Remembering '$5 a Day'

Travelers of a certain age remember "Europe on $5 a Day," the pioneering travel guide from Arthur Frommer that came out in 1957. Subsequent editions took account of inflation and currency fluctuations, ever upward, first to $10 a day, then $15, $20 and so on. You could probably make a parlor game out of guessing people's ages based on the dollar denomination they remember.

Bowing to the inevitable, later editions were titled "Europe From $__ a Day." After $85 it became simply Frommer's Europe, the centerpiece of a series of guides that covered the globe. Arthur, who started out as a nobody, quickly became an expert on budget travel, briefly ran a tour operation, became a celebrity and, of course, is now a blogger.

None of this might have happened had he not been drafted into the Army and sent to Europe, which just goes to show that you never know where the next revolution is going to come from.

Frommer was at the center of a revolution. His books, arriving on the scene just in time for the jet age, taught generations of Americans that they didn't have to be rich to visit Buckingham Palace, stroll along the Seine or climb around in the Colosseum. Thousands of young travelers who took to Europe in the 1960s and '70s had Arthur in their backpacks.

Google's proposed acquisition of the Frommer's "content," to use the 21st century word, is perhaps the inevitable next step in the evolution of information. But forgive the nostalgia buffs their brief moment of reflection on how the voice of one cost-conscious traveler taking notes could open their eyes and change their lives in ways that the crowd in the cloud may never accomplish.
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