I don’t know where that bullshit comes from. It’s pretentious by being free – that statement you always hear from tourists who are desperate to be travellers, that you should “PUT AWAY THE GUIDEBOOK.”
Yes, the thought goes. You shouldn’t be walking around a city from attraction to museum to recommended restaurant with Rick Steves or Frommer or Lonely Planet in your face. And this is correct, probably, in the same way you shouldn’t be crossing the street with a phone in your face. It’s rude, maybe, but it’s also just plainly stupid: look where you’re going, and enjoy what you’re seeing.
That said, don’t let the assholes get you down. Don’t feel bad for buying a guide book, even if you can find the same shit – better shit – online. And you definitely can.
For me, the guidebook has never been a guide, though. The guidebook isn’t really God’s manual – the only way to do things, as you’d hear its haters talk about it like it is. The guidebook is a travelling companion, not the Bible. It’s a way of getting into or inspired for what you’re about to see – you’ll spend more time thinking about your trip before you go and after you get home than you will when you’re on it, no doubt. Oh, you’re going to Amsterdam for three nights? I’ll bet you’ve been planning it for longer. I’ll bet you’ll be remembering it for infinity. Otherwise, what’s the fuckin’ point in flying there?
(The best, by the way, have catered to this obviousness. They no longer have to be the sage on the stage, as TV newsers are proud of saying about their anchors. You’re no longer necessary for planning someone’s trip, just like an anchor’s no longer necessary to tell you what happened in the world that day. So publishers and posters like Lonely Planet and the Matador Network and whoever else you follow on Instagram and YouTube, they’re selling to the audience – not the customer. That’s how it is, and that’s how it’s gotta be from now on. Even AirBnb is getting in on the act, with their own travel diaries and vlogs through Paris and Japan and wherever they’re in business.)
Here’s the truth: It’s okay to love a guidebook. It’s okay to buy a ton, as long as you can afford it. You don’t have to find your hotel or become a slave to it, you just have to enjoy it. Would you shit on a drummer for enjoying Whiplash? Or on a journalist for enjoying Almost Famous? You won’t learn how to play music or how to write from either movie, but you’re to love it – not just learn from it.
I treat my guidebooks like they’re my friends. I treat them like they have power, because they do… to me, anyway.
I bring Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential everywhere I go. I’ve mixed in stuff by Bukowski. Same with Eyewitness picture-books and Lonely Planet’s ‘Best Places’ for whatever year I’m in. It doesn’t matter if I’m even going to the place the writer’s writing about. Sometimes, it doesn’t even matter if it’s good. Like junk food and filet, it just has to go in the mouth and fill my stomach.
Most of that anti-guidebook stuff is anti-pulp. It’s anti-Starbucks. Anti-typical. Anti everything that’s not anti. It’s so anttii, it’s Finnish.
But if you enjoy a good guidebook, like I do, so fuckin’ what? There’s really no difference between a tourist and a traveller. It’s only, one’s enjoying himself. The other’s enjoying it for someone else.
VIDEO: 2-Minute Tour of Prague, a Fairy Tale City (by Lonely Planet)
VIDEO: The Top 10 Things To Do in Greece (by High on Life)
VIDEO: Never A Strange (by Airbnb)