10 reasons not to buy a travel books

Beware of the person of one book.

Thomas Aquinas

A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.

Lao Tzu

  1. It will save some space in your luggage. These books are often very dense and heavy (exception made for the small city guides you can use for one weekend and put in a pocket), considering the fact you will probably read not more than 10-20 pages. And especially if you go bag-packaging for some weeks, you will need this precious space. Moreover, you have to admit that you are unlikely to use it – except if you lend it to a friend or give it to a charity shop. Do you really want to buy a book that will get the dust on a shelf after you’re back from your trip?
  2. It will save you some money: Although it might sound like a small amount, but for instance a Lonely Planet travel book costs at least £15. You can tell me that’s an investment for your trip, but knowing the quantity of information available for FREE on the internet, I think it is a bit pricey (especially if you plan to visit several countries!) Here in London, that’s what we pay for a lunch for 2 persons in one of our favorite Vietnamese restaurants 🙂
  3. Travel guide books can mismatch what you expect from your trip, as they target different types of travelers:  bag-packers  yuppies, geeks, adventurers…Their recommendations are often made to satisfy some “consumer targets” (marketing is everywhere, don’t tell me that surprises you?) As many people, I think I correspond to a “combination” of different traveler profiles, that’s why recommendations from these books disappoint me somehow. What makes you like a place is what makes someone else hates it.
  4. Opinions written in these books can be biased: I won’t explain here all the scandals about travel guide writers receiving bribes for their recommendations, or sometimes even NOT  visiting the places they write about (cf. Scandale Lonely Planet). The purpose of this article is not to judge the quality or the trustworthiness of any of these guides in particular. But just to make you question “why do we buy these books?” “do they help us improving our travelling experiences?” “
  5. It keeps you aside from the local population : OK  maybe you do not see things as I do, but to me the purpose of travelling is to try to put myself in the locals’ shoes. If you stick to a guide’s recommendation (hotels, restaurants, activities) you stick to your “tourist” position, without really understanding the history, traditions, uses of a region/country…and I feel it is a pity to stay aside whereas we could exchange experiences, stories and tips with the people who know the country best! And trying places where not that many tourists would go instead: you might be disappointed too, but at least it gives a more accurate idea of what you might like/dislike in this country. I noticed that the best experiences during trips were not recommended in any travel books: because I got lost in this street I passed by this lovely cafe…
  6. Because I like getting lost, and just appreciate the place I am. I really hate the idea of having a “to do” list and ticking the places I see and rushing to the ones I “need” to see. I rather take my time to explore streets, parks, markets to appreciate the highlights while I feel the atmosphere.
  7. I feel it better to adapt to your lifestyle: I always find the pages about « clubbing » or « shopping » a bit useless to me. The same when it comes to some restaurant recommendations: I love eating out, but paying a high price for Indian food while enjoying a weekend in Ireland…is not really my cup of tea.
  8. THE REAL LIFE = best place to get the best advises!!  Most of the time, people who travel LOVE telling about the places they have been and giving recommendations. If you do not have experienced travelers among your friends, you can find so many tips on websites, blogs, forums dedicated to travelling. You can browse different advises from different perspectives, from people from different backgrounds before building your own opinion. I strongly believe in the power of sharing knowledge.
  9. A map of the city/country, should be enough, no? It indicates the highlights already (monuments, rivers, harbors, mounts, churches…)
  10. Find places on your own is by far more rewarding than simply following some recommendations from a book: what a surprise after a nice walk to find – totally at random – a monument or a great vista 🙂

Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that travel books should not exist. I perfectly understand that when you travel or settle down in a region where you don’t know the language and/or where the contact with the locals is not easy, these books might provide a great help: historical background, accommodation tips, where to meet people etc. When I moved to Germany I had bought a travel book, and I learnt about towns in Bavaria I wanted to visit, that was a great companion for almost two years!

So, whatever you choose  – either to travel with a guide or not – just make sure it fits your wants and expectations 🙂




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