The Pros and Cons of the Lonely Planet Morocco Guidebook – A Book Review

If you are into travelling as I am, you would agree that travel guidebooks are one of the essential tools one should have. They are a very helpful in the sense that a tremendous amount of time and effort has gone into creating them for accurate information. Some of them can be a little too patronizing and confusing sometimes.

I have learned from experience that it would be a big mistake to cling to them religiously as many travelers do, since most of them are often out of date before they are even published. It would really be nice to be able to get the most out of these guidebooks but believe me, it would be best that you learn how to use them sparingly and rely on your better judgment. Lonely Planet is an authority when it comes to creating travel guides.

Let’s take a look at some of the Pros and Cons of the Lonely Planet Morocco guidebook. I travelled to Morocco on a two-week trip to experience the “Red City” and immerse myself in an adventure of sorts and I used the Lonely Planet Morocco guidebook to help me throughout my trip. I don’t know how to speak any French or Arabic which made me solely dependent on the guidebook which was great because it contained basic phrases that anybody could use for basic communication such as for asking directions.

What’s great about the Lonely Planet Morocco is how the chapters and logistical information are organized. It also has some good information on accommodations and how to get around the place. There are even maps in the guidebook that I think are pretty basic but are really useful. I’ve heard some people comment that they find the map confusing rather than helpful. All I could say is “It worked for me”.

Well, there are a couple of things about it that I did not like. First off, the Lonely Planet Morocco guidebook is extremely heavy that it would be a chore to take it around with you. I was seriously contemplating on ripping out some pages but ended up just photocopying those pages I needed. Another thing that I don’t like is how Lonely Planet has devoted a significant number of pages to history and culture.

Sure, it’s interesting and informative but I don’t think it’s practically useful to a traveler on the road. I think people would really benefit from it if Lonely Planet devoted more pages on information regarding restaurants in Morocco, activities, entertainment, nightlife, relaxation and the like that I’m sure a lot of tourists are looking forward to experiencing and getting some useful information on.

I would say that the guidebook is generally useful even though it does have a couple of minor flaws. There’s one more thing that I want to share that I feel is really important that you be aware of. There are some hotels and hoteliers in Fes that are using their exposure in the guidebook to hawk their services and take advantage of some customers by raising their prices just because they got featured in Lonely Planet Morocco.

Visiting Morocco is one of the most memorable travel experiences that I had and even though it’s not entirely hassle-free, it’s been great! I’ve spent less time getting myself lost because I had a wonderful tool that has helped me research as well as make all the necessary arrangements a traveler needs ahead of time. Lonely Planet Morocco is certainly a great reference when it comes to travel, exploration and adventure.

Book Explores Reinventing Oneself Through Discovering New Cultures and Places

Discovering Yourself in New Zealand tells the tale of how Pallas Hupé Cotter and her family embarked on an adventure in 2011 after her husband was offered a job in New Zealand. Pallas, who had been a longtime news anchor, decided she and her family would take the plunge and move halfway across the world from Sacramento, California to Wellington, New Zealand. Pallas had long been moving at a frantic pace, working long hours at her job as well as being a wife and mother to two boys. She realized it was time to slow down, reinvent, and rediscover herself, so she embraced this move to New Zealand as her opportunity.

As Pallas states early in the book, “Life is about saying yes, going through open doors, and getting involved, but it’s also about knowing how to downshift to a gear that allows you time to reflect on your journey. Whatever gear is right for you.”

Pallas learned how to shift gears in New Zealand where the pace of life was a lot slower, and this book is her invitation to the reader to downshift with her. Discovering Yourself in New Zealand is not only about how Pallas and her family discovered themselves; it’s also about how readers can discover and reinvent themselves. Pallas uses her personal experiences as springboards for readers to pause and reflect upon their own life choices and the possibilities that await them. Each chapter ends with Reinvention Questions focused on various topics to encourage readers to make their own changes in life.

Pallas herself experienced many forms of reinvention after moving halfway across the world. She learned to slow down the pace. Rather than work a frantic job with long hours outside the home, she built her own business from home-after all, New Zealand is known as the best place in the world to start a business. Pallas also embraced the opportunity to become a public speaker, including giving a TEDx talk at the first TEDx Women’s Event in New Zealand. She also started to exercise more by joining a women’s walking group. She even learned to cook.

The changes in culture that New Zealand offered helped Pallas to make many of these changes. She found that she had to slow down because in New Zealand one doesn’t just rush in and out of a grocery store. If she went to the market, the vendor would make sure she tasted his apple cider before she was allowed to purchase any. She found that people wanted to take the time to chat with her, and she didn’t want to be perceived as a rude American by not doing so. She also discovered that many customs and traditions were different in New Zealand. Halloween was not at all as popular a holiday, but the Christmas season was truly a time to relax-often at the beach since it’s summer in New Zealand during the holidays. And then there were all of the fun language differences she learned to understand and embrace.

