Friday, April 6, 2012

Put down the Lonely Planet and Pick up the Bhagavad Gita

Over only five months of traveling, I have seen an excessive amount of dependence on the lonely planet guide book. 
When I started my trip in Southeast Asia, I did carry around a Lonely planet guide book and after about 1 month I took it and threw it directly in the garbage.

The lonely planet leads tourists to “clique” together with other tourists in hostels, hotels, guesthouses, and restaurants instead of being with locals.  I am not saying that all lonely planet recommendations are inauthentic.  There are local establishments and guesthouses run by locals, which gives a local experience.  But when traveling it feels like lonely planet is running the world or based off my experience-Southeast Asia and India. 

Many restaurants, hotels, and shops have signs up saying,”Lonely planet recommended.” One would think that the influence would be mild with locals promoting their business through quality or real recommendations, but this is not the case.  The lonely planet is giving many local establishments business, but it is chipping away at what real traveling is about. 

Real traveling is about exploring what is new to you and following your curiosity and spirituality (if you have this component in your life).  Yes, the lonely planet is helpful at midnight when you do not know the area and need a reliable place to stay. Allowing your intuition and interpersonal interaction to be involved is even more important. What if the nice Indian man does his guesthouse name in the lonely planet? Shouldn’t one still give him a chance? If you like him, the place is clean, the price is good, then why not give him a chance? He is a human being with a heart of gold, a family to support, and he needs the business.

It was surprising to see the influence of this guidebook constructed by white travelers( Sorry, but I do not see many of the authors from Asian or African countires).  The UK and the US are most prominent in the Authors of the book.  What makes Brad from the US qualify to judge a city and where are the best places? He may have traveled to India ten times, but it does not mean he is taking an insider approach on the area.  I am not criticizing his writing, experience, or travels, but it just seems like travelers are lacking a real cultural learning. 

If you are sleeping with (staying at the same guesthouse) with fellow tourists, dining with them, and doing sightseeing and activities with them-how much are you learning about the culture? I am not an expert traveler by any means and I am just learning like other fellow travelers, but I have witnessed a lot of separatism going on between locals and travelers. 

I just encourage travelers to think outside the box when traveling.  Take an unknown route, do not plan your next destination based off Lonely planet recommended cities (make a stop at a brand new place), spend quality time with the people and the natural environment (powerful if you are spiritual of course), sit and eat in a restaurant with not one tourist, visit a temple or musem off your normal radar, and immerse yourself in the culture. 

 Word to travelers: There is an existence without the lonely planet guidebook.  You will survive your traveling and you may enjoy and love your experience even more-I promise. 

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