The Pain of Writing A Guidebook Niamey Niger West Africa Saturday, October 14, 2006
I could write a guidebook on Africa very easy, there is enough information already in books, internet, encyclopedias, etc, all I need to do is travel these smaller countries very thoroughly and collect, compile and digest he information. It is a fact-collecting job, not the most exciting job on the planet, but ok.
The pain is this….
I have traveled a long time; I have read the guidebook for years. They do a darn good job of it, but there is always one problem that arises. The guide on a specific country is dependent up on the writer to pick and choose what is important. A rich, everyone is poor perspective and all I get to read is restaurant and bar reviews, like maybe Hong Kong or Macau guides.
Here in Africa, I am fighting, I know the guidebook writers drove cars and did not feel the pain of walking the distance to the hotel, plus they were probably fluent in French. I am amazed when they give me the address in English, and it is not worth a darn here, an English name or address, needs to be in French in most of these countries.
Nevertheless, simple things, the expected cost of taxi from Airport to the hotels area, I consider essential. I spend more money by accident on taxis in the first day, because I have no way to know, I have a few ways, but I know I pay too much for taxis from the Airport to the Hotels. The guidebooks just seem to think this essential information is not needed.
Therefore the pain of writing a guidebook is the checklist that needed, what questions must be answered always. You cannot leave to the guidebook writer, they may be rich, or poor or just do not see something as important. But I am thinking about guides, I think about danger first.
There is a big push in Guidebooks to tell you how to ride a bike or sometimes to hitchhike. Riding a bike is dangerous in a third world nation, riding in a car is dangerous, walking the street is dangerous, but sharing the road with a car in Niger scares me to death, and I think Iraq is safe.
Yet, the guidebook in the name of fashion does not say, hmm…. Homemade beer in Boucombe the Somba area of Benin could be dangerous, nope they just recommend.
I do not want to scare people and I would ride a bike in Niger, and I would drink the drink, if I drank. However, there is a trendy nature to guide writers and a way is needed to warn of objectivity problems.
My friend just wrote a way to sneak or go to Machu Picchu for maybe 20 dollars, even though the admission fee is 40. I could not read it and it may be different.
I do NOT want people to just fly off the handle and go to Africa; there are some parts or people in Africa that are extremely dangerous. I know there are probably countries or places that are too dangerous to enter. IF I go, am I telling everyone to go, I went to Iraq, two months after the major fighting ended, am I telling you to go.
Writing a guide to Iraq?
Obviously, it would be a good idea to give a very thorough and complete list of ways to be killed or kidnapped in Iraq.
However, they kidnap people in Mexico and South America also…?
I need a complete checklist of dangers, so I do not just accidentally leave out one, because I do not think of it, I need a check or tick list of possible dangers that exist. Now, I can do this on the internet and large list are not a problem, in a 225 Trade Size book, make for selling on a shelf they edit out save-your-life information.
I have a system for all these problems, and am thinking how to make it a series of checks and balance, whereby a person has their subjective opinions scrutinized, filtered and make them work to think, asking many questions that can be gathered by years of experience of just a new perspective. I love it when the new virgin traveler, just comes off the plane, and give me great advice, he or she may say, wow, look at that… and say and opinion I never even thought about. This happens often, every person has some insight, the goal of a guidebook is not to discover the insight and for me, their lack of insight, but to cover all bases, all questions. The job of an editor is to do this, and the audience is the critic, I would guess nobody comes to Africa enough to really give a lot of feedback to writers or editors. Not important, the goal is to cover ever aspect of problems, solutions and to make life fun.
I can tell the world one thing, you cannot pay enough to stay safe, in the end a guide from here is about as worthless as tits on a boar hog. The responsibility of safety should always be your own.
Today there was a breakthrough on the information curve of the staff of HoboTraveler.com. I finally explained and have pushed through to the other side. The technology is available and in use on the site is connecting with my dream of giving people an online guide.
The problem is this, the guide must make me happy, I am the hardest person I know to keep happy for a guidebook, but I have too much experience, 10 years of reading them, I can critic one to the end of days.