Posts Tagged ‘The Lonely Planet’

49. Photos with Local Children

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

kids6

Why do backpackers insist on taking photos of children wherever they go?

Sure, foreign kids are cute. I’ll give them that. But they’re also often super dirty and smell funny. I suppose all kids are dirty and smell funny though, not just foreign ones.

kids

But do immigrants come to Canada/U.S./U.K./Australia, wander onto a schoolyard and have someone snap photos of themselves with their arms out, surrounded by white children? Just wondering.

The following is a journey into the mind of a backpacker taking photos of local children, particularly in the developing world:

  • “OMG look at how cute these local children are!” (snap)
  • “Look at these kids. they live in tin shacks, but somehow they’re so happy.” (snap)
  • “Look at their genuine smiles and the joy in their eyes. These kids literally have nothing.” (snap)

kids2

  • “I’m honestly shocked they’re not asking me for money or trying to pickpocket me…” (snap)
  • “…like those damn gypsy kids in… Hey, kid. Take your hand outta my pocket.” (brushes kid’s hand away) (snap)
  • “Look at this one, touching my face and my hair. Never seen skin or hair like mine before. WOW!” (snap)

kids5

  • “I am so enlightened by this experience. More enlightened than my friends back home.” (sigh) (snap)
  • “I am so glad I came to (developing world country). I appreciate (developed world home country) more now.” (snap)
  • “Seriously. Look at these children.” (snap)

kids7

  • “I don’t want to say that I’m like Jesus. But I love little children, just like Jesus, which explains my arms-out messianic pose.” (snap)
  • “I hope their parents don’t come out during our photo shoot. I don’t want them thinking we’re exploiting their kids.” (snap)

kids3

  • “Hurry up, Kevin. Take the picture. I think that might be one of their parents.” (snap) (takes off running)

For those of you interested in “The etiquette of photographing strangers” (of any age), check out this article by Lonely Planet author Richard l’Anson.

“Photographing strangers can be daunting, but it needn’t be,” he writes. “Most people are happy to be photographed. Some photographers ask before shooting, others don’t. It’s a personal decision, often decided on a case-by-case basis.”

But approaching foreign strangers and children in a palms-out messianic stance certainly can’t hurt.

Share Button

Backpacking in the News

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Lonely Planet Launches iPhone App for Soliciting Friends’ Reviews in Real-Time

Wenzani

Lonely Planet recently launched (Dec. 5) an iOS app that grants users access to friends’ reviews and recommendations, in addition to content from a number of travel publications — all in real time.

The app, called Wenzani, “brings together recommendations from your friends and the world’s most trusted publishers into a fun, location-based guide that is constantly being personalized for you.”

It’s a good move on the LP’s part, to curate backpackers’ interactions via social media like Facebook and Twitter. Ultimately, the advice being exchanged can inform their own travel guide content, particularly for identifying hot new restaurants and small businesses. Because it’s all in real time, it helps the LP keep its advice fresh and updated to the minute.

One of the coolest things about the app is its ability to let friends notify each other about upcoming concerts and events in places they plan to visit (watch the video on Wenzani).

Share Button

Backpacking in the News

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Link to article: Residents of Berlin’s hippest district lash out  at backpacker influx

Dunno if I'd want these hipsters eating watermelon off my doorstep, either.

Dunno if I'd want these hipsters eating watermelon near my doorstep, either.

A recent report by The Independent‘s Tony Paterson reveals how residents of the Kreuzberg district of Berlin are fed up with the scores of young, budget backpackers invading their neighbourhood.

“The culprits are mostly young British, Scandinavian and Italian tourists coming to the city via easyJet and other budget airlines for mini-break holidays,” he writes. “They are accused of rowdy all-night partying, and offensive drunken behaviour such as leaving trails of broken bottles and vomit in their wake.”

Sounds pretty standard to me.

Also standard: Guidebooks leading them to the promised land. “At night they flock to (Kreuzberg’s) trendy all-night bars, which are advertised in guide books as a ‘must for party animals,'” adds Paterson.

As if it weren’t bad enough, these traveling degenerates have allegedly been playing loud techno music until the early hours of the morning. Oh my.

