WanderingJustin.com

Travel Blogs or Guidebooks: Who Do You Trust?

The guidebook promised a fairly flat, easy, short hike.

The guidebook promised a fairly flat, easy, short hike.

It’s one of those days when I feel like torturing a travel guide editor. I imagine stuff involving ants, honey, jumper cables and possibly a Weed Whacker.

“A short, mostly, flat hike,” the guide book entry promised.

Hours ago, I planned for that short, mostly flat hike near Busan, South Korea. I skipped my typical day pack, its 120-ounce water bladder and its snacks tucked into multiple pockets.

I want to find this writer. And bury him up to the neck in sand. Smack him in the head over and again with one of my 24-ounce water bottles … but frozen. Between each hit – “Did you even go there, jackass?!”.

The Hangul characters on these signs are about as helpful as some travel guidebooks.

The Hangul characters on these signs are about as helpful as some travel guidebooks.

I hate being underprepared. I would’ve had my pack, my GPS receiver, probably a windbreaker. It turns into a wonderful hike, from Beomeosa Temple to the forlorn out-of-season Geumgang Park. We have to watch our water, and there’s that nagging “what if we really screwed up?” worry in our heads. We meet friendly Korean hikers – which is redundant, I guess – who show us the way to the highest peak. They also seize our camera and make us pose for a few hundred shots.

As nice as our hike is, this episode marks an important shift in travel preparation. It makes me trust guidebooks less, and bloggers more.

A rare shot of Sarah and me in the same photo.

A rare shot of Sarah and me in the same photo.

If you read Smile While You’re Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer, you’ll be convinced that guidebook writers can’t make a living without being on the take. And that they can’t possibly do everything they write about. But they have to write about it whether they’ve done it o not.

Which is why guidebooks are only helpful for getting a few ideas. When it comes to activity and seeing the truth first-hand, I say “rely on the bloggers.” Sure, not all bloggers are great. But find one that speaks to your destination, and you have yourself a major leg up in planning your trip.

And that is the point of everything I do here. I want someone going to one of my destinations to search for information, find me, grab some ideas and have the best time possible. At least they can use my writing with the confidence that I’ve been there, for real, and not concocted something to satisfy the publishers paying my bills.

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