As anyone over 40 remembers all too painfully now, travel was all about planning with completely outdated information – in the form of travel guide books. You know how they say “at the time this goes to press” in newspaper ror magazine articles? Things get outdated even with newspapers that get published everyday. What does one say of travel guidebooks?
At a time when we take up-to-the-second information on hotels, airlines, attractions and restaurants for granted, it does seem completely intolerable that when you buy a book to take with you, even if it’s from a major publisher like Lonely Planet, that it’s at least months out-of-date. If you take a look at your guidebook and head out to the hotel without making a reservation, you might find that the hotel isn’t there anymore. A lot can happen in a few months. You might find that the vaccination requirements have changed for a country, or you might find that the consulate has moved.
Ever noticed how travel guidebooks use a particular kind of language where everything seems wonderful? They aren’t just trying to give you a balanced opinions. They’re trying to promote the destination, not just tell you the truth. They certainly will tell you that the area around the Taj Mahal could use a bit of a cleanup.
But when you get there, the sheer filth that absolutely covers every inch of space in the city, how even the Taj Mahal monument itself can get depressingly muddy when it rains because no one bothers to clean anything – these are things you learn for yourself. The same goes for hotels, markets and anything else. There just isn’t enough room in those books nor any real will to give you the full negative.
You know how they love to take fun of people who love to read travel reviews? They call them armchair travelers. But that was before the Internet came around. These days, even the travel writers are kind of armchair-bound. In lots of ways, the publishers tried it cut costs by simply telling their writers to write through Internet research. You could easily consult 10 different travel websites and right and engaging travel book on your own. No one on earth would know the difference.
So if no one’s actually traveling to the place in question, how does anyone check to see if there are any mistakes made in the guidebooks? Well, they don’t find out. You do. If the entry fee for a place is incorrect, if the travel time to go somewhere is wildly off the mark, you’ll be the first one to know. The publisher certainly won’t, because not only has the writer not traveled to the place, the publishers don’t even care what’s in the book.