My Love Affair with Travel Guidebooks

The sad remains of my trimmed-down collection.

I recently culled my library of travel guides.

I set myself the goal of halving the shelf-full of books I’d accumulated. It was hard going. Some were guides to places I have been and so represented good memories. Some were for destinations I still hope to visit and so protected cherished travel dreams. Others sat on the shelf to remind me of places on my B list.

I must confess that a few were published in the previous millennium. <Blushing.> Yet I still clung to them and hated the thought of tossing any. What is more useless than an out-of-date travel guide? I told myself firmly. But (whispered another voice) who could let go of Insider’s London, a guide to delightfully quirky hidden spots and sights—even if it is over 20 years old? 

In the end, I achieved my goal. I started by arranging the books in date published order, then started cutting from the “written before cell phones were invented” end. Sometimes—as with Insider’s London—I took down the book with full intentions of heaving it into the bin, but after looking at it, I put it back. I had two old guidebooks purchased for a Galapagos Islands trip that never happened. I hesitated, then let go of the one with more time-sensitive info and kept the other.

As I said, difficult choices because, despite the huge amount of travel information available online, I still love my travel guides.

I enjoy the feel of a book in my hands and I like to get away from my computer when I can. I respect and understand the order that information is presented in a book. I like the fact that books are text-heavy, whereas websites tend to be image-heavy. I don’t mind that hard-copy content is not perfectly up to date—the things that interest me usually don’t change much over time and I can always use the Web to get recent info when I need it—things like opening times or ticket prices.

As soon as I start to consider a destination, I open the library website and order in two or three guidebooks for that place. Once I have them in my hands, I browse through them to get a general sense of whether the destination is going to make the A list. I read the “must-see” lists. Are these things that interest me? I look for special sections that might discuss niche topics like birding or lesser-known museums or regional foods. I stare at the maps of suggested scenic or themed driving routes. I might browse through the local customs sections

As I scan the guidebook(s), I insert Post-Its next to items that catch my interest. Eventually, I’ll transfer the info and any relevant URLs to my file of notes for that trip.

When possible, I try to check out a guidebook to take with me on the road. It seems somehow fitting that a travel guide should get the opportunity to visit the country it describes in such detail.

As a side note to using the local library resources, it’s always intriguing when I realize that someone else in my neighbourhood has taken out all the guidebooks for an area. I like the idea that this anonymous stranger—perhaps the fellow behind me in the grocery store line-up—is also dreaming about visiting my chosen destination. I wish I could sit down for tea with him/her and trade information: So what made you choose Argentina? When are you going? Where will you stay? Which tours are you thinking of taking? Maybe we’d even arrange to meet up and trade stories after our respective journeys.

Perhaps I should leave a note hidden in a library travel guide, prompting the next reader to get in touch. Hmmm…I think I see a future movie starting Jude Law and Helena Bonham Carter….

PS: FYI, all those guides on my shelf with library call numbers are not purloined copies. They are ex-library copies that I bought for 50 cents.

Am I the only crazy person with a collection of travel guides? Let me know in a comment.

Calidris Compares: Feb 2020 vs Feb 2021

Let’s see now…what was I doing one year ago in February 2020? Ah, yes, I remember…I was housesitting a stranger’s home in France and wandering around the Loire Valley for fun. Hahahahaha….

How long ago and far away that seems now. Just visiting a stranger’s home is unthinkable and forget about travelling to France, eating in tiny, crowded bistros, or rubbing shoulders with thousands of people from all over the world in the Louvre or d’Orsay museums. The world has changed and as always, Calidris does not shrink from candid comparisons.

Feb 2020Feb 2021
Canada-US border Leave the pot in Canada and the guns in America and you’re good to go Closed for nonessential travel
Coughing in publicYou are offered a lozengeYou are run out of town
MasksMardi Gras, Carnival, or bank robberyMust-have fashion accessory
Airplane travelAnywhere, any time, as long as you have the bucksJust no, unless you are a politician to whom the rules don’t apply (according to yourself)
Flight phobiaFiery crashHaving an anti-masker on board
Public restroomsGratitude that they existTerror that you’ll need to use one
SanitizerTiny packeted wipe in your purse4-litre jug that you wear like a camel pack
Friendly hand shakeGood manners in many countries around the worldThe Touch of Doom
Travel wishBeing bumped to first classA vaccine
Touching your faceItchySuicide
BirthdayParty with everyone you knowOnline meet-up over takeout
Flight recoveryA good sleep-inTwo weeks of quarantine
Passenger in next seatCurler from Moose Jaw heading to a bonspielMillionaire sitting in economy as part of his ruse to get vaccine in a small, remote town
Things to smuggle homeBooze, bits of endangered animalsToilet paper
#1 travel destinationFranceThe living room
ZoomSound the jet makes as you take off for HawaiiYour primary source of communication, education, entertainment, and business
Bonnie HenryDr Who?Goddess of the Known Universe and Ruler of Our Fate
Jigsaw puzzlesAre you kidding?More valuable than gold bricks

What do you see is different this February? Let me know in a comment.