Tag: Guidebooks

Go! Girl Guides and the First-Annual Women’s Travel Fest

Kelly Lewis didn’t expect tampons to be so hard to find in Argentina, and she didn’t realize bra-shopping might be a challenge in Thailand. But then again, an average guidebook wouldn’t tell her that. So in 2011, she did what any hard-working, adventure-loving girl would do: She wrote one that did. In fact, she wound up launching an entire series, Go! Girl Guides.

The mission was simple: to write guidebooks that would answer the question, “What would I want to tell a girlfriend going to the same place?” The company has produced books on Thailand, Mexico, Argentina and London, and guides to Costa Rica and New York City are forthcoming. (Full disclosure: I was the lucky one who got to chill with sloths and explore the jungle for the Costa Rica book.)

But books, it seems, were just the beginning. On Saturday, March 8, Go! Girl Guides is running the first annual Women’s Travel Fest in New York City. Lewis and Fest co-founders Masha Vapnitchnaia and Mickela Mallozzi are hosting a sold-out daylong event dedicated to inspiring women to travel. Speakers include TV host Samantha Brown and writer Christine Maxfield.

“We’ll discuss everything from traveling solo in the Middle East and raising children abroad, to helping women feel excited to take on the world and reaffirm that there’s nothing they can’t do,” Lewis says.

While Saturday’s event is sold out, tickets are still available for a related workshop, “How to Work Digitally & Travel The World,” on Sunday, March 9.

Uruguay is a Land of Contrasts

As Brian Kevin observes, visitors can expect to see flashy import sedans right alongside donkey-drawn rickshaws. !Muy contrastado!

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A Jim Crow Road Trip

Over at The Root, Nsenga K. Burton looks back at “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” a segregation-era guidebook for black travelers in America. It was first published in 1936, and, writes Burton, it “listed businesses and places of interest such as nightclubs, beauty salons, barbershops, gas stations and garages that catered to black road-trippers. For almost three decades, travelers could request (for just 10 cents’ postage) and receive a guide from Green.”

Burton tried to track down some of the places listed in the guide and found some still going strong. Lovers of guidebook nostalgia (we’re looking at you, Doug Mack) should check out the full story.

What Do Guidebooks Say About America?

The Atlantic’s Max Fisher dug through several USA guidebooks to get a sense of what they’re telling the world. The results? He found a heavy emphasis on politics, food and dining customs, and punctuality, punctuality, punctuality.

I especially liked his observations about the complications of U.S. utensil etiquette:

You might say that global food cultures tend to fall into one of two categories: utensil cultures and finger cultures. The U.S., somewhat unusually, has both: the appropriate delivery method can vary between cuisines, and even between dishes, and it’s far from obvious which is which. Baked chicken is a fork food, but fried chicken a finger food, depending on how it’s fried. If you get fried pieces of potato, it’s a finger food, unless the potato retains some circular shape, in which case use your fork. And so on. Confused yet?

Fisher also notes that the books illustrate the expectations and habits of many outsiders as clearly as they do Americans:

In many ways, the tour books say as much about the world as they do about the U.S., by highlighting the ways in which American practices and standards deviate. Anyone who’s traveled widely, particularly in the developing world, will understand why these books are so emphatic about, for example, punctuality, personal space, and the unreliability of our trains.

Indeed. (Via Frank Bures)

Old Guidebook, New Life

In an excerpt from "Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day," Doug Mack envisions a new future for himself in a vintage guidebook

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Travel Story Hall of Fame: ‘The Lonely Planet Guide to My Apartment’

Today we introduce the Travel Story Hall of Fame, an occasional series in which we honor the best in travel writing new and old.

Title: The Lonely Planet Guide to My Apartment

Author: Jonathan Stern

Publication: The New Yorker

Date: April 24, 2006

Nomination Speech: I first read Jonathan Stern’s Shouts and Murmurs piece in “The Best American Travel Writing 2007,” but its tone, its language and sub-heads were all weirdly familiar, as though I’d read the story before. That eerie sense of recognition is a sure sign of a well-executed satire.

Meet the strange land of My Apartment, whose “vast expanse of unfurnished space can be daunting at first, and its population of one difficult to communicate with.” Under “Places to Eat,” Stern notes that “tourists often flock to the salvaged wooden telephone-cable spool in front of the TV as a convenient dining spot. More adventurous eaters might try standing over the sink, as the locals do. If you’re willing to venture off the beaten track, there’s balancing your plate on the arm of the couch or using the toilet lid as a makeshift table.”

Years later, “The Lonely Planet Guide to My Apartment” remains one of the funniest pieces of travel writing I’ve ever read.



My Apartment’s vast expanse of unfurnished space can be daunting at first, and its population of one difficult to communicate with. After going through customs, you’ll see a large area with a couch to the left. Much of My Apartment’s “television viewing” occurs here, as does the very occasional making out with a girl (see “Festivals”). To the north is the food district, with its colorful cereal boxes and antojitos, or “little whims.”

Read the rest here.

‘I Was Writing a Guidebook to a Country That No Longer Exists’

Kate Grace Thomas updated the Lonely Planet guidebook to Libya just before the Arab Spring. As the country turned violent, the book was quickly put on hold. Yet Thomas found herself itching to return to Libya. She writes about her experiences in Guernica:

War is not my beat. I knew that. But Libya, somehow, was. I went in December to tell its stories—stories of nascent tourism and marvelous ruins, stories of deserted beaches and drinking sugary tea in the winter wind. And now, there were more stories to tell.

(Via @writinginpublic)

‘Europe’s First Travel Guide’ Missing From Santiago de Compostela Cathedral

The Codex Calixtinus was reported missing Wednesday by distraught staff at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. The 12th century illustrated manuscript was “compiled as a guidebook for medieval pilgrims following the Way of Saint James,” according to the BBC.

