LONELY PLANET EVOLUTION
Book ReviewsThe Travel Book, Bluelists and Badlands
By Elise Faike
The Travel Book, A Journey Through Every Country In The World / First Edition / October 2004 / Hardback US$50 / Paperback September 2005 $US30
Lonely Planet Bluelist. The Best in Travel 2008 / 3rd Edition / November 2007 / $US 22.99 + Free Bluelist 2007 (while supplies last)
Tony Wheeler’s Badlands, A Tourist on the Axis of Evil / First Edition / April 2007 / $US14.99
Tony and Maureen Wheeler have been publishing excellent travel guide books ever since 1972 when they wrote Across Asia on the Cheap at their kitchen table in Western Australia and co-founded Lonely Planet (LP). By now, after 35 years, they and their intrepid travel authors have covered most of the globe, thus enabling them to look at the earth more comprehensively, as a whole (like geophysicists!) and allowing several newer categories of LP literature to evolve.
This could only have been possible given enough time, and perhaps only Lonely Planet could do it.
Now we have The Travel Book and the Bluelists written by many authors, and Tony Wheeler’s Badlands, a Tourist on the Axis of Evil, written solely by Tony himself. Here’s a look at these books.
The Travel Book
The Travel Book, A Journey Through Every Country In The World, is a very comprehensive and informative, encyclopedic and fun reference book. Subjectively written by LP’s cadre of passionate travel writers, this large format book sets out tantalizing, impressionistic glimpses that focus on the feeling and spirit of each place.
All 230 “countries” on the planet are listed in alphabetical order, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe and everywhere in between. An additional section called Other Places of Interest is included at the end.
Along with each country’s vital statistics there are concise introductory comments that seem to capture its essence well. Notes on Best Time to Visit, Essential Experiences, Getting Under the Skin (what to read, listen to, watch, eat and drink), In a Word (Brrrr! for Greenland!), Trademarks, Surprises, a quote from the appropriate LP guide book, and a skeletal map are also given. The photos are great.
Trademarks and Surprises are possibly the best sections.
Trademarks includes things you may have heard of: Poland: “Lech Walesa and striking shipbuilders; Pope John II ...”; Guatemala: “Old Mayan gods and ruins; ... cheerfully painted buses; colorful markets; the Quetzal; brooding volcanoes; ... cornfields; brilliantly colored textiles”; or India: “Cows in streets; snake charmers; ... Bollywood”. They ring true.
Randomly open The Travel Book anywhere and you’ll find Surprises like “The International Dateline makes Samoa the last place on earth to see the sun set and means many travelers arrive the day before they left”; “A fifth of Israel’s landmass is national parks – there are 300 of them”; “Guinea – Bissau is the world’s sixth-largest producer of cashew nuts”; and “French Guiana’s rain forest is 90% intact.”
This Big Book is a good one. Whether you just want to revisit a favorite place, already have your next destination figured out or are still searching for one, you’ll definitely enjoy perusing and reading The Travel Book.
Bluelist. 2007 / 2008
Bluelist (blu list) v. To recommend a travel experience.
Lonely Planet Bluelist books are like Wikipedia on travel in hard copy and they need to be collected! Taken together they give you, the reader, a wide, overall, fun world view, presenting good, sometimes dark, but always hot-and-happening-right-now travel ideas that makes them very useful for travel planning.
Beginning with the first edition in 2006 Lonely Planet writers presented their own thoughts and those of thousands of contributors to an online survey (named Traveler’s Pulse started in 2003) to profile every country. Then they opened the LP website again to invite everyone to comment on and submit their own Bluelists. The result is evolution in action: a passionate, continuous conversation and a collaborative project about travel.
For example, 33,000 people from 170 countries voted for the most popular countries for 2007’s Top 11 (11?) Favorite Country list!
While some sections are updated with all new content, Bluelist 2008 differs from 2007. (I don’t have a copy of 2006.) There are still a calendar of the year’s best events called the Travel Planner, Go Lists, and of course the Bluelists themselves remain. Replacing 2007’s Top 11 Hot Picks, Dark Tourism and World Profile (Snapshots of every “country” in the world, arranged by continent) are other sections that cover different subjects. We now have Travel Islam, Bluelist Moments (photographs) and Endangered Wildlife special theme sections.
Travel Islam takes a look at about 1/3 of the world’s countries, going into depth on various subjects—Top 10 Islam, Sport, Art, Religion & Culture—and making positive inroads into helping westerners understand one of the world’s most traveled cultures. “The Islamic world covers some of the greatest treasures of the natural world as well as some of the finest gems of civilization.” That’s intriguing enough!
Endangered Wildlife is a January to December list of when and where to see some of the world’s most endangered animals in the wild. We should be in the Bale Mountains in Africa right now (November) looking for Ethiopian Wolves and making arrangements for travel to Royal Manas National Park, Bhutan, in April!
The Go Lists make you want to pack up and GO! They profile countries, regions and cities, like Antarctica, Jordan, Madagascar (2007), and Bhutan, Yemen and Miami, USA (2008). They offer vital statistics (Mozambique: Number of Elephants in Niassa Reserve: about 12,000; Yemen Cost Index: Machine Gun YR60,000 / US$300; Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada: Glass of Beer, C$4.00 / US$4.00), and among other categories recommend Defining Experiences, Festivals & Events, Life-changing Experiences, Random Facts (the world’s largest caribou herd, 750,000 beasts, migrates across Labrador annually) and Most Bizarre Sight (Giant coconut-eating crabs on Rolas Island in the Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique).
And any of the Bluelists are just plain fun! Each has about 10 suggestions to inspire and possibly nudge you over the edge if you’re waffling on whether to go. 2007’s Best Adventure Travel Ideas reminds us to mountain bike, hike and kayak; Extraordinary Markets lists some of the best shopping experiences on the planet. 2008 includes Coldest/Hottest, Almost Mythical and Volcano!, all of which are hot! While all of these Bluelists are interesting and informative, bottom line: Don’t forget to make your own Bluelists!
Tony Wheeler's Badlands, A Tourist on the Axis of Evil is a good book, very informative and educational, written by a single author with a world view. Tony is a good writer who tells it like it is in fast-paced, easy to grasp language that’s also very descriptive.
While throughout the book he mentions and compares points from any appropriate place on the globe, he goes into depth about nine different countries, including Afghanistan and Iraq, that most of us would prefer to avoid traveling to, and he quickly and accurately summarizes their bad boy histories. At the end Tony scores the Bad Lands with his patented “Evil Meter”, by which he rates the nine countries according to their badness, and then lists other countries that could have qualified as Badlands if the list were extended.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants a quick update on world politics. It explains a lot. It could only have been written by someone like Tony who has a vast world perspective because of his wide travels all over this Lonely Planet.