Doug Mack thought the book would make a good joke. “Europe on $5 a Day” — how ridiculous. He picked it up at the book sale for a coffee table conversation piece.
When he showed it to his mother, she squealed and jumped up and down.
“You bought it for me?” she asked. She’d been looking for that book for years because she’d lived it, doing her Grand Tour of Europe in 1967.
Even better, she still had all the letters and postcards she and Mack’s dad had exchanged during her travels.
Mack read the book — and his parents’ letters — and was intrigued.
“They offered a really interesting view of the broader picture of travel,” he said. Thus his idea was born for “Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day.”
Mack traveled to Europe, staying on the well-beaten path of the Grand Tour — Europe’s major cities and tourist sights — and using only that old 1963 edition of Arthur Frommer’s guidebook.
“I grew up on a steady diet of travel writing; travel was always important to my parents,” he said. But he didn’t want to write a typical travel book, so he added a new perspective in his description of his jaunt through eight different countries.
Mack breaks from the trail to tell us about the boom in Americans traveling abroad in the postwar years and how Frommer tapped into, and helped boost, that boom with his book. Not only have prices changed, travel itself is different now.
“I wanted it to be more than just a zany stunt journalism thing,” he said. “I wanted it to be bigger than me, how the beaten path got so beaten. Oddly, no one has told that before.”
Mack’s writing style is witty and entertaining. If you’ve been to Europe — especially if you used one of those $5- or $10-a-day guides — you may recognize some of your own experiences here.
Even if you haven’t been to Europe, you’ll enjoy Mack’s funny stories of tourist traps and people watching. And you’ll learn a lot about the world of travel.
Would he go back?
“Absolutely, I loved it,” he said. “I might go a little off the beaten path, with a more recent guidebook.”
Teresa Cook is a York Daily Record/Sunday News copy editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Buy the book
“Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day; One Man, Eight Countries, One Vintage Travel Guide” costs $15 and is available at Books-A-Million, 3000 Whiteford Road, Springettsbury Township, and through major online retailers. For videos, photos and a map of Mack’s trip, visit www.fivewrongturns.com.
I knew this book was in the works a long time ago when my son told me he was going to Europe to help a new friend, Doug Mack, do the research for it. Mack’s sidekick in the book, Lee, is my oldest son, Michael Lee Cook. I read their blog as they traveled and lived the trip vicariously through them. It was lots of fun.
I was especially excited about the book and my son’s trip because I did my own grand tour of the continent in 1973 with “Europe on $5 and $10 a Day.” Mack’s book brought back lots of good memories of that trip, which I took after my Penn State semester abroad.
My travel friends and I really lived on that little, paying at most $4 per night for a room and eating lunch from farmers markets or street vendors. I never traveled that frugally again, but I don’t think I enjoyed a trip any more for spending more.
How much would $5 in 1963 be worth in 2012? About $37.48, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (That’s not enough for even one day in Europe.)