While Matt Gross writes a column called the Frugal Traveler for the New York Times, it doesn’t mean he keeps to a strict budget when he’s on the road. To Gross, the key is deciding which priorities to focus on in a given country, whether it’s food, hotel, shopping or souvenirs. “If I had to devote 80 percent of my budget to one thing, it would be food. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I want to eat in fancy places, it just means that the experience of eating is what’s most important to me,” says Gross.
The travel writer also talks about the value of a journey on foot. He recently walked from Vienna to Budapest, and Gross says the trip opened him up to sights he would never have seen on a train or bus. “If you’re walking, you wind up walking next to someone who’s walking their dog and they turn out to be an English teacher, and they invite you home for backyard wine and sweets and give you a nice bed to sleep in.”
What’s the most important gear to bring with you when you’re out in the world? Gross says good socks (more essential, in his opinion, than good shoes) and pliers: “Pliers are like fingers, but they’re made of metal and they have more leverage.”
And what’s it like being on the road for two weeks at a time? “I feel like a fisherman or a soldier going off and making the money and then coming back, or maybe not coming back, things are unpredictable sometimes,” he says. Does home ever really feel like home? “New York, I love it, I don’t want to live anywhere else, but, hey, you know what? I could.”