Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Party with Don George!
May 11, 2005
Interview with Lonely Planet's Don George
Interview by Wayne Yang
I have been a fan of the Lonely Planet (LP) travel guides since I first stumbled onto them when I was traveling in Asia in the late 1980s. Other guidebooks tend to give you cut and dried descriptions of well-known sites and hotels. LP gives you the kind of candid recommendations that you can expect from friends who have traveled to a location. And the books are also often colorfully written. So you can imagine my excitement when Don George, the Global Travel Editor of Lonely Planet Publications, agreed to an interview.
Don was travel editor at the San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle. He was also the founding editor of Salon.com's travel site, Wanderlust. He has edited four travel anthologies. Earlier this year, he published the Lonely Planet Guide to Travel Writing, which gives his tips on how to become a travel writer.
WY: You have one of the best "getting started" in the travel writing business stories. I cannot imagine one that better illustrates how to marry audacity and talent. How well do you think your experience still serves as a model for others who want to get started in travel writing?
DG: I think the general principles that story illustrates are still valid: Identify what you really want to do, then identify and explore - with sensitivity, intelligence, respect and care -- all the avenues that could help you do that; keep refining your craft and your goals at the same time; knock on all the potentially appropriate doors and when they open a crack, keep them open. To all that I would add: Look for mentors and honor them and learn scrupulously from them when you find them.
WY: In addition to the rise of online venues, how has the market for travel writing changed or not changed since you got started?
DG: I think there is more competition - more would-be travel writers -- now than when I was getting started. Unfortunately, there has not been a proportionate increase in the number of outlets for travel writing, and the budgets at the existing outlets have not risen proportionately, either.
WY: You have written that you became interested in traveling because of your need to "understand everything," "our reason for being here." Why did that process involve reading, writing and traveling, and what do you think you have learned about "our reason for being here?"
DG: It was intuitive for me - I reveled in new experiences and the learning they embodied. Once I lived abroad, I quickly realized that for me, the world was the best classroom. Reading was a way to deepen my appreciation of what I was experiencing, and writing was a way to organize it and analyze it, give it a coherent place in the puzzle of my life. As for our reason for being here, I'm still puzzling through that, but I think it has something to do with absorbing as much of the planet as we can, sowing kindness and compassion wherever we go, increasing global understanding and respect, furthering the evolution of the planet toward peace and harmony, and living as fully, mindfully and reverently as we can.
WY: Can you mention what reading was instrumental in your development as a travel writer?
DG: James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, Wallace Stevens, T.S. Eliot, W. S. Merwin, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald - well, basically, the usual-suspect 20th-century American and European canon of poets and fiction writers one studied in high school and university in the 1970s. These were my initial inspiration and nurturing to become a writer.
WY: Any which were particularly seminal to you?
DG: The most seminal moment for me was my senior year at Princeton taking a small, selective writing workshop taught by John McPhee called "The Literature of Fact." That taught me that nonfiction could be just as artful and elevated as all the fiction and poetry I'd been studying, analyzing and pedestal-izing all those years. The "travel" writers I have most learned from are Jan Morris, Tim Cahill, Pico Iyer, Annie Dillard, Paul Theroux and Peter Matthiessen.
WY: About traveling to Africa: you have talked about the overwhelming feeling that you were a human in nature's country. How much of that feeling do you still get on traveling into the wilderness?
DG: I still get it, still overwhelmingly.
WY: How is that different from your feeling on urban excursions?
DG: Urban wildness can be overwhelming, too, but without that frisson of being in the presence of some universal power or truth infinitely greater than you are.
WY: You have said that travel writing is an art, not just a letter home. You talk about shaping travel into "tales." What makes good travel writing good?
DG: I spend much of my book talking about this, but in essence: The writer has digested his/her experience, gleaned a fundamental truth or lesson from it and then shaped the story so that it reveals that lesson step by step.
