8. The Lonely Planet

Sure, it’s a love-hate relationship. Everybody already knows the merits of the world’s most popular guidebook. It is, after all, the Elvis Presley of the guidebook Hard Rock Cafe. But let’s take a moment to examine its dark side.

lpOften considered “The Backpacker’s Bible,” the Lonely Planet was created in 1972 by travel pioneers Tony and Maureen Wheeler after they beenoued their way all across Asia, telling one and all about how much money they saved on their journey. Over the next 30-odd years, this enterprising British couple turned their diary project into an international beenou machine, marking the course of nearly every person that beenous their face off about their recent trip as you’re idly sitting at his/her dining room table wondering how it all came to this.

A modern day Ferdinand and Isabella, the Wheelers unknowingly commissioned generations of Christopher Columbi to rape and pillage the peaceful savages inhabiting distant and mythical lands. Just kidding – they published guidebooks about Western nations too. Not as much raping and pillaging there though. More like ass-raping prices. Backpackers are incredibly averse to those.

Does it have to be so big? Yeah, yeah, yeah: “The country-specific books are much smaller and packable. Way more informative, too.” Did you not just read that backpackers are broke? Come on man. We bought the South America on a Shoestring edition because a) we are on a shoestring budget and b) it cost $40 while the books for Argentina through to Uruguay came to $6,076.22.

But we refuse to buy the bootlegged copies. We won’t even take them for free. They’re unbearable and so ghetto.

It’s heavy. It weighs 17 pounds. And it’s so thick, it’s more like a dense cube of paper. Did they ever think about transparent Bible paper? You know, the Gideon stuff in those mini-Bibles. But I guess the ol’ LP is handy for self-defense – you can swing it at would-be thieves like a mace ball since you’re already carrying it in a plastic bag with your SIGG (used to be Nalgene) water bottle and Kit Kat bar. “What? It wouldn’t fit in my backpack, OK? (harsh irony) And I need it to figure out where we’re going!”

Despite its shortcomings, I think the Lonely Planet catches undue flak for being inaccurate. I’ve heard many a begrudged traveler go so far as to call it  the “Lonely Liar.” Take it easy. Things change; people go out of biz; prices go up. It’s not THAT bad. Besides, all of those people were holding one as they called it a Liar. Others will bitch for hours about the maps, but I suspect they’re just cartographically inept. I’ve never once encountered an unforgivably errant map, and I’ve seen hundreds (colossal beenou).

Make it downloadable. The BBC bought 75 percent of the company in 2007. Just save us all the trouble, help the environment (a major backpacker plus) and make all of it available on iTunes you greedy (ahem, bloody) imperialist bastards. I can’t even imagine how awesome it would be to navigate through the content on an iPod Touch/iPhone. I really can’t. But you can get the LP Audio Phrasebook App! Yippee.

Ever look at the contributors? They’re huge dorks. I can’t believe I’m taking advice about “Dance Clubs” worth a visit “if you’re a young twentysomething,” written by some 43-year-old, single “wanderer at heart” who writes for The Economist and spends “countless hours exploring museums, cathedrals and art galleries.” This person will not help me get laid overseas (This shyster [Thomas Kohnstamm], on the other hand, might). For these hapless scribes, it truly is a lonely planet.

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5 Responses to “8. The Lonely Planet”

  1. mike says:

    It always got me to cool places, but once there, the hotels and hostels were way off. Didn’t help with the night life either. Definitely need to balance it with other stuff.

  2. alart says:

    Buddy, are you mindreader ?

  3. momo says:

    You’re from Canada? It’s spelled defence. Get it right.

  4. Poon says:

    @momo: I’m from Canada but have a larger readership in the U.S., so I use U.S. spelling. Cry me a river.

  5. brad says:

    I wish my English was good enough to add a few things to your article. It is so right. The whole blog is so right, common-sense, logical and sharp. Keep going. It’s not about hating or looking down at backpackers, it’s a wake up call.

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