiasm for seeing new places that permeates every page of his book.
From how to maintain a long-distance relationship while on a trip of some duration to how to travel with a laptop without suffering unforeseen disasters, how to travel in a country without knowing the language and still make friends with the residents, how to budget for a trip without living on ramen for a year, how to survive an airport (keep that ticket stub!), how to make money while you travel without violating the terms of a tourist visa, how to avoid unpleasant last-minute carry-on restrictions—it’s all here. Mitchell provides links to sites that will “monetize” a travel blog, sites that offer “microjobs,” sites that find cheap airfares, and of course a link to TravelHappy at the end of each chapter, along with the site’s cheery and distinctive logo.
Although his title targets the solo traveler, Mitchell assures his readers “you won’t be alone for long.” “Become comfortable with the unfamiliar,” he advises, “Step up and speak to the locals….90% of communication is body language.” An advocate of learning key phrases, most notably “please, thank you and excuse me,” and not being afraid to make a fool of yourself through pantomime when there’s no other way to get the point across, Mitchell makes it clear that lack of language should be no barrier to having a good time.
For all that he knows how to use the internet for fun and profit, Chris Mitchell is in some ways a traditionalist. “Always carry a pen and paper,” he urges—taxi instructions written in the local language can make the difference between enjoyment and disaster. (It’s also true that in some countries, different accents in English can impede communication, while the written word can prove to be completely comprehensible.) And when packing, he reminds readers, “Good old paperback books have no battery problems and are still lightweight.”
Readers are given links to TravelHappy pages where all of the book’s travel resources are listed for easy reference and a place where free updated information will be posted. These alone are worth the price of the book, as are Mitchell’s final words of advice to prospective travelers, “Don’t wait.”
(For how to purchase this book, go to http://travelhappy.info/ )~Janet Brown