Sunday, February 27, 2011

Travel Misguides

We abandoned following anything written about where to stay in Lonely Planet halfway through India. We stopped searching out restaurants soon after since it took us so much time finding the suggested vegetarian eateries than it did if we just came upon something that would suffice. To some Lonely Planet is a bible, to others it is a rough guideline, and for some the travel guidebooks represent true evil driven by minions to destroy some of the worlds secluded paradises and greatest escapes turning what was once a pristine beach into a tourist ghetto. I guess we are somewhere near the middle one using the literature to get the basic gist of an area, but relying on our own adventures to find out everything else.

I have been tearing through books on this trip. As is travel in itself isn't enough of a blessing I have had the opportunity to dig into literature that I would never have time to read Stateside. After journaling about this journey I have wondered what it would be like to have the "dream job" of writing a travel guide. I am not fooling myself into thinking I have the capacity or ambition to score such a role, just intrigued. While looking for my new paperback victim to capture my attention for the next couple of days at a book exchange I came across the title, "Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?" - subtitle, A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventure, Questionable Ethics and Professional Hedonism.

After reading this tale of the authors first adventure of trying to write as an Lonely Planet informant for a section on Brazil, I will never be able to take a words the series of books has to say seriously. Not just a grain of salt, the whole shaker and all.

Without going into detail, these guidebooks started out to give "Backpackers" clues on how explore the world away from the main tourist spots on a tight budget. Now it is a mainstream phrase used by everyone to re-live the quest-for-the-best-beach or the quaint guesthouse that nobody knows about. Once directed toward an audience willing to sleep in sweatboxes with peeling paint trying to stretch every cent so they could see as much of the world as possible before returning to grad school, the books is written for an different demographic. It is spit out to show people that have a couple weeks of vacation time and a lot bigger budget where they need to go to see all the shit they can without too much hassle and wasted time in order to re-live (or experience for the first time) the adventures of world travel.

It is obvious that the best information comes from other travelers you meet on trains, buses,or in guesthouses. Their updates reach farther than any book as the beaten path is now paved for tour busses, little bungalows has doubled in price, staff much less friendly, crowded with other like yourself thinking you found a secluded gem that is now loaded with gringos taking a million picture to prove they'd seen paradise.

Anyway, I will not be reading Lonely Planet with the same set of eyes.

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