I used to swear by Guidebooks, before any trip I would shoot down to the book store and pick up a copy of the destination I planned on heading to. It was a sense of excitement, A stamp on the fact I was dedicated to making this trip happen. I would spend endless hours reading each page in depth soaking it all in, it feed my sense of adventure and got me pumped for the next step.
No longer was I travelling blind, I was armed with information that gave me a sense of security that I was ready and prepared for the next step. It got my travel bug racing and I loved it, That’s Why I always used to buy Guidebooks, it offered value to my trip that was irreplaceable.
Sadly, in recent years, this energy has all but seemed to have faded away, what once was normal has seemed to have naturally stopped. I’m not sure if this is down to a general shift in consumer needs or a personal reason. There came a moment when it was more fun to get lost and see where I ended up, but maybe because after many years of travelling I get excitement out of not planning anything at all and going with my gut, that’s normally how I end up in fun crazy situations by controlling and crafting my own trip.
I recently went to a book shop to check out the travel section of the store, I used to visit rather frequently, but now armed with my Amazon Kindle and the endless resources on the internet I hardly ever do this anymore. What I ended up finding was a Lonely Planet guidebook simply called “The World, A Travellers guide to the planet” I was shocked, I didn’t really know what to think of it? Have they really run out of ideas? Is it really getting that bad these days it has come down to this?
That’s when it hit me, I have noticed a decline in Travel Guidebooks.
I started to shift away from guidebooks when I was travelling around Guatemala, I visited a stunning town called Antigua back in 2009 and used my guidebook for information. I noticed something very bizarre, every location that my guidebook recommended was full of backpackers whilst other similar establishments close by were empty. Not only this, but the empty places pretty much offered the same thing for a cheaper price, what was going on? Do backpackers really follow these guidebook’s page by page? Can we not be independent enough to just dive into a new cafe without it being trusted with reviews. I started to notice very frequently on my travels that establishments would have “As seen in the Lonely Planet Guidebook” stickers on windows and it would put me off rather than entice me. Not that I would see it as a stamp of recommendation, but more like its already been discovered and surely something more fun and exciting could be found around the corner on my own terms.
For me Travel is all about discovery, finding yourself and gaining independence from your experience. Of course Travelling can be scary and guidebooks can offer some sense of comfort in times of need. But with the Internet now becoming harder to get away from I’m not sure guidebooks are needed in todays world.
Now you even have websites that are crowed sourced with endless amounts of information from avid travellers and locals for every destination, it’s far easier to find information, take Travelwiki.org or review websites such as Tripadvisor. Then you have Community driven projects such as Couchsurfing full of locals covering the whole world all interested in showing you around. You simply turn up and someone kind enough to be your guide with fantastic indepth local knowledge wants to help you, perfect, no need for a guidebook.
Of course you want to meet other like minded backpackers but you also want to gain enough independence to make your own decisions otherwise you’re simply travelling like a flock of sheep.
I remember once going to Turku, Finland which didn’t have a lot going on in the winter, but the guidebook recommended a casino, I never go to casino’s and thought why not? After asking a local how to find it, they laughed and said it’s been closed 3 years. Information is frequently becoming out of date in the modern world and the internet is always catching up as its constantly being updated
One simple Google search of what to do in Turku in the winter as a backpacker on a budget gave me far more information than a guidebook, so why bother?
The web is cheap, fast, updated, able to discover a unique niche of what you’re interested in and find exactly what you’re looking for. Whilst a guidebook can be outdated, expensive and lacks quality as it tries to compete with the internet. Quality used to be the winning stance for guidebooks due to the high quality local expert could put together through research and personal knowledge. I get the feeling now that guide books are being watered down as the internet is moving too fast with top quality information. It’s tough to compete as now those experts that once used to write the guidebooks have their own blog and their own business offering expert advice, the web is simply full of useful high quality information on destinations. If you’re able to spend a little time cutting out the general crap (of course you can still find the crap!) you will able to find what you’re looking for eventually.
Many Travel related websites have started to offer Free destination guides based on the locations that they operate in, take GlobalLateDeals.com as an example. You can book with them directly and gather the information you need based on where you are heading to. This is both smart and convenient as you can book your next trip and gather up-to-date information on the exact location you’re travelling too with them.
For many the amount of time it takes to research destinations on the web is time well spend. As you start looking into your dream trip, discovering new awesome fun things to do and seeking advice from fellow travellers who were once in your shoes it offers a sense of encouragement. Direct recommendations of how their trip went is very supportive and can be a real motivation when planning your trip. We are all different and seek to find like minded advice rather than general facts which the market now demands because it’s so readily available on the web.
Plus, you have to remember The pure bulk of the actual guidebook, especially as more travellers shift towards downsizing their backpacks to be more compact.
What once used to be an exciting trip to the bookshop, has disappeared amongst my trip rituals. It’s sort of sad to see The trusty guide book go in some respects.
I used to add my guidebook at the end of a trip to my bookshelf with a sense of pride, like one chapter of my life was complete, but that’s something I don’t even think about doing any more.
Thank you for reading my Blog post, how do you see travel guidebooks in todays age? Feel free to post below in the comment section.