Official tourism statistics indicate the number of visitors to Berlin has risen dramatically in recent years due to increased flight traffic via easyJet and Ryanair.

In the end, it seems to be a classic case of old hipsters complaining about young hipsters trespassing on their turf. Boo-hoo. Burkard Kieker, director of Berlin’s tourist marketing agency, effectively told residents to suck it up. “Berlin is becoming a world city again,” he said. “We have to get used to that.”

Share Button

Backpacking in the News

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Link to article: Backpackers trek the globe with tech toys

Social networks like Facebook and Twitter, as well as applications like Skype, are allowing backpackers to connect with family and friends more easily than ever before, wrote Natalie Armstrong of Reuters (Dec. 7).

Armstrong describes Canadian traveler Dave Arnold, who is on a one-year trip after taking a buyout from his telecom employer (see 44. Quitting your job). Carrying about $9,000 worth of electronic devices, Arnold is a walking Price Is Right Showcase for third-world muggers. He’s also an example of what’s become known as a “flashpacker” (see Backpacker Types, by Nomadic Matt).

It appears the folks over at the L.P. finally heard our call (see 8. The Lonely Planet; and The L.P. on iTunes), making their guidebooks downloadable to iPods and iPhones. Arnold has 100 downloaded guidebooks on his iPod, plus 10 books and his entire music collection.

In fact, Armstrong also writes about a South Korean girl who used her iPhone 4 for everything old fogeys like I used to use the L.P. for: maps, hostels, and information on local sights, food, etc.

All this is fine and dandy, just as long as you don’t slip and fall into a swimming pool or something while carrying all your gear.

Share Button

44. Finishing school/Quitting your job

Friday, October 29th, 2010
Oh, what to do with my life...?

"Oh, what to do with my life...?"

Taking a gap year, whatever you call it. People of my generation love not knowing what to do with our lives. A buddy of mine said to me the other day, “We’re so different from our parents, man. It’s like we’re too distracted. It’s sensory overload.” Well put. We are too distracted.

I just spent an hour watching Zach Galafianakis’ hilarious Absolut Vodka ads/videos on YouTube**, when I probably should have been sleeping, ‘cuz I have to go to work tomorrow. But NOOOOOO, I simply had to watch fat, bearded Zach in all his ridiculous, awkward, spazzing, infantile glory. (They are awesome, by the way, and I can’t

Taking a gap year makes you walk out into a mountain field, hold your arms out and breathe in deeply.

Taking a gap year makes you walk out into a mountain field, hold your arms out and breathe in deeply.

believe they’d been posted since 2008 and I just saw them for the first time tonight. Goddammit! So much media to consume, so little time.) This is the kind of shit I’m talking about. We’re posting/creeping on Facebook, tweeting, fiddling with our smartphones until we basically walk into each other like imbeciles (I love how the new Windows Phone 7 ad shows an old man who drove into a lamppost ‘cuz he was presumably so engrossed by his smartphone that he could no longer drive in a straight line, while [on the TV version] “This is a dramatization” pops up in fine print at the bottom of the screen. It’s not fake. Oprah is on a big campaign about this. People are dead because of this. Still kinda clever marketing, though, ‘cuz it’s true… See what I mean? I can’t even focus for five minutes to write this post.)

gap-year-02

"Having no responsibilities is awesome."

I have ADHD. Everybody does (see recent Globe and Mail article).

Our parents didn’t have these distractions. They got a job (“not a career, a job — there’s a difference” according to Chris Rock). They got married. They had kids before they turned 25. (Are you kidding me? I was on my third or fourth backpacking trip by 25, beenou, and with no offspring in sight.) They accepted responsibility. My generation, the Millennial Generation, as we’re often called, is allergic to responsibility.

We consume everything. We’ll do anything short of tattooing a fricken barcode on the backs of our necks to not miss out on the exciting digital information and sensory experiences out there waiting for us. We stay up late, we eat out, we party, we spend all our money and max out our credit cards, we travel and we never, ever grow up.

