Sunday, July 05, 2009

Guide Books Travel Wiriting

I guess that most of us at one point or another has used some sort of a guidebook and/or map of a location. For travelling abroad or to a neighboring town, for finding our way around a city, a museum, a theme park. There are many guidebooks on the (English-speaking) market, and I am familiar with many of them: Rough Guides, Lonely Planet, Frommers, Blue Guides, Time Out, DK and more. In our day and age, sites like Tripadvisor and Holiday Watchdog are popular, and can be used as a more or less real time guidebook, provided your are online as you go - which is unlikely if you are hiking in the Amazonas, but not that unlikely if you are, say, in New York. E-zines and blogs about travelling (pro as well as amateur) are also very popular. Vagabondish is just one example. There are plenty more.

So, what I am trying to say is, that the travel- and guidebook industries are somthing that we have all touched upon, one way or the other. Even in the current economic climate, people are still travelling. They may not spend as much on their vacations and trips as they did in 2007, but they are still travelling. And some of them will buy guidebooks.

Last year there was a "scandal" involving the whole Lonely Planet-industry. One of their writers, a Thomas Krohnstamm, admitted that he had not actually visited Colombia, which he was writing a guidebook about, but had done all his writing from a hotel-room in San Francisco, getting info from a Colombian girl he dated at the time. Naturally, this had an impact on all Lonely Planet guides (and guidebook-writers and other guidebook-series as well), but obviously not all of their books are "fake", and it seems like while Krohnstamm was probably not the only rotten apple in the basket, Lonely Planet guidebooks are still going strong.

They've been my preferred English guidebook for a long time, but I have always had a love/hate relationship with them. First of all, they are written mainly for an English-speaking audience, and not a Danish audience. Danish guidebooks does not dwell so much on whether a city is "safe" or not - LP has a whole entry in each of their guidebooks called "Dangers and Annoyances" - Danes on the other hand want to know where they can smoke or whether a place sell decent beer or not. Not that Danes are taking more stupid risks abroad than other nationalities, they just care more about the other things. For many Danes, despite initially being made for the travellers wanting to thread the not-so-beaten-paths, Lonely Planet has too much of an overtone of "not being written for them". This is very generally speaking and also written somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but I hope you know what I mean. But on the other hand, LP has far more info than the average Danish guidebook. I have a little collection of LP guidebooks, and I love to just browse through them for inspiration and day-dreamning.

Aside from the fact that many Danes prefer to read in Danish, we also have our own guidebook-series, written in Danish by Danish authors. The series is called "The Trip Goes To" and has existed since the 1950'es. This series is why other guide-series, like LP, doesn't sell as well in Denmark as they do in other parts of the world.

I am right now in the United Arab Emirates doing some research. Not for a guidebook though (I wish). And I brought the LP Arabian Peninsula with me :-) So far it has not let me down, I only wish it had more info!

Do you own guidebooks? Or do you prefer the related genre travel-memoirs? Or do you prefer not to travel at all, or, if you travel, not to bring any kind of guidebook with you? Maybe you go to the same place every year and doesn't need a guidebook?

Oh - and where would you go if money and time was no objection? And don't say around the world ;o)


Unknown said...

I did a lot of travelling before I had children and always took a Rough Guide or Lonely Planet with me. I quickly realised that most sections in the book need to be ignored though, as any restuarant/hotel etc mentioned in the book will be packed with other people carrying the book and therefore much more expensive than the equally good, probably better restaurant hotel round the corner which wasn't lucky enough to be mentioned.

The guides are really useful for the maps and information about attractions and the history of the area, but I'm very cautious about going to places recommended by them.

If I was to start travelling again then I'd love to go to New Zealand.

I hope you are having a good time in the UEA!

Rebecca Reid said...

I used to depend on guidebooks and take one with me, but now I just rely on the internet. My husband will always have his computer with him! I like to read reviews of those people and I trust them more than I do a guidebook.

Since I'm stuck in the USA, I'd love to go to Europe, particularly the Lake District in England and Provance in France. I've also heard great things about the Fjords in Scandinavia. Since my heritage is Swedish and Norwegian (three generations back at least), I'd like to go there some day too.

I loved New Zealand, farmlanebooks! So beautiful.

Louise said...

Thanks for your comments. Its great here in UAE :-) I will get back to your blogs when I am back home (July 12). My comp is slow down here :-)

Beth F said...

I use the AAA (American Automobile Association) and whatever guide book or website looks interesting. I don't have any favorites.

I'd be back in Denmark in a flash if I had the money. I love Belgium and the Netherlands too. Oh, Norway & Sweden (I haven't been to either). Scotland..

My next trip is going to be Scotland and Denmark -- probably northwestern Denmark. The trip planning is in its infancy. You'll be among the first to know when I come back to your lovely country.

Heidenkind said...

I like the Moon travel guides for places in the US. Frommers and DK are also pretty good. I've never been a big fan of Lonely Planet. I know they're popular, but for me the info in them is not easy to sort through.

It really depends on where you're going what's the best travel guide to get. Obviously Lonely Planet Columbia is not a good choice. :)