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-Francois Truffaut


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Travel, out of necessity or for pleasure, is a human activity as old as the ancients. Whether done out of a backpack, or with all the amenities of first-class lodgings, somehow, somewhere inside of us, a need is met that's as basic to the human condition as oxygen: the need to roam.

A Field Companion For Wandering: A Book For Being Lost on Real and Imagined Borders
by Conner Bouchard-Roberts
Winter texts, 2022
$19.95, 170 pp

A Field Companion For Wandering: A Book For Being Lost on Real and Imagined Borders is a unique creation by Conner Bouchard-Roberts. It offers thoughts on travel from multiple perspectives by the same man. The result is an ethereal journey on the subject with ample food for thought.

This, the third iteration of Wandering, gives the sense the author's finally gotten it right. It's filled with essays and musings that read like poetry masquerading as prose; prose waxing poetic. In its previous lives, Wandering was shorter, less fleshed out, and - more to the point - an indictment of the travel industry. The original, which only had a press run of fifty copies, was titled Daemon Guide (2018), and fell shy of the current title's message. The next version, also published in 2018, took the moniker of Pocket Guide to Wandering and launched with a press run of 120 that was less critical, a step closer to the current version. Fittingly, the book's evolution is, in a sense, a travel story in itself.

In the back pages, the author writes of his book:

    This project began as an anti-lonely planet manifesto and grew into the form of a guidebook as a result of that mentality: the mentality to occupy the same shelf space, to trojan horse into some unsuspecting tourist's backpack. To help right the wrongs of that industry.
If the last thing you want is to get wrapped up in a manifesto on travel, you need not worry. Wandering has gotten less critical with each version, the latest edition mentioning Lonely Planet just once, as quoted above. Rather than reading like a critique of the travel industry - particularly the backpacking set (Lonely Planet's main audience) - it celebrates travel in all its many forms, sights, sounds and odors, paying particular homage to borderless destinations; the ethereal journeys in our minds.

Thailand's Islands & Beaches
by Joe Cummings and Nicko Goncharoff
Lonely Planet Publications, 1998
ISBN: 0-86442-540-6
$15.95, 449 pp

Yellow highlighter and dog-eared pages are the hallmarks (after-the-fact) of a good travel guide. My copy of Lonely Planet's Thailand's Islands & Beaches is no exception. Between its covers there's hardly a page that doesn't contain some highlighting. Whether it be instructions on how to avoid getting ripped off when catching a cab from the airport (the authors advise not to jump in the car of the first driver that approaches you; you're being approached for a reason) or how to respectfully haggle the price of a room, I've highlighted the entries. (However, once off the plane after a long, sleepless international flight, I proceeded to ignore Lonely Planet's advice and overpaid for both the cab and the room. Welcome to Bangkok.)

Talking the Talk
Joe Cummings and Nicko Goncharoff, like all the authors of Lonely Planet publications, talk the talk and walk the walk. They've done the footwork, so all we have to do is pick up the guidebook and set off with the confidence of knowing the authors have already made our mistakes for us so we won't have to. Thus is the beauty of the Lonely Planet publishing model.

      Part travel, part anthropology, and part history, the lessons learned through experience shared by Cummings and Goncharoff while interesting on the page, are indispensable in the field.

Though geared toward the backpacking set, inclusion in Thailand's Islands & Beaches is not based on economy alone. Rather, it lists accommodations throughout southern Thailand's beach and island regions regardless of expense. Lonely Planet is nothing if not egalitarian.

While the brass tacks at the heart of Lonely Planet guides is to hook up the traveler with the hotelier, they're more than a directory of accommodations. Lonely Planet is also a field companion to local sites, customs, and laws. Part travel, part anthropology, and part history, the lessons learned through experience shared by Cummings and Goncharoff while interesting on the page, are indispensable in the field.

Walking the Walk
An additional strongpoint of Lonely Planet are their maps and charts. The unsung heroes of Lonely Planet guidebooks, Thailand's Islands & Beaches contains not only maps of every nook and cranny you might have the vaguest interest in seeing of Thailand's coast, but maps to avoid getting lost in Bangkok (you will anyway) and farther abroad. There are also charts for currency conversion (and tips to avoid being gouged in the process); ferry and bus schedules (though regularly updated, they're only fairly dependable at best); and a thorough explanation of Thailand's airway and railway systems and what to expect from the different classes of accommodations.

Thailand is geared toward tourism, so there's usually more than one way to get somewhere, and as transportation companies come and go, it's wise to keep an ear out for the current best mode of travel. Thailand is immensely popular with Aussie and European backpackers whom you'll find are more than eager to help a fellow traveler get from point A to point B.

Overall, Thailand's Islands & Beaches was helpful. Specifically, it was a lifesaver. Not only did it aid me in securing accommodations and transportation, it supplied crucial legal information that ultimately kept my sorry ass from seeing the inside of a Thai jail. Additionally, it explained some of the history and customs of this never colonized kingdom so I could dip my toe in Thai culture without coming across like a total Neanderthal. Thanks Joe and Nicko. From here on when traveling unfamiliar territory, Lonely Planet will be near the top of my list, just after passport, and before yellow highlighter. Includes index and full-color section on Thailand's unique marine life.

posted 11/30/23