In addition, New Zealand was full of fascinating things to explore. Pallas arrived during the height of the hoopla over The Hobbit movies being filmed and released in New Zealand so she experienced firsthand the influx of tourists looking for Middle-earth and all the commercialism and excitement that went with it. She also visited Christchurch to see how it was rebuilding itself after the devastating 2011 earthquake which left her feeling sober but also admiring the resilience of its residents. And she and her family experienced an earthquake themselves in Wellington that left them shaken but grateful.

Throughout the book, Pallas highlights her adventures from moving to New Zealand with a series of full-color photographs that will delight and awe the reader. They encompass everything from costume parties and fashion shows to breathtaking scenery and family photos. I really had no idea how beautiful New Zealand was until I saw these photos. Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.

When I finished reading this book, I felt a desire to see “Middle-earth” for myself. Who knows? I might even move to New Zealand myself at some point. But more importantly, I felt like my eyes had been opened to the myriad of possibilities that life has to offer but that are so easy to forget when we get caught up in our daily routines. As Pallas makes clear, reinvention is possible whether you travel or you stay at home because there are always new things to discover.

At the end of the book, Pallas reflects on her adventure so far-after five years, she and her family are still enjoying their New Zealand odyssey but also questioning what the future may hold. Pallas states:

“I feel grateful and blessed that I was given this opportunity to reinvent. But I have learned that it didn’t actually require a move to the edge of the universe. You can recreate your life, and make it an epic experience, by pushing pause and asking yourself, ‘Is this the life I want to be living? What can I do to change it?’ And not letting anything stop you.”

I invite readers to pick up a copy of this book, explore their own possibilities, ask themselves the many reinvention questions posed, and rediscover themselves. After all, it’s the journey that matters.

Photography Book Review: "CHINA: Portrait of a People" Is the Best of the Decade

I want to share with anyone that might read this how much I enjoyed Tom Carter’s new photography book “CHINA: Portrait of a People”. I ordered the book because I recently returned from China and could not get enough of the life style I had just experienced. When I first received the book from Amazon I thought it was quite a unique size for a book of photography, but once I started looking at it I really enjoyed the small size in my hand; it made it easy to just sit on the couch with book in hand.

Carter’s 640-page book is divided into 33 chapters, one for each province, and before each chapter are his recollections of his difficulties traveling to the regions as well as episodes where Chinese individuals (see “I, Shen Mei Li,” page 134) are allowed to speak for themselves, as well as fragments of poetry and other uniquely Chinese related material, some gritty, some even grotesque.

With a country as big as China, there’s a lot to see and Tom Carter provides a vast array of images and views – glimpses of a country on the cusp of a sweeping transformation: a great nation that still identifies as Communist while embracing new Capitalist ways. These photos then also provide historical artifacts as modernization plows away thousands of years of history.

Favorite images? Hard to pick since there are so many. The photo-illustrated journey starts at Beijing (‘the epicenter of the “center of the world,”’ as Tom Carter writes) and concludes with Tibet (“Middle of nowhere, center of everywhere”). With more than 600 pages in between. (The images in this final section – Tibet – are among the most emotionally compelling and beautiful of the book.)

Of the places I’d like to go back and visit on account of Carter’s book, top of the list would be Tibet and places like the Portuguese-influenced Macau, and of course Beijing (“Chaoyang”). Then: remote Heilongjiang (“Harbin”), Inner Mongolia (which is one of the most beautiful sections of the book), coastal Shandong (birthplace of Confucius), Jiangsu (with its sad and bloody history of Japanese invasion), Fujian, Guangdong (“Dapu”), of course Hong Kong (for its urban, multi-cultural variety), Guangxi ( “Zhongliu”), Guizhou (“Zengchong”), Anhui (“Mukeng Zhuhai,” the Bamboo Sea where Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was shot), Hunan (“Zhangjiajie” and “Fenghaung”), Henan (“Song Shan” for its 800-year-old Shaolin temple and its ancient association with Kung Fu), Shaabxu (“Xi’an” for the Bingmayong vault), Gansu (“Hexi” and “Langmusi” for its Tibetan yet almost Peruvian-appearing culture), Sichuan (“Jiuzhaigou” and “Emei Shan”), Yunnan (“Lijiang”)…

China is an unavoidable nation in the 21st century. It is no longer simply a topic for adventure-seeking travelers or businessmen and diplomats. Even if you have never been to China or know little about it, it is affecting your life in ways large and small. And it will surely only do so more in the years ahead. Tom Carter’s China: Portrait Of A People is a fine place to start peeking behind the silk curtain at this fascinating country. And unlike a dry foreign affairs book, this book has the added bonus of teaching you about China while providing a feast for the eyes with its lush visual spectacle.