WY: What are your feelings on how much creative non-fiction / literary techniques should be used?
Essentially, a good travel story is like a good work of fiction, with a beginning, a middle and an end, characters and conflict, dialogue, telling details, a narrative arc. The full range of literary techniques should be employed.
WY: You once complimented a writer for how his book was "very Lonely Planet-ish," because its focus was "very traditional, rooted in the ground." Can you give us further insight into what it means to be "very Lonely Planet-ish?"
DG: I think being "very LP-ish" means staying true to an experience, staying rooted in the nitty-gritty riches of a place and a people, understanding the place's/experience's background and context, experiencing openly and as fully as possible, seeing with unflinching eyes, and traveling with respect and awareness.
WY; Submission guidelines seem to always discourage writers from submitting photographs with their queries. Obviously, the average writer is not going to be a very good photographer. Assuming, however, that someone is not deterred, that he thinks he is good at both, how is the submission process different for him as a writer-photographer?
DG: It is hard to be great at both writing and photography because you use your mind in different ways as a writer and as a photographer. But it is certainly possible: When I was at the Examiner & Chronicle, I had to take photos to go with my stories, and some of these won photo awards. But if you want to do both, you have to leave sufficient time for both or master the art of switching from reporter-writer to photographer and back again. I think someone who feels they have great photos to go with their great story should simply submit a dozen outstanding examples of their work when they submit their story. All the editor can do is say, No thanks. Submitting photos will not disqualify the article. And there are some lower-tier publications that very much welcome photo-text packages.
WY: In your own experience, you mention the importance of serendipity in propelling your career, but obviously you put yourself in position to benefit from that kind of good fortune. What steps (besides reading the Lonely Planet guide "Travel Writing," of course!) should an aspiring travel writer take to ensure they see more serendipity in their own development?
DG: I would repeat what I said in my first answer: Identify what you really want to do, then identify and explore - with sensitivity, intelligence, respect and care -- all the avenues that could help you do that; keep refining your craft and your goals at the same time; knock on all the potentially appropriate doors and when they open a crack, keep them open. We make our own serendipity. Part of it is talent, part of it is cultivating possibility, and part of it is being open to opportunity when it suddenly presents itself.
My favorite book of all is The Snow Leopard, by Peter Matthiessen, a masterful combination of intensely personal exploration and intensely vivid description, infused with a searing, soaring humanity, spirituality and intelligence. Also on the list, in no particular order: Paul Theroux, especially The Great Railway Bazaar; Bruce Chatwin, In Patagonia; John McPhee, Coming into the Country; Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek; Pico Iyer, Video Night in Kathmandu; Tim Cahill, Pass the Butterworms; Jan Morris, Journeys (just about anything by Jan Morris is transcendent, but Journeys is a good place to start).
Eight Diagrams Interview with Don George
Monday, May 9, 2005
SE Asia Handbook by Carl Parkes
To many people holidays are not voyages of discovery, but a ritual of reassurance.
--Philip Adams, Australian Age
Travel broadens the mind.
Three hundred years in a convent and fifty years in Hollywood.
Though an airplane is not the ideal place to really think, to reassess or reevaluate, it is a great place to have the illusion of doing so, and often the illusion will suffice.
Never journey without something to eat in your pocket. If only to throw to dogs when attacked.
There are two kinds of travel--first class and with children.
If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.
The traveler is active and strenuously searches for people, adventure and experience. The tourist is passive and waits for things to happen.
--Daniel J. Boorstein
In traveling: a man must carry knowledge with him, if he would bring home knowledge.
--James Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson
Countries, like people, are loved for their failings.
--F. Yeats Brown, Bengal Lancer
"Are you a god?" they asked.
"Then, what are you?"
Buddha answered, "I am awake."
Of the gladdest moments in human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of Habit, the leaden weight of Routine, the cloak of many Cares and the slavery of Home, man feels once more happy.
