Lonely Planet Guide Soul Devourer

Lonely Planet Soul Devourer
Lonely Planet Soul Devourer

Lonely Planet Guide Soul Devourer
– Pros and Cons

The Lonely Planet guide-books are your primary travel safety net.  That safety net is also a devil that devours travel souls.  The Lonely Plant is the most powerful source in the world for completely sucking and absorbing real life out of anything it features, be it a village, a hostel, a restaurant…or by directing travelers to an ex-pat owned bar in town.

But, Lonely Planet (or a similar guide from one of its competitors, but let’s face it, they are all Lonely Planet) is necessary for your travels.  You need the guide.  We all need the guide.  10.5 years and 90 countries later, I still buy a Lonely Planet for the areas in which I am travelling.  No, not for the hotels.  Certainly not for their entertainment listings.  Rather…I buy one for the maps, for bus and train times, for border crossing information, for the park entrance hours….  The travel guides are unbeatable in providing such knowledge.

You can sometimes find that same information on the internet,
but can you find internet where you are?

With a Lonely Planet guide, it is always right there, just a skanky, culture robbing book away.  But it gives me the urge to vomit when I see someone walking down the street with their face buried in a guide, looking for that top rated hostel in the book where they will diligently check in and then head to the top rated best-value restaurant.  Good job traveler.  Way to get out of your own country to see the over-groomed gringo trail and follow the Lonely Planet treasure map to foreigner-exclusive utopias in strange lands.  Please, enjoy your hamburgers and pizzas in Tanzania.  Culture Schmulture!

The guide books are great because they will get you to an area of a city where you will find accommodation.  And they will give you simplified visa information that you can not readily find on any other website.  The books are too easy to rely on.  As a result, they also rob you of independence and travel creativity.  Why think when someone else has thought for you.

We all catch ourselves following along.
Life hacks…

I recently became aware of the Lonely Planet effect on a six-month loop through eastern and southern Africa when I realized how much guidebooks influence everything.  In Kampala, Uganda, I was trying to figure out how to get to the city of Entebbe, and in careless frustration at a tout trying to cheat me, I left my ‘Africa’ Lonely Planet on the sidewalk when I walked away.  To no surprise, it was not on the sidewalk three minutes later when I came back after I realized my error.  I was panic stricken that I had just lost so much valuable information that would be impossible to find again in any bookstore for a minimum of five countries, not to mention the $40 value of the book that I had just forfeited.

So, I had to make do without a guidebook.  I downloaded Triposo onto my phone, but countries like Zimbabwe are barely listed on the app.

I felt like a trailblazer again, completely
relying on locals for information.

I was no longer burdened with a 900+ page heavy hunk of lumber ‘Africa’ Lonely Planet in my backpack.  However, this also caused me to miss Malawi on my venture south because of misinformation I had scanned through on the internet that the visa to enter the country was $65 as I was beginning to tire of hefty visa fees.  I later found out that the visa for my own passport to enter Malawi was free.  It was accurate information I learned from a friend’s Lonely Planet guide after Malawi was far in my rear-view mirror.

It was my own sloppiness to blame, but I lost out on an entire country because I did not double check other research outlets.

Lonely Planet would have given me that information in about 25 seconds.  In redemption of life typically balancing itself out, a few days later in Zambia I ended up in a riverside village called Siavonga which had been recommended by locals.  I ended up having the time of my life in Siavonga.  Checking back in the Lonely Planet guide long after, the prices listings for lodging in the village had been so book-inflated that I would have never visited had I sourced Lonely Planet information first.

Use those books for their information,
but please do not travel by them.

Cut your own path.  Make your own adventure.  But, check the book to see where you are and what time the gates will close.  Those are things you are going to need to know.

I liken Lonely Planet guides to that girlfriend you have outgrown, and you now think on a far different level than when you met, but you have a really hard time separating from her because she makes perfect sandwiches.  Never will you be able to replace the perfection of those sandwiches, and that is what keeps you hanging on even though you have almost nothing in common anymore…  But please, try the bibibbap, the pad Thai, the jambalaya and the arepas.

Limit your Lonely Planet use.
Maintain your independent soul.

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13 Responses

  1. Doug says:

    We aren’t quite as adventurous as you. (One of the side effects of getting older).
    But I have rarely relied on travel books and not at all anymore. We just go somewhere then ask locals what should we see or do. We do use TripAdvisor for some advance planning. It was kind of helpful getting us to the Giza pyramids. But things happened along the way that TripAdvisor didn’t prepare us for so we had to wing it. And it worked out well.

  2. Katrina says:

    Oh whatever did we do before Lonely Planet?! I have a similar relationship with Trip Advisor – I usually find the top rated places are actually pretty crap. I also always feel wary about using a guide as it makes it obvious that you’re a tourist and people may try to take advantage.

  3. Rosemary says:

    Great article and I completely agree. We cannot have our travels shaped by Lonely Planet. For that exact reason. I just published a foodie travel guide that goes beyond the dishes recommended by Lonely Planet. The first guide is called Authentic Food Quest Argentina, which is available on Amazon http://amzn.to/2aajlsT The goal is to create more to broaden perspectives about food on travel. Well said!

  4. One day I hope to have the opportunity to explore the world. I’ve never heard of the Lonely Planet Guide, but it definitely sounds like a must have for any serious traveler. We often forget that printed guides are more beneficial that the good ol’ internet!

  5. Traveling is definitely something that I’d like to do more of! Just as soon as it’s convenient I’ll be grabbing books and the internet for where to go and what to do!

  6. I fondly remember the days when I traveled Europe, with my fanny belt, backpack, and Lonely Planet guide in hand!! As much as I miss those days, traveling is SO much easier and safer now. I much prefer getting to know the locals as opposed to shoving my face in a book!

  7. Mimi Green says:

    There is no way I would travel and only rely on the internet. That is a recipe for disaster for sure. I think investing in a travel guide is exactly what I would do.

  8. Jaynie says:

    I see you have a love-hate relationship with Lonely Planet! Ha-ha I think you made some good points, although I have relied on the internet for my travels and not guide books, I have often realized after returning home that I missed out on some interesting things. Something to think about in the future.

    • harrishog1 says:

      Thanks for writing Jaynie. I would say it is more hate than love, but it seems to be a necessity of life on the road for my style of drifting through. Good for you for not even using a book! Do not worry about those things you have missed. You have probably already seen much more by missing! 🙂

  9. Hridya says:

    I like to ask around and in the process indulge in a dialogue with the local. My husband likes to talk but won’t ask for directions or suggestions, he relies on the Internet. I like my way and several times only that helped. Am happy.

  10. Divya says:

    You know I agree with you and this is something I’ve talked about too. On my trip to Colombia, I felt it was a good decision to invest in a travel guide (I had used Moon Guides though). And it proved to be very useful.
    But I soon realized I was following a trail left by so many people behind me – didn’t feel like an explorer. And you always want to feel like something of an explorer in new and exotic lands!

    • harrishog1 says:

      That is it Divya! The guides tell you how to follow a trail. Well said!

      But, they are necessary for fundamentals. Just as long as a person uses their own brain!
      Thanks for reading Divya!

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