Monday, October 21, 2019

Around the World on 50 Bucks: How I Left with Nothing and Returned a Rich Man by Christopher Schacht

I think we all know That One White Guy™ who's, like, so woke, and is also, like, constantly leveling up in Life Experience Points™. He reads pop-fiction philosophy books and identifies as a Buddhist based on what he knows about the religion from other white Western people who also identify about Buddhism. He travels to places that are generally considered unsafe to travelers and don't have working toilets, because, like, it's rich in experience, and it's so important to learn about the world. I call these "brocations," because these guys are always bros.

AROUND THE WORLD ON 50 BUCKS is the story of one German TOWG™'s brocation adventures. The title is actually a bit misleading because he started out with fifty euro, not fifty dollars, which is actually closer to sixty dollars, but hey, that's localization for you and I'm sure the publisher figured that a nice,  round number was probably a better hook. Christopher Schacht hitchiked and freelanced his way from Europe to South America to Asia to Melanesia, starting with only fifty euro and then basically winging it for the next three or so years.

While reading this, I couldn't help but remember Maarten Troost, another travel writer who goes to places I would never go so I can visit and learn about them vicariously without having to give up my precious toilets. I definitely see why someone desires to go to all these places, and Christopher does have a wealth of experience doing all sorts of strange and bizarre things, like being an au pair in exchange for mooching on an island paradise beach house (doesn't go over well), gold mining in Guiana, learning about cargo-cults in Vanuatu, allowing himself to be experimented on in South Korea with trial drugs for cash money, and being saved from wild dogs by a donkey.

One thing that kept occurring to me repeatedly throughout reading this book is the whole concept of privilege. Part of the reason these adventures tend to be done by TOWG™s is because women and people of color wouldn't be as safe and wouldn't receive as many of the lucky breaks Christopher did while traveling. While reading this, I kept thinking about how I would never feel comfortable traveling alone, hitchhiking on the streets, or sleeping out in the open like he did, because there are too many out there who would see a woman-- or a person of color-- and think, "Easy target!" and try to take advantage, because even though I'd love to believe Christopher's philosophy that most strangers are inherently kind, when you meet a bad able, the consequences can be dangerous.

In short, I really liked this book a lot more than I thought I did. Some readers have said that the writing is a little clunky, but I think that's because the author is German and it seems like maybe this was translated into English (not sure if that was done so by the author or a translator, but if it was the author, he did as good a job as a translator would have, honestly). It fits the author's happy-go-lucky personality, and I didn't mind the chattiness because he told good stories. I do think that the target audience for this book is probably young men in the 14-21 demographic, though, especially those who are hankering for their first taste of adulthood and who have a pressing sense of adventure.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!  

3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars

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