The old founding executive editor of Wired magazine is now on the road, and yesterday – from Leh in India – he posted some thoughts on the problem with travel guide books:
“At least 98% of most guidebooks, even the best ones, will guide you to buildings. Page after page of their listings of “must see” highlights are primarily lists of buildings and monuments. You know, churches, temples, mosques and shrines.
The guides act as if you’ve come to see architecture. The rest of most guidebooks point you to eateries and restaurants. So from a guide’s perspective travel is either about buildings or food. Which is true for a lot of folks. But architecture and food is only part of what I’ve come to see.
I’m looking for people. People engaged in whatever they do locally. The problem with people is that they don’t stand still like buildings do. They are not dependably in the same place year after year. They are not always doing interesting things if they are there. You can’t put them in a guidebook.”