What happens when a New York Times travel writer, a man who actually depends on traveling for his living, becomes bored with the routine of traveling on someone else's dime? If you're Matt Gross, author of The Turk Who Loved Apples, you stop writing the paper's "Frugal Traveler" column and start writing its "Getting Lost" column instead. (Despite Gross's claim that his sense of direction is so good that it is almost impossible for him to get lost in a strange city, his new column was a success.)
The Turk Who Loved Apples is all about the evolution of one traveler, a man who traveled so much in just a few years that he quit enjoying it - especially the "frugal" part of the equation because, as he puts it, there are only just so many ways to save money while on the road, and recycling them and trying to make them seem fresh became more of a chore than it was worth.
The book begins with Gross's Viet Nam experiences and, with flashbacks now and then to Viet Nam, covers some of his other travel "adventures" as well. Travelers who prefer to stay off the much beaten tourist paths of the world will find Gross to be a kindred spirit. As the years went by, the author more and more often decided that the most important thing about traveling is making new friends. He began to focus more on experiencing new countries and cities the way the locals experience them, hoping to make - and keep - friends from each of the places he visited. As a self-styled "wanderer" myself when time allows, I was both intrigued and inspired by his experiences in this regard.
I recommend The Turk Who Loved Apples to travel memoir enthusiasts with one minor caveat. Gross presents a rather cavalier attitude toward women that can be a bit off-putting, particularly as regards his relationship to one Vietnamese prostitute. The relationship he describes, whether Gross intends it or not, makes the prostitute appear to be a very sympathetic, if not tragic, character while leaving the reader wondering a bit about Gross himself - a case of, in my opinion, too much information.
Bottom Line: Good book for real travelers and armchair travelers alike.