Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How not to travel

When I'm lucky enough to be traveling somewhere, and I crack open one of the library's many guidebooks, I rarely spare much thought for the person who wrote it. If pressed, I would guess that they are friendly, middle-aged writers with fanny packs and comfortable shoes diligently taking notes about hotels, restaurants and museums. But apparently they're half-drunk, half-stoned, over-sexed Gen-Xers who party their way through the country and then just make stuff up. At least, that's how guidebook writer Thomas Kohnstamm approaches his job according to our new book Do Travel Writers Go to Hell? A swashbuckling tale of high adventures, questionable ethics & professional hedonism. Don't get me wrong - I like the book, and the pathetic loser narrative makes it read like a Nick Hornby novel - but don't think you're going to come away from this with any deep appreciation of how to be a travel writer. The backdrop may be South America (Kohnstamm has actually collaborated on a number of Lonely Planet guides for various South American regions), but most of the action takes place in bars, strip clubs, decrepit hostels and seedy restaurants. Think of this book as a comedic piece, rather than a travel diary. It flows nicely, is amusingly written, and is full of good information about what not to do in a foreign country (one important lesson: don't assume that the Brazilian police are worried about Miranda rights). But I'm pretty sure I don't want to travel with this guy.

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