Amidst the remarkable clutter of my bachelor pad is a bookshelf.
Right in the center, at eye level, are the books that I like to show off to my friends. There are no copies of “A Road Less Traveled”, instead, smack dab in the middle (where everybody can see them) is my Lonely Planet collection.
Lonely Planet: the Road Too Often Traveled
The problem with these books is a minor one: other people have heard of them. They are too damn popular. I use them anyway.
Book publishers are in the business to sell books.
Bookstore buyers want to buy books for their store that customers will buy. In travel, (for people like us anyway) the answer is usually Lonely Planet. A distant second are the very wonderful Rough Guides. Of course, there are Frommers and Michelin and Footprint and Moon as well. They are all good. Buy what you want. I’m not here to slag any travel books. Heavens no.
I am here to make a confession.
My guilty pleasure is the “Let’s Go!” series. These books seem to be rarely used than the LP ones, or at least I don’t see them much out on the road. I like the writing style; I like how they often offer other choices.
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I like the bright orange color cover.
I have used them now and then and have never been disappointed.
One year I took along both the Lonely Planet guide to Turkey and the Let’s Go! Guide to Turkey. Too much book weight, but it was worth it. It was as if these two books were written about entirely different countries. The hostel and café choices were different. It was as if a new set of eyes had seen the country and done the writing.
Much of the information of any newly published guidebook is already out of date by the time it hits the bookseller anyway. In many cases it is already two years old by the time you get it. A lot can change in two years, a lot of stuff can change even between 9 to 5. The most important information is the stuff that doesn’t change much, except the stuff you need; little things like schedules and such. Think of it as an adventure.
Forget about the hostel and café suggestions in any guidebook.
By the time that the guesthouse owners have caught wind that they are mentioned, they turn unbelievably snotty and have also raised the room prices. Most likely, the cook at that “wonderful” café has run off by then and has been replaced by someone whose cultural background does not include omelets.
Like you, I seek out tips from other travelers. I also scout around with my nose and a hunch.
(That’s me: the stooped-over guy with the big schnozzle) In order to find good food I look for parked cars in front, an excess of newpaper racks near the front door. I avoid places that advertise “Full English Breakfast” (unless I am in England) and I eschew any place that has a white tablecloth.
Guesthouse are often “in bed” (figuratively anyway) with other guesthouses. They want to send you to their buddy when you get to your next destination. That works out more often than not. Such places are not always in the book, but they are often not over crowded.
There is no shortage of places to try out, especially this year.
“The Book” covers only a fraction of them. Go elsewhere.
Seek out the ‘guesthouse less traveled’, and don’t be a sheep.