The road already traveled

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Berat, Albania

My Lonely Planet guides have become my Holy books.

I tote them wherever I go, hug them to sleep on long bus rides, and they give me much-needed company during meals on my travels.

And it hit me today, how ashamed I ought to be of myself, thanks to my absolute dependence on the Lonely Planets. Sure, I’m backpacking alone, and even more so as an Asian girl, this never fails to amaze my fellow travelers and the locals I meet. Yet, I can’t say I’ve headed to or am heading to mysterious, un-trekked territory. Everywhere that I’ve been or that I’m going to has already been traversed, marked and triumphantly kept as adventure trophies.

Traveling in 2012, 2013 is way too easy – even the folks in the Balkans speak some English (if not minimal), popular destinations have already been dutifully recorded in the respective guidebooks. There are paved roads through mountainous regions, cafes along historic lakes, wi-fi practically everywhere (I kid you not; this is probably why I can even write this in a canyon in Podgorica), the list goes on. Whatever happened to exploring the wild and truly setting off on the road less traveled?

The most profound irony is that the spirit behind Lonely Planet-ness has been lost. The creators of the best-selling guidebook series were true travel pioneers, having been on the road for 6 whole months in the 1970s when they first conceived the idea of writing guidebooks for backpackers. The idea was to inspire, empower and to inform, and I must say they have been crazily successful in doing that (just look how well-written their books are and how popular they are!!!). Yet, today, we have all become lazy Lonely Planet readers, we simply follow the listings on the book and foolishly think that we have seen a whole city, or even a whole country. This, is perhaps what our Lonely Planet creators did not foresee, that their books have made travel…predictable.

Could we (or I) be true pioneers and seek out lands that are wholly untouched by modern civilization? Do these lands still exist? (I vaguely recall being told once that there were villages in Oman that were only recently discovered and have lived without any knowledge of modernity or technology, or connection with the outside world for that matter.) Do we (I) dare to head out to territory no modern traveler has been to, and start our own Lonely Planet chapters?

Ah, to practice what I preach, my next destination (as a friend jokingly mentioned) – the moon perhaps?

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