Monthly Archives: April 2008

Disaster Strikes

Posted by on April 16, 2008

All the effort I went through to back up my photos may have been for naught. I took everything to a FedEx/Kinkos store in Sydney to send it back to the US. So far, the package hasn’t been entered into the FedEx system to track packages, and there hasn’t been a charge to my credit card. To the best of my knowledge, no phone calls have been made, no emails have been sent to notify me of a problem. Nor has the package been delivered.

This is highly unusual for FedEx, considering I was told it would be in the system the afternoon I sent it out. The only thing I can think of at this point is that the contents were opened and stolen at the store before it was ever picked up.

Which means that every photo I’ve spend the last year taking has been lost. Gone.

I used FedEx instead of the post office precisely because I could track the package and I have never heard of something like this happening.

I’ve contacted FedEx via thier website, but I don’t know what else to do.

You Do Not Need A Guidebook To Travel

Posted by on April 15, 2008

Wrong Way Sign

Guidebooks often have out of date information

If you have been reading the news the last few days, you have probably come across the “scandal” about the Lonely Planet writer who wrote parts of the Colombia guide book without ever traveling to Colombia.

Actually, it is a non-story. He was never supposed to go to Colombia. He was just supposed to write background material, not get on the ground data for hotels, restaurants and attractions. You can read an interview with him here and it all sort of makes a lot more sense. (that being said, the reviews on Amazon.com are critical of ALL the authors)

But I really don’t want to talk about him. I want to use the story as an excuse to talk about the general use, and over use, of guidebooks by travelers.

Here is your travel hint of the week from this long term traveler: you don’t need a guidebook.

I see backpackers all the time who pour over their guidebooks like it was the bible. They treat it more like a user’s manual to a country as opposed to what it should be…a guide. I’m hear to tell you that for your next trip, leave the book at home or better yet, don’t even buy one to begin with.

Restored 4 - Easter Island

My guidebook had poor information about the internet cafes on Easter Island

Timeliness

Since I started my trip, I have used a grand total of one guidebook, and that was for the first leg of my trip. The book I used was the Moon’s Guide to the South Pacific. It was a fine book (if a bit heavy) but much of the information was out of date, even though it had been published only two years before. Much of the early planning I relied on the book for was thrown out the window because flights which no longer existed and airlines which had gone bankrupt.

This was no fault of the guide book. The author of the book, David Stanley, is an expert on that area of the world. A book however can’t keep up with changes in the world. I ended up carrying around this heavy tome for a good chunk of the time I was in the Pacific, but ended up using the Internet to get most of my information anyhow.

I purchased the book before I left for my trip and really used it more as a wish book than a guidebook. It was the adult version of the Sears christmas catalog. People who dream of traveling can page through the book and dream of all the places they want to go. There is nothing wrong with that, but there are probably better books you can drool over than a glorified white pages. Go buy a photography book or a compilation of travel writing. (…or follow your favorite travel blog :)

Family at Blowholes - Tonga

Flight information in the Pacific was very different than what was published in my guidebook

Quality

Killing Batteries is a website I read on a regular basis. The author, Leif Petterson, is a fellow Minnesotan and a travel writer. He did a lot of the research for the Lonely Planet guide to Romania. The way he describes doing research for creating a guide book isn’t much different than what you would do when traveling on your own. When I move from point A to B, I ask other travelers for recommendations, check the internet, and read the brochures which can be found in most hostels and hotels. There is little in the way of magic when it comes to researching guidebooks. It is mostly grunt work on the front end, and sitting down and condensing it into a compact form on the back end.

Lonely Planet and their ilk are not in the business of providing reviews. They aren’t like Michelin or Zagut’s. They don’t have secret reviewers checking into every hotel and restaurant in a country. They just compile data. If you want to get reviews, get online and check what other people have to say before you go. Or, if you are traveling like me, ask other people you meet who are going in the opposite direction. Taxi drivers are also good sources for information. When I arrived in Bali I told my driver to take me somewhere good and cheap. The place he took me to was great and a block from the beach. I have no idea if he got a kick back, but I also don’t really care.