--Richard Burton, Journal
To travel in Europe is to assume a foreseen inheritance; in Islam, to inspect that of a close and familiar cousin. But to travel in farther Asia is to discover a novelty previously unsuspected and unimaginable.
Every man carries within himself a world made up of all that he has seen and loved; and it is to this world that he returns incessantly, though he may pass through, and seem to inhabit, a world quite foreign to it.
--Chateaubriand, Voyage en Italie
For some ill-defined reason, lovers have a particular penchant for travelling, perhaps in the hope that by exchanging backdrops for that of the unknown, those fleeting dreams will be retained a little longer.
I shall always be glad to have seen it--for the same reason Papa gave for being glad to have seen Lisbon--namely, that it will be unnecessary ever to see it again.
The glamour of the East had cast its spell upon him; the mystery of lands in which no white man had set foot since the beginning of things had fired his imagination; the itch of travel was upon him, goading him to restlessness.
--Hugh Clifford, The Story of Exploration
I prefer mythology to history because history starts from the truth and goes towards lies and mythology starts from lies--fantasy--and goes toward truth.
There are only three things which make life worth living: to be writing a tolerably good book, to be in a dinner party for six, and to be traveling south with someone whom your conscience permits you to love.
--Cyril Connolly, A Romantic Friendship
I believe if I were to one day accept a religion, it would be of Buddhism. No other faith seems to offer such an eloquent expression of hope and beauty with its array of imagery, fashioned seemingly by devoted geniuses of a fantasy world.
--Joseph Conrad, The Shadow Line
Some men go skimming over the years of existence to sink gently into a placid grave, ignorant of life to the last, without ever having been made to see all it may contain of perfidy, of violence, and of terror.
Everybody in the world is a little mad.
--Joseph Conrad, The Shadow Line
Thursday, May 5, 2005
New Guinea by Carl Parkes
Who's guiding the guidebooks?
Savvy travelers check the fine print to determine whether writers know the stuff of which they write.
By HERB HILLER
© St. Petersburg Times
May 14, 2000
Ten years ago when I served as area editor of Fodor's Florida guide, I was offered the opportunity to update a guidebook on Jamaica. I knew Jamaica well. As a former cruise line vice president and later as executive director of the Caribbean Travel Association, I had logged more than 70 trips to Jamaica.
I figured the update job at three weeks, maximum.
The publisher's offer: $500, and I would have to pay my own expenses.
I turned the offer down, though of course somebody was willing.
The question is, who?
Was it anyone ready to work up to 12-hour days for two to three weeks for $500? Was it anyone competent at all? That question of competence becomes critical when you need a guidebook. Even when you already know where you're traveling, you are likely to find dozens of books on store shelves and wish there were a guide to the guidebooks. But guidebooks rarely get noticed.
Newspapers and magazines publish infrequent reviews, although National Geographic Traveler broke the mold in its January/February issue this year by comparing 16 guidebooks to France and then commenting on 21 additional series.
Among the big online sellers, Amazon.com reviews the most titles but these reviews mainly enthuse about what's good, instead of providing helpful critiques. No authoritative standard exists for guidebook authors or publishers. There is no guild. Guidebookwriters.com has banded a hundred or so top writers together but its objective is self-marketing its research to individual travelers. The members do not set standards.
So how do you check out authorial competence? The place to start is up front -- in the book you are looking at, the stuff before the actual guiding begins.
Consider Lonely Planet's Florida guide. Authors Nick and Corinna Selby have produced Lonely Planet's usual good read. They are brilliant on everything they cover, from the Everglades and Palm Beach history to the South Beach night scene and the roadside whirligig man along U.S. 17 in north Volusia County.
Yet though the Selbys take South Florida history seriously, the book ignores Lake Wales and Bok Tower Gardens, Ocala and thoroughbred ranching. Nothing at all about Tarpon Springs or Destin. Nothing about Lake Okeechobee as a destination or the Panhandle away from the Gulf Coast. The book says nothing about DeLand as houseboating capital of Florida -- the sort of tip a visitor might build into a vacation.
