The NYT’s Frugal Traveler in Brazil

A bottle of Guarana - a pink, fizzy soft drink

Photo © Michael Sommers.

I don’t know if any of you have ever read a great blog published by The New York Times called “Frugal Traveler“. Published in the Times‘ travel section, for the last three years, the blog was authored by Matt Gross, a charmingly geeky presence whose attempts to travel cheaply around the globe were informative, entertaining, and frequently quite contentious (he was often taken to task by readers – sometimes quite vehemently – for not being quite as budget-minded as some hard-core budget travelers expected a “frugal” traveler to be).

A couple of weeks ago I was saddened to discover that Gross was giving up his post to return to normal civilian life (maybe he just wanted to stay in a five-star hotel). I was worried that the blog itself was going to vanish (such is the sad state of journalism these days). However, I then made the happy discovery that Gross was being replaced… and that the new Frugal Traveler was going to be none other than Seth Kugel.

I was thrilled to discover that Seth Kugel’s first mission (beginning last week) was a 3-month, 10-country, Pan-American road trip from São Paulo up to New York.

For those of you unfamiliar with Seth Kugel, he is a journalist who splits his time between New York and São Paulo, and I sort of have a readerly crush on him. Over the last few years, he has contributed various articles (most of them for the Travel section) about Brazil, which I love to read: 1. Because he really “gets” Brazil and 2. Because he is a terrific travel writer – engaging, original, perceptive, and often quite funny (which is actually a difficult feat to pull off in terms of travel writing).

Under Matt Gross’ reign, the “Frugal Traveler” (much to Gross’ chagrin) rarely journeyed south of the Equator; with the exception of Argentina and Uruguay, Gross skipped South America altogether. Consequently, I was thrilled to discover that Seth Kugel’s first mission (beginning last week) was a 3-month, 10-country, Pan-American road trip from São Paulo up to New York.

So far, Kugel hasn’t disappointed. His Brazil posts have detailed the terror of absent-mindedly losing (and miraculously finding) his passport in São Paulo’s Guarulhos Airport; described his indecision regarding what boat to take down the Rio Preguiças (Lazy River) in the fabulous dune-and-lagoon-scape that is the Parque Nacional dos Lençois Maranhenses; and provided an in-depth appraisal of Maranhão’s No. 1 soft drink, a pink fizzy brand of Guaraná called Jesus (named after the drink’s founder, not the Redeemer).

I highly recommend logging on and accompanying Kugel on his voyage. I think that over next three months, we’ll be in for quite an interesting journey.

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