Travel guide books are
losing their influence it
seems, trailing behind…
… in this digital age. Yes, a lot of people have known this for a while but now it seems one of the big guidebook companies LP have been sold to a new owner who, the original owners hope, will bring it back to life. Is The RG, LP`s main competitor, owned by DK / Penguin these days, suffering the same faith? This news came from an article in a certain newspaper and the writer made the valid point (paraphrasing here) that digital may be great but if you drop your digital device in the water, it doesn`t dry out whereas an ordinary old book does. Ahh that brings back memories of my shoestring guide to SE Asia getting waterlogged and growing to twice its thickness during a sudden downpour. It did eventually dry out but I was kind of proud of it having `suffered` like that. I`ve bought a few guidebooks in my time including two pirated copies in S.E Asia (haha take that expensive retail cost!!) but in recent years I have usually borrowed books or copied pages out of books.
Before going to Japan, I consulted a guidebook in the local library but in the end just relied on advice from friends over there or books in the city library. Yes, being a library fan, I joined the local library while I was there : ) Traveling in Japan was/is a pleasure – it`s safe in general and everyone is really so helpful but, like anywhere, women travellers need to be cautious. You can run into the wrong person anywhere. Japan has it`s own big guidebook brand … oh what`s it called. Globetrotter or something. I`ve had a look at it both back then and more recently when I shared a dorm room in a hostel with a Japanese girl and she showed me her copy of it – quite cluttered but it gives the necessary information – food, drink, what to see. Not big on the history or culture (but you can get that anywhere and maybe that`s what the publishers also think). I don`t like the cost of guidebooks but sometimes find them useful enough along with my internet searches and valuable advice from friends and family.
I think the main thing is knowing how to get to a country as cheaply as you can (plenty of cheap flight websites for that), having the right visa (info which you can get on any embassy website), knowing whether a country is actually safe enough to go to or not (again can be found on certain websites), and once you`re there you can work out the rest (though I like to have my first night`s accommodation sorted before I go, I leave the rest as I go along) and go with the flow. Knowing a bit of the lingo (probably easier with a wifi-equipped phone as you just look like you`re messing with your phone) and how not to piss off the locals would be a good thing too (some countries, yes the country not just individuals, unfortunately have it in for women travelers /tourists /women on business but that`s a whole other article).
The world of today is definitely not the same as the world of the 1970s when the original owners of LP first published their guide to traveling around Asia on the cheap so the personality of guidebooks is bound to have changed. In the article I refer to above it is claimed that writers were not allowed, as time went on, to be free and easy in their writing and recommendations and that they had to check out every single place and ask a million questions that they probably had not counted on when they applied for the job. I suppose there was a concern for the safety of travelers if the recommendation led to something dangerous happening but at the end of the day a guide book is only that – a book which guides. A guide can get it wrong so travelers have to take their own responsibility and trust their instincts about a place or person they meet.
I can`t say I ever really `roughed` it anywhere despite the title of my post. I slept outside once, under the stars, but in the company of other travelers on an organized tour (and it was freezing!! Nice experience though). That said, most people do rough it and they have fun and adventure. I managed to have that luckily without roughing it. Their iphones or whatever with their wifi will come in handy in this case rather than a possibly outdated guidebook but sometimes having a guidebook just makes you feel that little bit more comfortable don`t you think? If you don`t think of covering your guidebook cover with the jacket of another book, you might as well be unfolding a huge street map and making a target of yourself but on the other hand no country likes being known for assaulted/murdered tourists so maybe being known as a tourist/ traveller is not such a bad thing.