Koala 1 - Tasmania, Australia

I don’t believe you can adequately cover a country as large as Australia with one book

Depth

Lonely Planet has a guidebook for the United States. The whole country. Likewise, they have a guidebook for Western Europe. I cannot fathom how you could possible cram everything you would need for such large areas into a single book. At best they are leaving lots of information out. At worst, you aren’t getting the information you would need.

Lonely Planet also has separate guidebooks for Australia, New South Wales and Sydney. Each in some respect is just a subset of the other. They wisely charge less for whatever the smaller geographic area is, but it is still just sort of a scam to get the maximum bang out of each guidebook. I don’t blame them for trying to make a buck, but as a consumer, you should be wise to what they are doing.

Remember that no matter where you go, there is an entire industry built around getting you the information you need so you can go see and do things. This industry exists because they want your money. I have literally shown up in a strange city with no idea where I was staying and managed to get by. The process of getting information you can personally collect is no different than the process that guidebook writers go through. Throw away your book.
.

Buh Bye Brisbane

Posted by on April 14, 2008

Waterfall 2, Springbrook National Park - Queensland, Australia

Waterfall at Sprinkbrook National Park in Queensland

My very brief time in Brisbane is over. I has several people in the area who contacted me, but I wasn’t able to meet up with anyone. My apologies to everyone.

Queensland is really big. It is bigger than Alaska and 2.5x bigger than Texas. I still have over 800 miles to go to get to Cairns and it took 10 hours of driving just to get from Sydney to Brisbane.

Yesterday I managed to take advangate of the only free wifi connection I’ve found in Australia to get totally caught up on my photos. If you go to my Flickr page, you can see all my photos from Tasmania and Sprinkbrook National Park. This is the first time I’ve been totally caught up on my photos in months.

Today I’m off to Fraser Island. It is the world’s largest sand island and a World Heritage site. It is also one of the big east coast backpacker destinations. I’ll probably do a day tour of the island, which is probably one of the only places in the world where the buses have four-wheel drive. I’ll also do a few other stops on the way to Cairns, probably to do some diving.


I also have a request to make to the masses. I am having problems with iMovie 08 on my Mac. When I try to edit clips from my camera (Sanyo Xacti 1000) they seem to work fine in editing mode. When I export to anything however, the video is gone. The audio works and the text overlay is there, but no video. The video is black or just a still image depending on what I try to export as. Back in the US, Kris seems to be able to edit things just fine on his Mac, so I think the problem might be a codec issue or something. I have all the updates that I know of installed. Anyone have any ideas on how to solve this?

Good Old North New South Wales

Posted by on April 12, 2008

Just a quick update. I’m in Ballina NSW, just south of Byron Bay. The McDonald’s here had wifi, so I stopped to check my email.

I spent last night in Coffs Harbor. The drive was very uneventful. This part of Australia is much more green and lush than what I saw in Victoria.

From here I’ll be stopping at Springbook National Park, which is the most accessible section of the Gondwana Raninforests World Heritage Site. From there I’ll go to Brisbane for the night. It is only 11am so I have plenty of time. I figure I’m about 2 hours from Brisbane, and Sprinkbrook shouldn’t be more than 30-45 min from the highway.

It turns out that the schools here have the next two weeks off, so there was a ton of traffic coming out of Sydney on Saturday. I’m hoping it gets better as I get north of Brisbane.

I also got stopped in a road side drunk driving check point. The cops here seems much….nicer, than American cops. They aren’t out to make you respect their authority. All the signs on the side of the road are about slowing down, taking rest breaks, and how there are speed cameras everywhere. It is like taking a road trip in Orwell’s 1984. Big Brother is everywhere.

It is now rugby season, so most of the talk on the radio is all about “footy”.

I’ll see you next time from Queensland.