The Boring Traveler

The New York Times has a colorful travel section online, but I’ve generally avoided it because it revolves a world apart– a higher echelon– from me. I just can’t make myself get excited about wild nightclubs in Slovenia (the new liberation) or “Hawaii on a dime” (face it, if you’re going to vacation in Hawaii, you’re going to want to spend more than a “dime.” Money is relative to the New York Times jetset crew, I guess).

Perusing the section today, one headline did catch my eye, “The Frugal Traveler.” Aha! Perhaps this was a worthy travelogue, filled with heart-warming homilies and inspirational photos of the wide open spaces of the Land of the Free! Unfortunately, I became disappointed.

Now before you write me off as being overly critical, remember, I’ve seen some outstanding travel blogs out there, so I am drawing from a good deal of experience. And some of the stories were truly interesting (like the car failure in South Dakota and accepting an invitation from a local family to stay with them– all the while concealing the fact that their new guest– this Frugal Traveler– is a NY Times reporter). Actually, the segment on South Dakota was the most entertaining, in my opinion.

But the Zen meditation and joking with locals in Colorado about getting drunk wasn’t terribly frugal to me. It had “New York Times” plastered all over it. The stories never got beyond my head and into my heartstrings, which is how I feel about the New York Times in general. Moreover, I failed to see how this travel was particularly frugal, besides the “mingling” with the unwashed masses and driving a beat-up old Volvo across the continent.

Though frugal travel has required me to embrace certain Buddhist conventions — shedding attachments to luxuries, for example — the closest I’d ever come to spiritual enlightenment was drinking bourbon from a silver Tibetan flask I bought in India.

Oh yeah, when I go frugal, I never leave home without my Buddhist conventions, not to mention my Ming vase and silver Tibetan flask I bought in India for those religious moments.


I am easily bored and, I assume, so is the typical travel blog reader. I like stories short, I like lots of “play by play” photos, and I love the historical aspect of the places I visit. And I must have some kind of inspiration, whether it be in the scenery or in the journey or in meeting new people. I think this element was missing from the narrative. Like I said, it never left my head to touch my heart.

And when I travel to “Middle America,” I don’t consider it “Middle America.” That’s a name given to us by “Upper America.” One segment has the author wandering into a Utopian society and calling the residents “pretty normal.” I wondered what “pretty normal” meant?

College, divorce, Pepsi. “Pretty normal.”

Face it, most people go “frugal” because they have to. Rubbing stories of grimy trailer parks and shady hotels in the faces of readers (who, like me, practice frugality as a lifestyle not for a story written to titillate Manhattanites) is depressing. The true frugal traveler looks for expensive stuff inexpensively (good deals), not cheap (non-Manhattan) stuff and calling it frugal.

I don’t think the author was intentionally condescending, but the overall story seemed to mock the average non-Tibetan-flask-drinking American. The segment seemed more like a travel story about the “little” people, for the “big” people to read, done with typical sneering New York Times style. Who likes that?

About the Author

I've been traveling throughout New York State since I got the travel bug after touring the Herkimer Home on a school field trip as a youngster. We've been blogging about our travels since 2006 and have visited over half of New York's 62 counties so far.

Comments (2)

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  1. I don’t like it.

    I am frugal, but I am not a Pepsi-drinking red-neck.
    Just a view from the New York Slime.

    BTW Mom, did you make up that term “Manhattanite” yourself? 😀

  2. I don’t consider Pepsi to be a frugal drink.

    No, I didn’t make up that term “Manhattanite” myself. I stole it from someone. 😀