This title caught my eye when I was perusing the travel section at our local Chapters store. It is the story of Thomas Kohnstamm, a fellow travel addict that struggles with trying to settle down to a stable job, while the lure of the open road keeps pulling him back out. He decides that he can’t fight this addiction any longer and makes the transformation to professional travel writer, in order to try and sustain his bohemian lifestyle. Thomas lands a job as a Lonely Planet Guidebook writer in Brazil and takes the reader on the hilarious journey that results in the kind of Guidebook that you read each time you head off to a new destination.
The cover of the book describes it as ‘A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures, Questionable Ethics & Professional Hedonism’. If that doesn’t make you want to read on, what would? If you have ever wondered what it would be like to work for a major travel guidebook company or thought that it would be a dream come true to have a job that required you to travel and research exotic destinations, then you have to read this book. As long as you are not offended by the frequent f-bombs, tales of promiscuity and drunken debauchery, it is a really interesting read. You learn a bit about Brazil while reading about the process of writing a guidebook. I’ve always been curious about what that would really be like. Whenever I travel, I always wish that I would meet a guidebook writer so that I could ask some questions. How much do you get paid? If the restaurants, bars and hotels don’t know you are a writer, how do you get such detailed information? Wouldn’t that tip them off? Do you travel alone all that time? Is this the best job in the world? The author answers all of these questions and more. I would be interested to read a similar tale from a female perspective. I wonder if all travel writers have the same experience?
I’m not giving the ending away by telling you that he claims that the writers don’t really visit all of the sites listed in the book, nor do they really follow the policy that says they cannot accept anything for free. Lonely Planet doesn’t actually claim that they don’t take anything for free, they claim the writers don’t accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage. So…. really they can accept freebies. I don’t really see anything wrong with this, as long as they really are objective. I think it would be better to identify yourself as a LP writer because more doors would open up for you and therefore, more doors are opened for its readers. I would still continue to buy the books, because, even if all the details aren’t exactly right, it gives you a place to start. I read guidebooks just to decide if the place is the destination I’m looking for and what things I want to try to see and do once I’m there. I rarely use the restaurant sections because there are always so many to choose from, that there is no need to go searching out the one that millions of other readers have also been to. Having said that, there will always be a place for a guidebook in my backpack despite the claims of questionable ethics, I’ve always found them to be invaluable.