We are useless. Comedian Louis C.K. nailed it with a bit he did on Conan O’Brien, saying (about how people take technology for granted): “We live in an amazing, amazing world and it’s wasted on the crappiest generation of spoiled idiots that don’t care.”

gap-year-03

"And now to find me an obnoxious Aussie guy."

We have no discipline. Haven’t we all heard that before? And kids are getting worse (imagine that). Talk to any public school teacher you know. The kids are monsters, they have ADHD and you can’t use the strap on them or fail them, so they don’t listen to teachers anymore.

Somebody wrote all this about kids in the ’60s, granted, but they didn’t have PVR, wikipedia, Wired magazine or YouTube back then. They weren’t watching Mad Men and sitting there astonished at the idea of smoking in an office building. They also didn’t have 1,733 airlines worldwide at their fingertips. (They didn’t have Google either. I just googled that airline stat.) And they certainly didn’t go backpacking around the world. (The Lonely Planet wasn’t founded until 1972.)

We live in a globalized society. We see stuff on TV, or we read Eat Pray Love (ick), or watch The Bourne Identity, whatever, anything nowadays, and we think, “Man, I gotta get outta here.” Anthony Bourdain eats something somewhere and you can’t stand the thought of that smug prick having one on you, so you vow to go there one day and eat that.

(Insert gap-year caption here.)

(Insert gap-year caption here.)

I started writing this post about how when you go backpacking, everybody you meet has either a) just finished school or b) quit their job because there’s no other way (unless you won the lottery or are born rich and have zero responsibility) you could simply fuck off for six months to a year. Or more. But I ended up writing about how my generation doesn’t want to grow up and why. For all of those reasons, we backpack.

Maybe (before you finished school and came on this trip) you went back to school because you didn’t know what to do with

One more time now, into the sunset.

One more time now, into the sunset.

your life. Maybe (you’re here traveling to take a break from where) you’re teaching English overseas. Maybe you’re reading this blog because you posted “FML” as your Facebook status today, googled “backpacking” and by some twist of fate you found this blog. And you couldn’t leave. And you told your friends how great this blog was and made me famous and rich, so I could quit my job and go backpacking.

*Note: Every photo in this post was found on Google, upon searching “gap year.”

**OK Go music videos on YouTube kept me at the office late today (Nov. 2). There is no escape.

Nov. 10: Upon reading this post, my buddy Dan sent me a link to this hilarious video. Check it out: Gap Yah***.

Nov. 10: My fellow young travel blogger, Lil’ Fel, sent me a link to a NY Times article about our generation’s inability to grow up: What Is It About 20-Somethings?

***Dec. 15: Guy Stagg of The Telegraph, writes that the YouTube film ‘Gap Yah’ is a comedy phenomenon, but it’s also an important lesson in how not to behave on a gap year.

Share Button

Backpacking in the News

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

Sienna Miller Intends to Backpack and Stay in Hostels, Not Expensive Hotels
[More on this topic…]

sienna-miller-wi04

Former Vegan Becomes ‘Ethical Omnivore’
– Finally caved (gave up on pretending) due to inability to stay off cheese while backpacking in Europe.

omnivore

Lonely Planet: Country guides on iPhone? Not just yet.
City guides, yes. Country guides, no.
[Here’s what recently brought this to my attention.]

iphone-lp

Share Button

21. Female Backpacker Type A

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

Female Backacker Type A is a proud species. She’s a major overcompensator who goes to great lengths to be cool. She tries to be one of the dudes, and in many cases, she is. So in her defence, at least she knows how to have a good time.

She’s a party animal. She’s crude. She’s promiscuous. She pretends to not give a shit about her appearance or she goes halfway with it. For example, her clothes are tattered but she makes enough of an effort to shave her armpits and wear eye make-up. She used to be hot in high school, but she has since developed a fat ass and cankles, which is why so many guys are on the fence about hooking up with her: Her face is cute, but her body is a train wreck, mostly because she parties too damn much (see 20. Getting “wubes”). She wears baggy cargo shorts, birks, hemp jewelry, wifebeaters and sometimes rocks the dreads. She has tattoos and a few piercings. Cute face, though.

female-backpacker-type-a2If I were to cast her in a movie, I’d choose somebody like Pink or Minnie Driver.

