On travel guides

Travel guides are such a weird, fake window to a country. It’s like if you created a social media profile  for one of your friends — without them being able to comment on it. 

We spend a lot of time trying to get travel right that I think sometimes we spend half our time out and about looking in these guides. It’s like walking through the woods with your nose in the phone. 

Travel books have their purpose, of course. Where to go and what to do. What to eat and what to avoid. I like purchasing the very opinionated books (like the way Rough Guides used to be) or the independent books by the long-term foreign resident of a country. 

I don’t find travel guides too helpful when I am actually traveling. This is the time for me to discover — to get off the beaten path. A good travel book will let you know the lay of the land while you are not present. It will give you the rudimentary outlines of a place. If the book tries to give you too much information, the writers are just being pushy and self centered. You’re not going to remember that information anyway. Not unless you’re always looking in the book. 

The other problem with these books, as everyone points out, is that for all the exploring we’re supposed to be doing, we all end up at the same restaurant for lunch.