You know how sometimes for some random reason you just happen to end up in a certain place at a certain time?
Well, for some unknown reason this Lonely Planet writer happened to end up in the backseat of our rented 4WD Jeep – frantically scribbling down notes in his notebook.
We were in Samos, Greece, and he was writing a guide about the island, whilst also searching for his Greek family roots.
How his root-searching went I would never know, but I have an idea of how his guide research went – at least for a day …
We were going on a day trip around the island, and invited him to come along in our jeep. Now keep in mind that this happened a few years ago (I was 18 years old), and at that time I knew little about Lonely Planet, nothing about guide books, and even less about travel writing – if only I would have known that just a few years later I would be a travel writer myself..!
Today I can’t help but to feel a little sorry for the guy, as he desperately tried to keep track of the directions, counting the kilometers and scribble down every road name we drove past.
We drove through some amazing places, stopped over at a secluded beach, found a church right by the edge of a mountain, and accidentally drove through one of those picturesque farms with an old wrinkled man looking at us rather confused as to how in the world we ended up at his farm - but the writer seemed too busy to really enjoy it.
I remember thinking how I wasn’t jealous AT ALL of what he was doing – it seemed like a lot of hard work, and very little enjoyment.
Finally, after 3-4 hours, he seemed to have given up trying to keep track of where he was, and stopped asking us as he knew we didn’t have any idea either …
We turned off from the sealed road and got on a steep dirt road – it was a tricky drive, and we all started getting a bit nervous about the edge of the steep cliff which seemed to get closer and closer to our jeep as we continued driving.
Maybe the adrenaline kick helped, because the writer finally started to relax and enjoy himself.
He was sitting in the back holding on for dear life (like the rest of us) laughing hysterically at the crazy bumpy ride, and I suppose, at his random and rather helpless situation.
I guess he had given up trying to remember the route, and had faced the fact that no matter how much he looked for a road sign, he would have no idea where he was anyway.
For the first time during the trip he actually started to look around himself and enjoy the beautiful nature, the winding roads and hidden gems that make up Samos.
At the end of the day, we drove him back to town, helped him get a place to stay and showed him a restaurant with the best Greek Salad on the island.
We figured that while we probably hadn’t helped him much with the travel guide, perhaps he could at least write something about the restaurant…
Today I wonder what he ended up writing about Samos, and if something we did during that day, perhaps a photo or a small tip, would end up in one of those guide books about Samos and Greece …
How This Changed The Way I Travel & Why I Love Travel Blogs
I didn’t realize it at the time, but his obsessive note taking made quite an impact on me and changed the way I travel today – his lifestyle definitely intrigued me and I believe it planted a seed, after all my biggest passion when I left high school was travel and writing.
Today I never travel with a guide book – I believe that travel is not about the details or the facts, but about the connections and experiences that you can only see if you open up to your surroundings and dare to be spontaneous.
From what I saw, that Lonely Planet writer in Samos never truly got to experience Greece until he stopped being so fixated on all the little details and facts – and while I understand that that’s how Lonely Planet works, I didn’t feel that it was the right way for me - or anyone who truly wants to experience a place rather than just visit it.
I believe that travel blogs are different and so much more useful than guide books – today if I research a city before I visit, I prefer to read about it through the eyes of a blogger.
Perhaps because there usually isn’t the same kind of pressure on travel bloggers, they can open up and be more spontaneous, inspiring readers from a different unique point of view.
They don’t have any boss telling them to find that next “authentic place” or a new “secluded beach” – if they happen to find something awesome, they write about it, if not, they don’t – and that’s how you find out about those real gems while traveling around the world …