This is the oldest copy of the manuscript and is unsaleable on the open market.

Only a handful of people had access to the room in which it was kept.

This edition of the Codex Calixtinus is thought to date from around 1150.

Its purpose was largely practical—to collect advice of use to pilgrims heading to the shrine there. It also included sermons and homilies to St James.

The Guardian adds:

The local Correo Gallego newspaper reported that distraught cathedral staff spent hours searching for the manuscript before contacting police late that night.

“Although security systems have been improved considerably it is true to say that they are not of the kind one might find in a bank or a well-protected jewellers,” the newspaper reported.

Only five security cameras were used to watch the archive area, according to the newspaper, and none were pointing directly at the safe where the priceless manuscript was stored.

Frommer’s Europe: From $5 a Day to $95 a Day

Doug Mack crunches the numbers on the evolution of Arthur Frommer’s classic guidebook, “Europe on $5 a Day,” from the 1957 original to its final, 2007 incarnation: “Europe on $95 a Day.” The result is an interesting little snapshot of the ways travel prices have changed over the years. By 1996, for instance, the guidebook was titled “Europe on $45 a Day”—but the inflation-adjusted value of $5 was just $27.92.

He also explored what you can still see in Paris on $5 a day in a World Hum audio slideshow awhile back. The answer? Not much, though confusion and surprises are still free.

Twitter, Travel Apps and the Fate of the Guidebook

In The Guardian, Benji Lanyado outlines his transition over the last few years from traditional guidebook user to travel blog junkie and, finally, to Twitter-traveler. Here’s his take on the next phase—the rise of travel apps like Foursquare:

What once required hours of rifling through guidebooks, or Googling into the provincial nooks of the internet, is now attainable in an instant. And increasingly we don’t need to find the information. It can find us.

Having convinced the online public to reveal who they are (through social networking sites such as Facebook) and what they are doing (via Twitter), the web’s latest question is significantly more zoomed in: where are you? Location-specific information is what we want, especially when we are travelling.

Lanyado notes that roaming fees remain a serious obstacle to widespread app use. There’s also a (mostly) thoughtful and civilized follow-up discussion in the comments.

More Thoughts About the Future of Guidebooks

The latest analysis comes from Financial Times travel editor Tom Robbins. A positive note:

Sales figures may be dire, the challenges mounting, but this summer there’s a buzz in the world of travel publishing, a sense of being on the verge of a totally new era. The internet allowed people to research their trips themselves before setting out, but smartphone apps and iPads travel with them. Suddenly the guidebook publishers, who for years seemed to be looking on from the sidelines, unsure of how to make websites work for them, have found themselves with a medium that makes sense.

‘35 Handkerchiefs, 10 Shirts, 10 Ties…’

World Hum contributor Doug Mack looks back at the packing list suggested by early guidebook author Temple Fielding. “Fielding’s Travel Guide to Europe” first came out in 1946—when, apparently, a “lounging robe” and a set of sealskin slippers were essential travel accessories.

Interview with Jeremy Weate: Off the Map in Nigeria

Frank Bures talks to the guidebook author about the challenges and rewards of travel in Nigeria

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The Magic of an Ancient Guidebook

NPR commentator Andrei Codrescu is the latest to discover the delights of traveling—whether virtually or in reality—with a decades- or centuries-old guide. His inspiration? Sabine Baring-Gould’s “Castles and Cave Dwellings of Europe,” published in 1911. From the story:

The cave habitats of Europe opened to his erudition and lust are mostly lost now, many devastations later, but they made me hungry and gave me an idea. Why not retro travel?

Is This the ‘Twilight of the Travel Guidebook’?

With his second edition looming, guidebook author David Page ponders the future of the genre:

As a traveler who prefers to ferret things out on his own, to skip the well-paved interpretive loop and instead wander off-trail in search of the overlooked and overgrown, I can’t say I’ll much lament the passing of the genre (assuming, that is, that the rumors of its demise have not been greatly exaggerated). Give me a half-decent map, a good 19th-century explorer’s narrative, a gallon of water and maybe a headlamp for good measure, and I’ll set off across the landscape giddy into the unknown. When I get that hankering for a decent Philly cheese steak or a sixer of empanadas de pino, I’ll risk altercation and embarrassment and ask a local—long before I try to hack my way to something useful through the thickets of TripAdvisor or Yelp.

As the author of an old-fashioned printed-and-bound guidebook, though, I worry. I wonder if it may finally be time to decamp. Or (gulp) to reinvent.

New Travel Book: ‘China: Museums’

This illustrated guide to China’s many lesser-known museums is due out in April. The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos has a thoughtful Q&A with co-author Miriam Clifford, on her favorite spots and the way China presents itself, to visitors and to its own citizens.

Interview with Susan Van Allen: ‘100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go’

Interview with Susan Van Allen: ‘100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go’ Photo courtesy of Susan Van Allen

Eva Holland asks the author why female travelers (and travel writers) are so drawn to Italy

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Finding the Zagat of the Napoleonic Era

World Hum contributor Tony Perrottet has a great read in this week’s New York Times Travel section—he heads to Paris on the trail of Alexandre-Balthazar-Laurent Grimod de la Reynière, a legendary gourmand who financed his immersion in early 19th-century Parisian dining by writing a series of proto-guidebooks, the “Almanachs des Gourmands.” It’s exactly the kind of historical tidbit I love stumbling across, though it’s not recommended for readers on an empty stomach.

Is an Electronic Guidebook Packing Too Light in 2010?

On Kindles, guidebooks, and whether the two are ready to be mixed

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Travel Writer as Curator

On the state of newspapers and the role of tour guides and guidebook writers

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