Sunday, July 29, 2007

Unlikely Destinations...

I have used many Lonely Planet guides to places all over the world. While they are not appropriate for all travellers, they're pretty amazing for anyone going somewhere new. What I didn't know was that the people who started the company in the early '70s, Tony and Maureen Wheeler, were pretty amazing too. I heard Tony on the "Not my job" section of NPR's "Wait, wait, don't tell me" show and in addition to playing the game, they discussed his books about the company, including the one I just finished called Unlikely Destinations: The Lonely Planet Story. He also wrote one called BadLands but that was about scary countries I have no interest in visiting. Rather, Unlikely Destinations was about their story of traveling overland from Europe to Australia for a year in the '70s and how it led to travel guides for people on a budget - I think Asia on the Cheap was their first book. Their memoir tracks the growth of the both the business based in Australia and their family, a son and daughter. The book has photos and talks about some of the trips they took that led to books, and the enormous boom in their business with backpackers travelling to all kinds of places. I didn't know they actually drew their own maps to cities they travel to - rather than just taking a government issued map and sticking it in their book. It makes sure they are as accurate as needed and actually describe the locations of the places they discuss. There are all kinds of tidbits throughtout the book that if you've spent much time travelling will reasonate - such as the importance of carrying your own toilet paper in Africa, or that eating in restaurants with lots of people usually means good food. I highly recommend this book - it's actually pretty difficult to put down.

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