Travel Books for Anti-Tourists
I like arriving prepared, but I don't necessarily enjoy preparing.
For the past ten or so trips and new cities, I've refused to buy in (literally) to the idea of travel books. Something about it felt prescriptive. Not to mention most of them feel like overwhelming dictionary-like bricks with postcard covers that scream, "Hey judgmental local, look at me - I'm a tourist!"
But one night, following weeks of reading travel blogs and interviewing every Spaniard I crossed, a wise bottle of Cabernet advised me to order a travel guide that I'd been eyeing for quite a few years: The 2016 Rick Steves guide.
Rick Steves has been there, done that
Rick Steves is a travel writer who focuses mainly on European travel and produces a host of travel resources ranging from his esteemed travel guidebooks to podcasts and even personalized travel consulting. He has a team of locals working to keep resources up to date and relevant.
At the very least, it's a time saver when creating your own trip itinerary because you can quickly dismiss or look into stops based on the guide's frank summaries. From the moment the book arrived, I regretted nothing except for the fact that it was my first time looking through a travel guide.
the material is actually helpful
Unlike many travel sites that usually come up in online searches that promote a specific service or attraction, the guidebook builds a framework for you to make your own choices based on personal preferences. The chapters are focused on cities (both major and minor in size and scope) and include brief historical context pieces on the culture, art, food, music, and people.
Sections include details on transportation, walking guides to point you in the right direction, and translations for the essentials (I fully appreciate the tapas translation in mine). In the back of the book, a removable color foldout map highlights important cities and attractions, which are all covered within the book's chapters.
it will bring you one step closer to living like a local
I'm all about being spontaneous and being immersed in local culture far away from the tourist gimmicks. But, I'm a bigger advocate for understanding the historical, cultural, political, geographical context of where one travels. It is only then that one is able to really relax and find the uniqueness of their own experience in relation to that place - like a local.
it's unsurprisingly travel friendly
I argued that it felt like a brick. Rick Steves proposes to tear up the book. GASP!
Yes, he tells us to tear it up.
"I hope you'll rip this book apart. Before your trip, attack this book with a utility knife to create mini guidebooks - one for each area you visit.
[...] As you travel, throw out the chapters you're done with (or, much better, give them to a needy fellow traveler). While you may be tempted to keep this book intact as a souvenir of your travels, you'll appreciate even more the footloose freedom of traveling light."
I'm going to take my own advice and do this my way. I'm keeping this beautiful book's spine intact. But if I weren't such a pack rat, the sound of his suggestion sounds both liberating and practical. I just know that my copy will sit on my bookshelf for the rest of my life as a time capsule. I'll keep it in its brick form, but thanks for the tip, Mr. Steves.
In all seriousness, the book is relatively light and fits in most of my everyday purses. I can't imagine this being any more of a burden than it is helpful. I've already joined at the hip with the thing and it's followed me everywhere from lunch breaks at work to waiting for the water to boil in the kitchen. It's very reader friendly, and provides bursts of inspiration and anticipation leading up to the trip.
it will provide peace of mind
Even in this age of perpetual connectedness, internet connection isn't always guaranteed. Use the guide as a crutch to your trip itinerary and keep it as a back up if things don't go as planned. There is more than you probably have time for in these pages, so you'll always have a reliable source wherever you go.
Do you have any stories of travel guides?
Does anyone else believe in the preservation of book spines? Share below.