The Lonely Planet writer, Thomas Kohnstamm, who admitted never having visited the countries he wrote about should have been writing about his adventures in lying.
He says that after having sex with a waitress on a table after hours, he reviewed the restaurant with the words “the table service is friendly”.
He also said he never visited Colombia, despite being hired to write about it.
Instead, the 33 year old writer says he got the information from a Colombian intern he was dating at the time – seriously hurting the reputation of the BBC Worldwide owned series. Had Kohnstamm said the same thing 50 years ago it wouldn’t even have been a story. As Tom Brosnahan once told me, before the 70s, most travel writers never left their living rooms.
Once the world began to open up, prices began to fall, and the global travel boom took off, tourists began flocking to the guides written by their peers who had actually been to exotic places. Over the last 4 decades, libraries, bookstores, and magazines have been flooded with entire sections devoted to first-hand travel guides. Kohnstamm’s problem was that he lied to fit in, when he should of been writing about why he stood out.
VivirLatino points out that travel writers often face difficulties in producing content since they are not reimbursed for many of the trips they need to take.
The author claims that as a writer, it just isn’t possible to visit all the places you are asked to write about because you aren’t paid enough.
Those are the travel writing obstacles Kohnstamm should have been writing about. Instead of writing the lies, he could have taken a unique perspective on the travel guide industry via a blog, his own publisher, or by pitching the idea to Lonely Planet themselves.
Instead his books, as well as many others will be discredited by many. But don’t fool yourselves, many travel blogs and websites (not this one) do the same thing. Travel guides are in general useless if you’re looking for conclusive perceptions on a destination. Can’t decide to go to India or not? Go there and make the decision when you get back.
Travel books are great for facts, where to go and what to avoid, as well as cultural differences. Try to read books by authors that share the same culture as yourself – they’ll notice the things that will stand out to you. (If you’re German, check out books by German writers, not just translations.)
In the end, the controversy may help Kohnstamm; in fiction writing, television appearances, and advice columns.
[photo by: Wallami]