Why all the exclusions? Maybe the job was rushed or space was tight, though this book is unusually large at 615 pages. But more to the point, read the authors' biographies, which appear in the front: The Selbys live in Europe; their Florida credentials are tinsel thin.
Even the most-skilled guidebook practitioner cannot fathom a place and credibly guide others there without immersion. Outsiders rarely get perspective right. Extent of coverage and detail become equally suspect. But, as mentioned above, guidebook work rarely pays enough to allow an itinerant writer the time to dig in.
LESSON NO. 1
For the consumer: Does the author live in the place or otherwise connect deeply with it?
Tom Brosnahan, for example, who for 23 years wrote the Frommer Guide to Turkey and since 1982 has covered Turkey for Lonely Planet, may live in Concord, Mass. But he spent 21/2 years in the Peace Corps in Turkey, speaks fluent Turkish and returns to the country at least every two years.
Publishers proud of their author's credentials highlight them up front or on the back cover. Look for this.
You will see in A Paddler's Guide to Everglades National Park, newly published by The University Press of Florida, that author Johnny Molloy is an outdoors writer and adventurer based in Knoxville, Tenn., with years of paddling in the Everglades, "logging trips of two hours and up to two weeks (and in) writing this book, he paddled over 500 miles in one season."
Similarly, the Compass Guide to Florida lists author Chelle Koster Walton's several Florida books, cites her Florida freelance credentials and her 17 years as a Florida resident. You can learn more by having your store check Books In Print for other books an author has published on a given destination.
The guidebook field is notorious for writers who accept free accommodations while doing their work. Publishers' refusal to pay research expenses almost guarantees this. Authors insist their objectivity remains uncompromised but seldom acknowledge this freebie practice in the pages of their books.
The worst abuse of objectivity shows up in bed-and-breakfast books, where B&B owners often pay to get reviewed. That's how the late Norman Simpson put together the granddaddy of B&B books, Country Inns & Back Roads. The read was always charming and accurate. But then, Simpson only wrote about places he liked, while loads of others, equally good, went unreviewed.
Bernice Chesler, author of Bed and Breakfast in New England, publicly defended her charge of $125 per listing as a "processing fee," in a Boston Sunday Globe report a few years back: "What difference does it make as long as it's true?" she asked.
Still other guidebooks accept ads, which may skew coverage.
LESSON NO. 2:
If at all in doubt, e-mail the publisher and ask whether any source identified in the book has had to pay to be included. These practices by writers and publishers go hand in hand with over-dependence on official sources.
So check an author's acknowledgments: If writers are chiefly beholden to people from tourist offices, they are more likely to rely on official viewpoints and on media handouts instead of first-hand observations. This suggests the book may not be authoritative or critical as it ought to be.
Instead, look among the acknowledgments for historians, preservationists, naturalists and other folks whose advice would more likely be free of promotional taint. This suggests the author made contacts and personally checked things out.
No official tourism acknowledgments appear in Arthur Frommer's book on Branson, Mo., a book he called a guide to "what's good and what's bad." While praising the music shows and general affordability of the Missouri music capital, Frommer, different from other writers about Branson, wrote about what he called "right-wing excess (coupled with) political and religious proselytizing."
It is easy to believe that this kind of book would be equally forthright in its lodging and restaurant reviews. It was, yet advertising coupons appeared in the back of the book.
LESSON NO. 3:
Work Web sites against guidebooks.
Countless destinations and hotel chains have their own Web sites, but that means they are serving themselves by posting that information. Now publishers increasingly lay out their wares online: Rough Guides was first to provide entire books this way. Lonely Planet supplies generous excerpts. Fodor's lets you organize your own "mini-guides" from a menu of hotel and restaurant offerings.
Check the destination Web sites against what guidebook authors say (online if you can, otherwise in print). Also, compare what different authors say on the same topic -- or whether they say anything at all.