The thing that annoys me the most about Female Backpacker Type A is that she’s a blatant chameleon: She will self-transform to blend into any social situation and be accepted like everybody else. If The Gibbon Experience is perceived as the hip, edgy eco-tourism activity du jour, she is all over it. She’s out there promoting it like it’s the best thing since sliced bread, because  nobody knows about it (you find out later they’re booked solid for the next four months so, in actuality, everybody DOES know about it).

She’s so adventurous. If you want to know how adventurous, just ask her. She’ll cannonball off a cliff with reckless abandon, just like the fellas. She’d love to tell you about it because she’s a prolific feemou. She’s such a one-upper (see Kristen Wiig’s SNL character, Penelope), that regardless of the topic of conversation, she has something to add, relative to her own superior experience. But it’s all a facade. She’s bought into every cliche in the Backpacker’s Bible, not because she believes it, but because she thinks people will like her more if she does. A true chameleon.

I really shouldn’t complain because I’m all for women’s rights and Female Backpacker Type A is in many ways the prototype for the independent woman in 2009**. I think the bicep flexing WWII-era lady with the red polka-dot bandana was that generation’s Female Backpacker Type A. I’ve previously written that backpacking, like comic flatulence, is more of a guy’s thing, which is why hot chicks don’t do it (see 3. Where are the Hot Girls?). Well, Female Backpacker Type A is unafraid to rip a nasty fart. So, maybe I’m wrong and she actually doesn’t care what people think. If that’s the case, then you go girl.

“Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry.” – Gloria Steinem

“Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female — whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male.” – Simone de Beauvoir

“Men are not the enemy, but the fellow victims. The real enemy is women’s denigration of themselves.” – Betty Friedan

** My ESP must really be kickin’ in today: NY Times article about Female Soldiers.

Share Button

15. Dormitories

Friday, June 26th, 2009

If you don’t know what it’s like to sleep in a dormitory, you’ve obviously never backpacked in Europe (beenou), North America  or Down Under. The reason there’s a difference is because backpacking in the developed world is expensive as hell (See 8. The Lonely Planet). Meanwhile, in underdeveloped countries, one can procure a luxurious private hotel room for the price of a Happy Meal in Western currency.

hostel-dorm1Because affordable lodging space is so limited in the former, it becomes possible to charge a premium for not only a room, but for a tiny fraction of a room (literally one-16th). There are, of course, varying levels of expensiveness. For example, North American backpackers know what it feels like to pay outrageous sums of money (after converting their meager dollars to English Pounds or Euros) for half of a bunk bed. It’s a sensation akin to non-consensual jailhouse sodomy (i.e. ass rape).

Aside from obvious disparities in global currency and real estate values, the inflation in high-traffic tourist areas is senseless. The average minimum cost of a dorm bed in Prague in July is 15 Euros (21 USD) per night; 23 Euros in Rome; 26 Euros in Barcelona; 22 Pounds (36 USD) in London; 30 Euros (43 USD) in Paris;  and a whopping 35 Euros (49 USD) in Amsterdam. Go to the same cities in, say, November and the price is 30 to 40 percent cheaper. That’s the beauty of supply and demand, folks.

Remember: a) this is for a wretched dorm bed, and b) backpackers have no money.

So what makes dormitories so awful? Hygiene is a major issue. Before going on my first backpacking trip, I brought a sleepsack (a bedsheet folded over once and sewn) as it was suggested to me to avoid using hostel bedsheets, which could have bedbugs. Long story short, the sleepsack was excess baggage and I’d overpacked to begin with, so I ditched it early on. Besides, I was too lazy to use or wash it, so I went ahead and used the hostel bedsheets. Bad idea. I got bitten by bedbugs and it was terrible – but that’s for another post altogether.

hostel-dorm2Regardless of the hundreds of online reviews you read about competing hostels, they are all dirty. It’s not the hostel’s fault. Consider their clientele. A typical backpacker’s day consists of sightseeing and heavy drinking, both of which involve perpetual movement and perspiration. Piles of unwashed and reworn clothes, especially socks and underwear, contribute to the dormitory’s signature potpourri. At capacity, there can be 8 to 16 people in a room (on 4 to 8 bunk beds), depending on its size. The room smells of other people’s feet, breath and sweat. It’s disgusting. Every morning, a sour, humid stench hangs over the place as sunlight begins to cook it through the windows.

