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that it would be a big mistake to cling to them religiously as many travelers do, since most of them are often out of date before they are even published.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.

What Am I Doing Here by Bruce Chatwin

The title of Bruce Chatwin’s What Am I Doing Here carries no question mark. Perhaps that is because this title represents merely the traveller’s rhetorical mumbled aside, a phrase not intended to be asked, let alone answered. These are surely just the mumbled words that punctuate experience, uttered like “Well here we are” to provoke a moment’s reflection on the path travelled thus far and the unknown routes that still lie ahead. Perhaps also the title is a question whose multiple answers are simply the stories, reflections, observations or whimsies contained in this magnificent, almost random volume.

The pieces are grouped, but the only classification is by broad scope of content. There are sections relating to Russia and China, but Chatwin does not attempt to raise the country-specificity into a structure. There are pieces about people, some known, some famous, some historical, some fictional. Some were met along the way, while others were lifelong friends. There are a few tales from the art world, arising from the author’s employment in a famous dealer’s house, and these inevitably contain eccentricity, occasional surprise, sham and consideration of provenance. There’s some myth as we set off in search of yeti, intruding reality in the form of a coup and unwanted restriction as recurrent illness regularly reminds the author of its presence. Overall these pieces have the characteristic of a commonplace book containing random jottings, some of which have been expanded into something more finished. They thus do not purport to any particular sequence, and clearly there remains much that is omitted between the lines.

But this is not a problem. Each piece is a gem. The writer’s style, often proclaimed as jagged, spiky or idiosyncratic, genuinely reflects the experience of travel, when the view around the next unknown bend is as likely to bore as excite, achieve the commonplace as frequently as the spectacular. The reader is thus offered a genuine share in the writer’s direct experience and the time always feels quite real. The sentences take you there, render you a fellow traveller, not a mere recipient of another’s reflections.

And though he does not attempt to become a professional name-dropper, Bruce Chatwin clearly brushed shoulders with some pretty impressive people, and even a couple of quite famous ones. His recollections of meetings, friendships and events themselves take on the same immediacy and clarity he brings to his travel pieces. There are journeys around people that on occasions venture inside as well, but, also like good travel writing, it’s the journey itself that leaves the reader a space to reach individual, personal judgments that are not forced by the writer’s prejudice.

What Am I Doing Here certainly is a question, but by not admitting its own reality it thus never primarily seeks to find answers. It’s the experience itself that counts and, like all thought-provoking memories recalled from the journey, the recollections just keep returning to demand re-interpretation. It’s a short book that seems to remain only impressionistic, but well before the end What Am I Doing Here transforms itself into a long-lasting and profound experience, one that can be re-lived repeatedly.

French Lifestyle Cycling

Just when you think there’s nothing new under the cycle travelling sun – a new idea squirts some grease on your gears.

Like – Why not make French Cycle travel a lifestyle? Not just a vacation option?

Ok – not a new idea for me, bien sur, but then, I’m an exception. Not the rule. And so are Darren Alff, Alastair Humphreys, Tom Kevill-Davies and Kate Harris. Four dyed in the lycra, obsessive, passionate, take no prisoners cycle nomad/explorer/adventurers.

Each keeping the wolf away from their panniers with websites/blog/books relating to their cycling adventures. Great for them, yeah? So – how does this affect you?

Well… now these “Fantastic Four” have morphed into cycle lifestyle evangelists. Encouraging “young people”(hopefully, “young at heart” too?)to follow in  their pedal steps.

Their “Mission Control” is the Bicycle Travel Network. I managed to catch up with Tom Kevill-Davies, the “Hungry Cyclist” between mouthfuls recently.

BG  –   How did you get inspired to create it?

TOM  – The cycle touring community is a small one and all four of us had been in contact with each other for some time. Through conversations it became clear that individually we were helping encourage people to look at bicycle travel as happy and healthy alternative but it was also clear that working as a four we had much more influence. So after a few emails crossed the globe we decided to pool our resources and try and make a collective difference. The result was The Bicycle Travel Network.

BG   – Why the word “network” in the title?

TOM  – A good question – countless emails went around the four of us while we looked for a name and in the end network seemed to work best. As well as providing funds and aid to first time bicycle travelers one of our main aims was to create a network of new generation bicycle travelers who are out there doing what they love and sharing what they learn from their experiences in an online environment.

BG  –  What were some of the challenges you faced putting it together?

TOM  – Coming up with a name? no that was pretty simple in the end… – I think the biggest hurdle was trying to pin down the four founders at any one time to make decisions- hard to do when each one us spends  the majority of our time out on the road looking for adventure. But once we were all talking it became very clear that we all wanted was to combine our collective knowledge and experiences with other prospective bicycle travelers – from then on the whole project took on its own momentum and it was downhill from there – so to speak.

BG  –  What expertise/inspiration etc. does each individual member of your team contribute?

TOM  –The world of bicycle travel is a small one and we had all been in contact for some time. Knowing about each other and our different offerings it became clear that each of us was making good head way in the same field and yet each with a very different approach. Darren was forging ahead providing first class technical information for cycle tourists through Bicycle Touring Pro, Al is leading his field in motivational advice and expedition planning, Tom has been showcasing the more enjoyable and cultural sides of bicycle travel while Kate is out there as a ground breaking female adventurer. With these four areas of expertise covered it was a case of ‘One for all and all for one!

BG  –  Why the focus on “young people?” i.e. – why not all people on the same wavelength?

TOM  – This was a tough decision. We were keen not to discriminate through age but with all of as having made talks at schools and youth clubs to promote travel by bicycle we were aware that the younger generation were the ones that needed the most help. Like so many things in life if you can get the little push and encouragement you need when you are young the rest is history.

And so by helping budding young bicycle travelers we hope to be aiding bicycle travelers of all generations in the future.

BG  –  Explain your funding strategy/process. (i.e. – how do you prospect for donors? what’s their return, if any, other than a tax-write off?)

TOM – Its early days for the project but we hope our main revenue streams for donations to come through the following sources.

1.  Income from cost per click advertising on a website dedicated to a niche market.

2.  Equipment donations from equipment companies in return for advertorial, field testing, and banner space on the website.

3.  Donations of old equipment and private donations from generous folk who want to help change a young traveler’s life.

BG  –  What’s your goal?

TOM  – To make travel by bicycle the first choice for anyone looking to have an adventure or see the world.

BG  –  How can people help?

TOM  – Spread the word –  pop a link on your blog or web page and tell your friends! If you’re a company looking for a targeted marketing opportunity for your products get in touch! And if you have a few quid you can spare, make a donation today!

THROW  ME  A  BONE  HERE  PEOPLE!

What are ya thinkin’?