Some guidebooks, like the Fodor's and Frommer series, detail hotel rooms to the color of bedcovers and art on the wall, and three or four entrees in restaurants. Other guide series, such as Insight Guides, relegate places to sleep and eat to the back of the book. Insight prefers that listings include only places in business a long time. That is meant to improve the odds that these hotels and restaurants will still be there when you come by with the book in hand.
Years can pass before Insight updates its lavishly photographed books. But these books are largely essays, written for background by informed locals.
LESSON NO. 4:
Know what kind of information you are looking for and then buy what best suits you, which could be one for readable background and another for informational detail.
Paul Glassman, editor of Passport Press, who for years divided his residence between Central America and Montreal and has authored books about both, cautions book buyers to look for mistakes in foreign-language terms. Glassman says these tip off unfamiliarity with the territory.
On the other hand, sudden change in writing style or point of view indicates plagiarism or outdated information, he says, "to the degree not masked by editors."
LESSON NO. 5:
Do read sections of the book you're holding in your hand before buying it. At least see if the book covers what you know to be there -- and how well it does that. Guidebook writer Connie Emerson, who lives in Reno, Nevada, and has written three books about Nevada, cautions readers not to assume a book is up to date just because it is in a well-known series. To the contrary, Emerson says, "Those are the guides most likely to be carelessly updated by underpaid researchers."
That reminded me of a writer updating a book for a major series who once called me about a restaurant she was not going to visit herself. When asked why, she said the job did not pay enough to justify revisiting all the places originally listed. One reason for the great rush to the Net for travel information is that it's more likely to be up to date than print.
When I wrote for Fodor's, material had to be turned in by February for books that would bear the following year's date. That meant starting the update around October or November, a year before the book appeared in stores.
Rough Guides keeps its books up-to-date electronically with letters from user-travelers. But Lonely Planet online outdoes the competition with its so-called Upgrades. These author-written reports detail changes in everything from politics and environment to travel safety and currency exchange rates since the previous edition of the relevant guide. The reports are quick journalistic reads, invaluable as updates -- and they are free.
But at least Fodor's, like Frommer's, updates most books yearly. Few other series do. Tired information can go on misleading for years. Case in point: The Insiders Guide to Florida's Great Northwest lingers on the shelves of at least some Barnes & Noble stores though its publication date is 1995.
Finally, with most of us spending big money on travel these days, $20 for a guidebook is a bargain for getting the most out of it. But research the books thoroughly. Then buy two, three or four among what look like the best. Take the trip, see how the books perform. Guide yourself accordingly when you are back at the store.
* * *
-- A Florida resident since 1958 and longtime Florida traveler, Herb Hiller is completing Florida Inside Out: A Guide to the Clouding Sunshine State, due out in 2001 from Moon Travel Handbooks. He is chairman of the Society of American Travel Writers' Institute for Guidebook Writing. You may contact Hiller by phone at (904) 467-8223 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
St. Petersburg Times Article by Herb Hiller
Kerala by Carl Parkes
For today’s POTD we have to go back to one of our favorites: Friskodude. The guy is just amazingly prolific, both with his written blog and his Flikr site. This one comes from his India collection. If you have not checked out his stuff before, I urge you to do so. Now. I promise, you can easily find yourself clicking around for an hour.
Maureen and Tony Wheeler
From backpack to business class
By Orietta Guerrera
April 15, 2005
Lonely Planet co-founder Maureen Wheeler makes no apologies for flying business class on long flights with husband Tony, or for enjoying the occasional stay at architecturally splendid hotels.
"I'm 55 years old, I've been working at Lonely Planet for 32 years, and we started flying business class maybe 10 years ago," she said yesterday. "And I'm certainly not going to go back to economy unless I have to.
"I'll fly economy on any trip less than nine hours - that's my general guide. Above nine hours, I'll go in business class."
