Lonely Planet’s ultimate travel resource books

At what point did Lonely Planet become National Geographic?

I just got my hands on two recent publications from what was once a small guidebook company specializing in Southeast Asia. The Africa Book and The Asia Book are the latest endeavors into big league publishing from Lonely Planet; and both are loaded with images as spectacular as anything one might find in the pages of National Geographic.

But what makes these books even better than anything National Geographic has ever produced, is that they continue to maintain that same Lonely Planet travel philosophy which has routinely produced some of the very best guidebooks in the world.

The Asia Book and the Africa Book are both patterned in the same manner. For starters, they both have the same subtitle: A journey through every country in the continent. And, they’re not lying.
Each glossy-paged, coffee table book dedicates 2 to 4 pages per country, briefly describing the landscape, history, people, marketplace, natural beauty, cuisine, the urban scene, and a handful of other topics that vary on a regional basis. The best section, however, details the top five to ten “essential experiences” for each country. This would be the best travel highlights, each of which makes me salivate every time I read them.

And then, of course, there are the photos. Just in case the text hasn’t won you over, a series of jaw-dropping photographs are there to complete the job. This, folks, is the one-two-punch to really get that travel bug itching.

Something else I quite enjoyed about this series is the thematic travel routes at the beginning of the books which tie many of these countries together for those interested in much longer travels. The Great Journeys section of the Asia Book, for example, features such grand expeditions as the Overland Trail, Island Hopping around Asia, the Silk Road, the Annapurna Circuit, the Empires of the East, and In the Footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia.

Very cool! If you’ve ever said, “I want to go to Asia/Africa,” but don’t know too much beyond that, you should really consider picking up one of these books. Keep it out on your coffee table like I do and leaf through it occasionally when you have some free time. Before you know it, your Places to Go list will be unmanageably long. And you’ll have Lonely Planet to hate for that.

Before Rough Guides and Lonely Planet

Thanks to everyone who commented on my recent post about how to deal with old guidebooks. I’ve decided to keep only the most recent edition of any particular country. It may sound like a big deal but I’ve actually ending ditching a grand total of two books. Hey, it’s a start.

In moving my office back home I’ve just rediscovered one book which I definitely won’t be ditching. Before Lonely Planet and before Rough Guides, the Commercial Press of Jerusalem was publishing the “Path-Finder Guide to Palestine, Transjordan and Syria”.

The slim volume was produced in 1941 for Australian and New Zealand troops based in Egypt before they moved on to battle in North Africa in World War 2. I picked up my copy at a garage sale in Auckland.

The focus is firmly on the sights, and while there are no reveiws of hotels or restaurants an ad for the “Piccadilly!!! Cafe” offers “Good Food!! Good Drinks!! Dancing!! Orchestra!! Prompt Service!!” – (almost…) everything an ANZAC soldier could want on his R & R.

Apparently there was no shortage of exclamation marks back then.

For such a modest little book, it’s a poignant read as it covers places like the Bekaa Valley and Baalbek, Beirut, Nablus and Damascus – all map references with very different historical resonance almost seventy years after it was first published. in 1941.

Free Travel Book: “How to See the World, On $25 a Day or Less”

In 25 chapters, 100,000 words, and 120 photos, John Gregory, an independent traveler who’s visited 35 countries, has written How to See the World. Not a travel guide to a specific location, How to See the World is a guide on how to travel. Filled with tips, commentary, and practical advice for the adventurous traveler, don’t confuse Gregory’s arid sense of humor with boring-ness. His guide is actually filled with a number of good jokes — and good advice.

I particularly enjoyed Gregory’s thoughts on where and how to crash for free, the toolbag theory, his list of essential items to pack, how to avoid pickpockets — and, of course, how to take a dump without facilities. In short, it’s hard-earned knowledge shared for free. Check it out.