The mattresses are uncomfortable and sometimes squeaky. The really bad ones have uneven springs that dig into your back. So, it’s hard enough to fall asleep, and then there’s the element of noise. Whispering, giggling, snoring and, God forbid, fornicating. Like bedbugs, dorm sex requires its own post. There are also the drunks that stumble in, yelling belligerently, turning on all the lights and crashing violently into their bunk… which is incidentally right beneath yours.

Because other backpackers are generally untrustworthy, there are often large lockers in the corners of the dormitory, consuming whatever residual space that would have allowed for orderly room navigation. Lockers must be large enough to fit a 90-liter pack. Thus, occupants bump into and step over each other attempting to get from one end of the room to the other. Doing so in pitch darkness, while drunk, is no easy task.

Sleeping in close proximity to foreign strangers is creepy. Movies like Hostel or Taken are not particularly inspiring cinema to watch prior to going on a cross-Europe dormitory tour. You never know what kind of nutjobs are sleeping in there – above you, under you, or beside you. Some of them are Aussies, others are Israeli – both are crazy. Sweet dreams, everybody.

Share Button

11. Sightseeing

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Backpacking and sightseeing are supposed to go hand in hand, but they don’t. Lugging a heavy pack all over a foreign metropolis is great fun. Doing so with an implosive hangover is even better. The Lonely Planet is mostly to blame since it conveniently lists off, under “Sights” of course, the must-see attractions of every place on earth. And because the LP is the infallible gospel of backpackers, failure to cover a respectable majority of listed sights is greeted with clicking tongues, shaking heads (i.e. judgement) and lifelong guilt. “You went to ____, and didn’t see ____?! (tongue clicking).”

sightseeing3

Cue "The Imperial March," from Star Wars.

We’ve all checked off our share of sights, beenou. Seriously, that’s what it feels like: a checklist. Big Ben? Check. Machu Picchu? Check. Taj Mahal? Check. The LP and our adherence to it have reduced an awe-inspiring list of ancient and modern wonders to an everyday grocery list.

If I see one more museum, gallery, cathedral or temple, I might just go insane. I went to the Louvre and actually liked two paintings and one statue. The statue had no head, by the way. That was out of 7,000 works I made a point to see because it was a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” It took the whole day and I only saw a third of the place. I also bought a $20 sandwich for lunch that day. Awesome deal. I went to the Vatican at 8 a.m. to beat the line-up and when I arrived, it was already snaking around two blocks. It, too, took the whole day. Is it even worth it?

Sometimes, the sights are so spectacular they’re worth it. You’re glad you saw them. That photo of you pushing over the Leaning Tower of Pisa with your index finger is indeed a priceless memento. Very funny and wildly original. But most of the time you’re left thinking, “That was IT?”

sightseeing2The crowds often ruin the experience. Massive throngs of Japanese tourists, although cute (the Tilley hats get me every time), are not people I care to hang out around. Their tour guides are inches away from committing suicide. People are jockeying for position to get the best photo and you’re avoiding collisions more than you’re actually enjoying the sights, exhibits or landscapes around you. Even when you say excuse me, they either don’t understand you or can’t hear a thing ‘cuz they’re knee deep into an audio guide. Besides, Asians (especially old ones) have no concept of personal space.

Some backpackers genuinely enjoy sightseeing. They will bypass boozing nearly every night so they can get up at dawn and see EVERYTHING. Most of these backpackers are women. The sightseeing female backpackers make up one of the two types of lady road warriors – more on that later (see 3. Where are the Hot Girls?).

The rest of us are too busy struggling with our packs or nursing hangovers to care about sightseeing. Or we’re male. Men (especially straight men) are lazy and wonderfully apathetic travelers. Which is why we have so much fun and don’t remember much of our trip. Oktoberfest? Check.

Share Button

8. The Lonely Planet

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

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.

Share Button