Her comments come in the wake of questions being raised in the prestigious magazine The New Yorker as to whether the Footscray-based company has lost its point of difference from other travel guides and travelled too far from its roots of catering for generations of backpackers.
Ms Wheeler and her husband came under the microscope in a New Yorker feature written by Tad Friend titled "Have Tony Wheeler's guide books travelled too far?"
Friend visited the Wheelers - who still own 70 per cent of the company - at the Footscray headquarters and then travelled with them to Oman in January. He commented on the couple flying business class and staying at $500-a-night hotels.
The world's biggest independent travel publisher started on the kitchen table of the couple's Sydney flat in 1973. Newly married, and having just arrived penniless from a journey beginning in London through Asia and on to Australia, they wrote the guide Across Asia on the Cheap. The 94-page, hand-collated, stapled guide sold 8000 copies.
Today, countless travellers clutch Lonely Planet guides as they experience the world's sights. Sales are between $80 million and $100 million, with 600 titles - including guides and phrase books - available. Their original "shoestring" guides now make up about only 3 per cent of their sales.
The company that has long boasted that it does not accept advertisements, is now considering a hotel booking service on its website.
Friend's article noted that Ms Wheeler had raised a finger back to a child "beggar", who "flipped her the bird" when she did not give him money. Yesterday Ms Wheeler - who was holidaying with a friend in Queensland - denied the child was a beggar but rather a young boy playing up in front of his rowdy mates.
"(Oman) is a prosperous, developed country," she said. "This was not some poverty-stricken little beggar by the side of the road that I was being nasty to.
"It was one of those sorts of things... it took two minutes of my life and I'm going to go down in history as the woman who flips (her finger) to beggars."
There was mostly sympathy from Lonely Planet's readers on the company's website yesterday. The Wheelers had "paid their dues" and were "reaping the fruits of their success", readers wrote.
They noted that the company continued to donate 5 per cent of its net profits to grassroots community projects and made a $500,000 donation to tsunami victims.
One reader wrote that they had bumped into Mr Wheeler in Iran last year and, "contrary to the article, he was staying in a hotel even crappier than the lousy one we were staying in".
Ms Wheeler said there was no denying the brand had become mainstream - "It would be ridiculous for me to claim that we were still the same little cult company that we were when we started 30 years ago."
But, she said, the travel industry had also changed. For instance, many people who were once attracted to package holidays, now wanted something more and turned to Lonely Planet guides.
"Because there's so many more of them travelling, and because we're doing the books that they want, I think in that way travel itself is a mainstream activity."
The Age Interview
Travel bible authors' wheel of fortune
By Georgina Safe
April 14, 2005
Maureen Wheeler ... reportedly gave the finger to a beggar, although she was provoked. The Australian founders of the Lonely Planet guides stay in $500-a-night hotel rooms, give the finger to beggars and have lost touch with their counter-culture roots, according to a profile in The New Yorker magazine.
"Have Tony Wheeler's guidebooks travelled too far?" asks journalist Tad Friend in the article in next week's issue.
Wheeler and wife Maureen "established Lonely Planet, in 1973, as the scruffy but valiant enemy of the cruise ship and the droning tour guide," writes Friend. Now, with annual sales of more than 6 million guidebooks, Friend believes the company may have lost its point of difference.
"At the same time, however, a number of the company's authors worry that Lonely Planet itself has begun to manufacture ersatz Lonely Planet guides," writes Friend. "The books' iconclastic (sic) tone has been muted to cater to richer, fussier sorts of travellers, many of whom, like the Wheelers themselves, fly business class."
Friend spent time travelling with the Wheelers in Oman and in the Lonely Planet headquarters in Melbourne to research his 7000-word article.
In Oman, he writes, hotel stops "would usually be the best available. (The Wheelers' room at the Chedi, in the capital, Muscat, cost some $US400 a night.)" Friend and the Wheelers were approached by a small boy, a beggar, asking for "baisa, baisa" - money.
