Alright, here’s a story for you. For many years now I’ve been travelling with Lonely Planet travel guides. Almost exclusively. Lonely Planet has been my travel bible from the beginning, when I was backpacking through Italy with my mate Sebastian. Actually we used two travel guides at the time: a Lonely Planet and a ‘Capitool reisgids’ in Dutch. An awesome combination, I must say, since Lonely Planet offers primarily practical information, not so much history, background, nice walking tours, info about museums, etcetera. In the years to come I’ve bought many Lonely Planets. Why you ask. Well, I just like the map on the first page with the country’s highlights. Man, I love those maps. Man, I love Lonely Planet.
Until my last trip to India. I feel Lonely Planets have changed a lot over the last ten years. And maybe not in the best of ways. I felt like the Lonely Planet of the South of India was full of crap. And that was hard for me – as a true LP fan – to admit. But it was obvious. Places that were beautiful, pristine, amazing in the Lonely Planet turned out to be true shitholes. Like the author hadn’t actually seen the place with his or her own eyes. I didn’t even mind that none of the prices indicated in the Lonely Planet were remotely accurate, but plain lying about certain places is just too much to handle. If you look at who writes certain pages or chapters, you start thinking: is this person the best for this job? I mean: if you grew up in Kerala for example, can you look at the place like a tourist would? Are you not biased? Obviously you are. You’re more like a local. And you’re gonna like places that actual tourist will hate. Makes you wonder why the whole Indian Lonely Planet is written by people who are actually from Indian heritage or who grew up there or who have lived there for a number of years. Can’t you find real tourists to give their two cents? Also you get the feeling Lonely Planet is getting more and more commercial, with ‘their picks’ that actually almost never turn out to be the best choices. Anyway, I was just looking for your opinion on the matter. You must have travelled with Lonely Planet. What do you think?