Sunday, October 11, 2009

Tweet Travel

Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Experiences
ISBN No. 978-1-74179-945-3

If Workman Publishing’s 1,000 Places to See Before You Die wall calendar is the version of travel (nice colour picture + today’s date + enough of a box for you to remind yourself it’s garbage day) then “Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Experiences” is the tweet version of global travel in an internet age.
It was bound to happen and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. In our big Bandwidth, 500-TV channel universe the audience for pretty much anything has become so fractured and fragmented that the old definitions of “experience” (education, sexual, career) no longer hold. Today people go to online schools, explore kink and telecommute from home. Now, everyone has the power to take roads less travelled – although we wouldn’t mind having someone along the way to point out the potholes for us.
And that’s where this very cleverly titled book comes in. 1000 Ultimate Experiences? 1000? No way! It’s both boast and dare; top ten list and checklist; a litmus test to figure out if you’re getting enough out of your life - or not. Man, you just gotta have a peek and see what you’re missing…
Given LP’s history for exhaustive researching there really is something for everyone here and it’s all neatly broken down into intriguing sections with titles like “Strangest Museums,” “Greatest Little-Known Neighbourhoods,” and “Top Tourist Traps Worth the Crowds.” The book then smartly levels off its lightweight short paragraph premise with heavy, luxurious paper stock and grand glossy pictures. It’s a potent combo: suddenly all the experiences sound both wildly exotic as well as teasingly accessible.
Whether they’re talking about having steamed dumplings in Shanghai or seeing works of engineering genius, the coverage is pretty much the same: a short, sweet paragraph that sums it up so perfectly and succinctly that they should be required reading for anyone writing their online personal ad. I’m not kidding. Word-wise the LP entries are an education in picking just the right words for economical yet maximum evocation. Voice-wise they’re even better: they’re a master lesson in how to make any reader feel like they’re reading a postcard from a best friend.