Traveling beyond the Lonely Planet highway
“Choose your country, use guidebooks to identify the areas most frequented by foreigners – and then go in the opposite direction.” ~ Dervla Murphy (traveled over 60 years mostly by bicycle and wrote several books, 1931)
No doubt: We like and use Lonely Planet guidebooks. In our opinion, they are super helpful when traveling to meet other tourists. They also guide you well, when you don’t care how beaten the path is you’re walking on. Even if the latter is classified “off”. Quite honestly: By following Lonely Planet’s routes you will particularly discover one thing – our planet is everything but lonely! So maybe Murphy´s quote above is a really good advice on how people with an adventurer´s soul should use guidebooks today.
LP Publications has grown to become the world’s largest independent guidebook publisher with more than 500 titles in print. No wonder that most people no longer experience real adventures when they travel with it (or it’s competitors). Everything is planned out and insured. You already know what you will be getting into before even setting out. Because many people have chosen the same route before and shared their experience on Tripadvisor or -exactly- in the Oh-So-Lonely Planet guidebook and on the Thorn Tree travel forum. Yet a lot of travelers call their trip to faraway places an adventure.
Another common misconception is to confuse ‘adventure’ with ‘adrenaline kick’. An adventure can definitely have a certain amount of rush, but a sole adrenaline kick does not automatically turn an action into an adventure. To picture this I will use Yvon Chouninard´s quote:
“The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong, that’s when adventure starts.” But if everything goes wrong while bungee jumping, there is not much time left for an adventure to start.
So what to do when you are searching for a real adventure in a time where there aren´t any dark spots left on Google’s Earth? Even if you want to, you cannot explore unknown territories or accidentally stumble upon new continents anymore. What you can do is find heaps of tour operators, who promise you a real adventure thrill. Such as volcano tours, Extreme Tornado Tours or guided jungle tours. Come here, give us your money and we’ll do everything for you. Promise! All you have to do is follow the pink umbrella and take your picture from this spot!
But we are talking about REAL ADVENTURES, not manufactured ones. So what is an adventure? Probably only a matter of definition. This is what the dictionary tells us:
An undertaking or enterprise of a hazardous nature.
An undertaking of a questionable nature, especially one involving intervention in another state’s affairs.
An unusual or exciting experience.
Participation in hazardous or exciting experiences.
The word “hazardous” appears pretty often here, doesn’t it? Feels quite right but also a bit stiff for such an emotional topic. So what do other adventurers and clever men say about it?
“I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks”
~ Daniel Boone (American Explorer and frontiersman, 1734-1820)
“If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all.”
~ David Livingstone (Scottish missionary and explorer, 1813-1874)
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
~ Mark Twain (American author, wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, 1835 – 1910)
“The one who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone, is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been.”
~ Albert Einstein (German theoretical physicist, developed the general theory of relativity, 1879 – 1955)
Put together an adventure is an exciting, unusual undertaking with potential hazards and uncertain outcome. It starts when you dare something what most of the others would not do. Maybe you can´t explore new areas, where nobody ever has been before. But you can take the road less beaten. I myself don´t need a short-time thrill, I need a challenge outside my comfort zone and that moment after, when I can pad myself on the shoulder while thinking “well done girl”. When I have to deal with obstacles I didn´t expect, when I turn left while everybody else turns right, that´s when a real adventure starts for me.
By the way, don’t get us wrong! We don’t blame Lonely Planet. Actually we think co-founder Tony Wheeler is a real adventurer himself! When he published his first guidebook Across Asia on the Cheap in 1973, he probably didn´t expect to build the ramp to today´s broadest traveler’s highway. A daring thesis: Today Tony Wheeler would rather travel with a Real-Adventure.info package than with his LP-guidebooks. Why? Because the 67-year-old has a fascination for “edgy” destinations. In fact, he travels off the beaten path as often as he can. I was purely delighted when I stumbled upon this article right after we came back from New Guinea´s Bulldog Track. It seems like Wheeler shares the same vision. The most exciting adventure destinations are the marginal travel zones. So let´s discover the paths beyond the Lonely Planet highways as long as they are unbeaten!
And, Mr Wheeler, if you read this: We have a free Real-Adventure package waiting for you. 🙂