Writes Friend: "'No biasa,' Maureen said in a friendly way. She showed a real interest in children and always replied to them. This boy waited till we got in the car and then flipped her the bird. She flipped it back: 'Sit and spin, kid!"'
Friend also observes "the company that had prided itself on not taking advertisements is about to start a hotel-booking service on its website".
For all his criticism, Friend readily admits "the Lonely Planet guides were my lifeline" while travelling in the late 80s. However, he opines, "Like Apple and Starbucks and Ben & Jerry's, all of which began as plucky alternatives, Lonely Planet is becoming a mainstream brand."
In the article, Wheeler concedes he is concerned about his company's outlook changing from bohemian to bourgeois. "Those vivid colours of the early books ... once they get blended with so many other authors and editors and concerns about what the customer wants, they inevitably become grey and bland."
Maureen Wheeler told The Australian she did not believe the article was an accurate representation. "Tad told us that he thought it would be interesting to do the idea of how Lonely Planet has become a mainstream publication, which there is no doubt that it has," she said. "(But he) came to the story with it pretty much framed in his mind ... there are different interpretations of stories, and that is his."
The Australian Article about The New Yorker Article
The Australian Article
I think this is a bit much, so what if they stay in hotels now, when I go somwhere on business now, I use my same lonely planet guide for hotel advice, it makes sense to have different accom options for people, I think the Wheelers have paid their dues!
The beggar thing suprises me if true bearing in mind I think LP were the first Aussie company to put their money where their mouth was post Tsumani.
Posted: 13 Apr 2005
"there are different interpretations.........................and that is his" about sums it up. Re the beggar, a chap in Vietnam had best idea - he'd offer to buy a kid a bread roll or piece of fruit etc. - kid not interested, you've to wonder where the money might go.
It is a bit of an industry in some places, and as reported, this kid gave the bird, so he gets it in return - good on Maureen
Not changing with the times is a sure recipe for your demise.
Posted: 13 Apr 2005
Who gives a toss where the Wheelers stay? They're reaping the fruits of their success.
It's all relative in my opinion. There would be many people who access this site who have been through the hoop so to speak spending extended periods of time abroad living and squatting in flea and bed bug infested dorms/hostels. I know, I used to and had the time of life notwithstanding the fact I didn't know of, nor did I have access to finances to do it any other way.
Older, wiser but still employing the backpack and having more disposable income than previously, there is absolutely no way I'm spending my hard earned living in a windowless/airless room subsisting on dhal and chapatti just so I can prop myself at a table in a hostel somewhere indulging in that time honoured and fatuous one-upmanship pastime of who can travel on the most miserable fucking budget for the longest period of time.
As for the beggars - I've got my own rule of thumb on that one. Able bodied beggars with all limbs intact and looking you straight in the eye get shunted post haste. Blind/crippled and the limbless get my money every time.
Posted: 13 Apr 2005
2 brilliant contributions above (yes, includingyou G&L).
Nothing shits me more than backpackers here, and in person, getting into a pissing competition about who travelled for the smallest amount of money and got the cheapest digs/food etc.
When you heaepeople talking this way it quickly becomes obvious it became the whole point of the holiday and they spent so much time cutting corners they missed the whole point of the travel.
I knew people who worked in Kyoto for a year doing English language classes - they stayed in a single room, lived off packet noodles and made a fortune - but never once ventured out to see the temples and gardens and restaurants - what a waste! And guess what, they reckon Kyoto (one of the most beautiful places I've ever been) was a hole.
I reckon Lonely Planet is just moving with the times and growing up - anyone who wants a guide to living off $5 a day can get one of dozens of other guides - LP seems to have recognised most of its readers are looking for a bit more these days.
The author knew that wouldn't sell his story, so decided to get stuck in - a very easy and cheap trick for journo but it always works.
Thorn Tree Thread -- Read the Rest