Matt Gross began his travel writing career right out of college when he took a job that required him to move to Vietnam for a year to work as an English teacher. He found he loved living in a foreign country, figuring out the best way to maneuver the streets and find food and friends. He wrote a few articles and soon found himself with a marvelous offer:
he became the Frugal Traveler for The New York Times for several years. This required him to pick up at a moment’s notice and travel all over the world, identifying ways that his readers could travel economically. After that job ended, he found other jobs that continued to pay him to travel and document his adventures for those who enjoyed reading about travel or needed guidance for their own trips.
While the book contains elements of traditional travel writing with lists of various places and experiences and sights he encountered there, the thrust of the book is more of a memoir--how travel changed him and how he came to view travel over the years. It is more an explanation of what traveling is than a blueprint of how to handle travel. Some of the interesting chapters included traveling with family, which gave the story of his courtship and marriage as well as the family relationships that he enriched with travel and one on prostitutes and other stranger individuals he encountered over the years. He talks about the difference between a traveler and a tourist, about how one reconciles the immense poverty and misery encountered in foreign lands with the wealth we are surrounded with, and how his goal as his travels progressed was to get lost to recapture that new-to-him feeling of a new city or country.
Gross has written an engaging look at the world of travel writers. For those who enjoy this genre, The Turk Who Loved Apples is a perfect addition to their travel writing library along with books by Bill Bryson, Paul Theroux, Bruce Chatwin, Mark Twain and other travel writers. He is obviously a well-read individual who enjoys Zola and William Vollman, as well as an enthusiastic foodie who seeks out regional food and delights in trying anything. This book is recommended for memoir and travel-writing readers and will be a wonderful addition to anyone’s reading list who is curious about the world and how other people live.