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April 18, 2007

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Travel Tomes That Thoughtfully Titillate by Dave Zuchowski

With more and more people traveling these days, there comes with it a certain yearning to stand apart from the crowd by visiting unusual or exotic places. Recently, however, I came across a book that takes unusual travel to a whole new level.

"The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel," a spoof of a book by authors Rachel Antony and Joel Henry, seems more concerned with travel methodology than destinations. In fact, they make the claim that experimental travel evades definition but is "a playful way of traveling, where the methodology is clear but the destination may be unknown."

If all this seems a little vague, their introductory chapter "How to Use this Book" gets things started, and the concentrated history of travel that follows sets the stage for the forty chapters, really the meat of the book, that follow.

Each chapter is a methodological travel invitation for the reader that includes a hypothesis, suggested apparatus, a method and a difficulty rating. The chapter titled "Budget Tourism," for example, comes with a rating of three out of a possible five and proffers the hypothesis of visiting some place and not spending a single red cent.

Two methods are suggested - visiting a destination that has nothing to recommend it, with not enough time or money and where you don't understand the language, or visiting a well-known tourist trap and attempting to survive the experience without reaching even once for your wallet or purse.

Each chapter includes a "laboratory result," written by someone who's already concluded the adventure. In the case of budget tourism, the traveler visits the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, where it's virtually impossible to spend a dime. There is no entrance fee, cafe, souvenir shop and you can't even throw a quarter tip to the brokers on the floor because they're separated from visitors gallery by a wall of glass.

Elsewhere, the chapter titled "Ero Tourism" might make for either an adventurous weekend getaway or a lonely, frantic sojourn. The hypothesis is to discover a city while looking for love. The method is to arrange to take a holiday with your partner, then travel separately by different means without arranging a meeting time or place, then trying to find one another.

And so it goes for another 38 chapters, outlining invitations to participate in everything from Airport Tourism (where you spend a weekend at the airport without flying anywhere) and Chance Tourism (which involves the roll of dice and an atlas) to Rent a Tourist (where you explore the working life of a city and learn about the locals by renting yourself out for work).

Quirky, zany, eccentric? Yes! But "Experimental Travel" is a fun, entertaining read. However it has little practical application for the average Joe or Jane in search of serious travel information. $18 in hardback.

Travel and time are two coordinates that don't always line up just right. Hurricane season in the Caribbean can ruin your visit to San Juan or St. Kitts. Rainy weather, sometimes for days on end can put a damper on trips to California. Overcrowded destinations can turn a long-awaited visit into a nightmare of queuing up for restaurants, museums, even the port-a-john.

Help, however, is on the way with "A Year of Adventures: A Guide to What, Where and When to Do It," a 218-page full-color journey through adventure activities all over the world. Divided into 52-weeks of the year, each section profiles the best adventure vacations to take when the time is ripe. Starting with Queenstown, New Zealand on January 1, where the town is one of the first places the sun rises on the New Year, and ending with Lapland, Scandinavia on week four of December, where Christmas and reindeer go hand in hand, the book lists the best times to go places and do things.

As an alternative to the Queenstown vacation on New Year's week, for instance, the section also suggests adventures like bobsledding at Lake Placid in New York, climbing Adam's Peak in Sri Lanka and tracking gorilla in Bwindi.

Each entry includes a description of the activity with color photographs, essential information on why the visit is timely and the fitness or expertise level required to participate. High impact activities include adventures like running the bulls at Pamplona and white water kayaking the Bitches, where a daily tide rolls across a line of reef and rock between Ramsey Island and the Welsh mainland.

Low impact or expertise suggestions include visiting the Orang-Utan Viewing Center in Sumatra and gazing at the Aurora Borealis in Greenland, Russia, Canada or Scandinavia. Author Andrew Bain is a renowned travel writer and former sports journalist, who's trekked, cycled or kayaked his way around five continents and is the author of "Headwinds," the story of his 20,000 km cycle journey around Australia. $19.99 in soft cover. Speaking of Australia, "Going Bush: Adventures Across Indigenous Australia," is a pictorial and literary chronicle of two young females' motor tour across, through and around the island continent. The book began when, Catherine Freeman, an Olympic gold-medal winner at the Sydney Olympic Games, and Deborah Mailman, one of her nation's most respected actors, took a road trip across northwestern Australia from Broome to the tip of Arnhem Land.

The duo followed up with excursions through contrasting coastal, tropical, desert, mountains and plains regions, hooking up with local indigenous travel guides and tour operators who gave them insights into their own indigenous origins as well as the landscape, bush foods, local languages and native culture, art, medicines, folk heroes and history. $19.95 in soft cover.


  • Lonely Planet Guide To Experimental Travel
  • Lonely Planet Going Bush: Adventures Across Indigenous Australia
  • A Year of Adventures: Lonely Planet's Guide to Where, What And When to Do It

  • Dave Zuchowski has been writing about travel for twenty years, and his articles have made the pages of many newspapers aand magazines cross the country, including AAA, Pathfinders, West Virginia Magazine, Southsider, and Westsylvania. Currently, he is the travel correspondent for the New Castle News, a daily in the Pittsburgh area. For the past ten years, he's also been the arts and entertainment writer for the Washington County section of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In his spare time, he also puts his horticultural interests to good use on his fifteen acre farm located near Centerville, Pa.

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