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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Happy 1st Birthday Cool Travel Guide

I forget everyone's birthdays. Even my own. So it's not surprising that I forgot (only by a few days) the first birthday of my Cool Travel Guide. It was a year ago that I started this blog, and you can read about my initial motivations on my first post Aleppo: No Practicalities. The blog grew partly out of a sense of frustration with certain aspects of guidebook writing, one being the fact that when we wrote for Lonely Planet we couldn't include a POI (Point of Interest) if it didn't have practicalities, i.e. a phone number and street address. We'd not long finished research in Syria for our recently-released Syria and Lebanon guidebook and I remember being frustrated at not being able to include wonderful places I'd wanted to, such as the cane shop (featured in the first post) and a coffee stand in Aleppo Souq. I wanted (and I still want) to create a new style of guidebook that allows us to write about these places, and write about destinations in a way that hadn't been done before, but in a way that inspires people to travel. And it's still a dream of mine to develop that guidebook one day. But then there were so many other things I wanted to reflect upon and think about, from places my husband and co-author Terry and I had travelled to and loved, to the very nature of travelling itself. I wanted to write about this stuff in a form that was unrestricted, that didn't fit into the format of the books or stories we normally get paid to write. I also found myself wanting to comment on travel writing, the travel media, travel trends, travel publishing, and the travel industry. And to share my feelings, develop my ideas, and vent my frustrations over certain aspects, annoyances, issues and problems related to the profession, such as the Lonely Planet scandal that became known as the 'Thomas Kohnstamm Affair'. From time to time I also felt a need to deconstruct lazy or bad travel writing (and Terry also joins me in this exercise), and then soon after I began to get questions from other writers (established and aspiring) about how we made a decent living out of being travel writers, and so I started sharing tips and advice. But one of my original objectives in starting the Cool Travel Guide was very basic. I wanted simply to write about the things I found cool about travel, the sights that stopped us dead in our tracks, the experiences that made us catch our breath, the things about travel that delighted us so much, and excited us enough to motivate us to travel again, that is the things that inspired us about travel, and the things that inspired us to travel. One year on, I ask myself if I've made any in-roads... but then I have to remind myself that one of the coolest things about travel is the journey itself, not necessarily the destination. And, look, let's face it - everything is cool about travel. I'm still enjoying the ride. Are you?


Tamara said...

Happy Birthday Lara. It's a great blog - don't stop!

Anonymous said...

Lara, Congrats to one year of blogging! I agree with Tamara - don't stop. This is one of the best travel blogs ever!

By the way, it would be great if you can update the link to my blog to Travel Blissful.


AngelaCorrias said...

Absolutely... The journey itself is cool, and every stop in the journey is already a destination... Happy birthday!

Jen Laceda | Milk Guides said...

Happy Birthday!!!

Laura, I just came back from the bookstore wherein I purchased Lonely Planet's guide to Syria and Lebanon. As I opened the book...hello! Glad to see a familiar face...

I'm thinking of travelling with my husband and will-be 2-1/2 year old daughter to Jordan and Syria (hopefully). Would you advise against taking a child there, or is it generally safe? We are very eager to travel to both countries!

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Tamara, Erica, Angela, and Jen!

Thank you so much for your comments and feedback - much appreciated.

Erica - yep, I'll change that today, no problem.

Angela - I'll have to remember that one!

Jen - you can definitely travel with kids in Syria - they love children there and it's very safe. I would not be going to Lebanon right now, though. In Syria, you just need to watch what you feed your daughter - I'd advise against street food, which sometimes can be absolutely wonderful and fine, but occasionally can be dodgy. And only give her bottled water. Other than that, Syria is a fantastic place for kids.

A warning though: my Syrian friends tell me that sine we were there (now, just over a year ago), the inflation (being experienced across the whole Middle East due to the oil prices) has led transport and food prices across the board to double, and accommodation has gone up by about 20% they reckon. Don't hesitate to get back to me for specifics.

sealaura said...

Congratulation on your Bday! Like I said in a previous post, this is always a joy to read and it feels like a mini-vacay when life takes over and one can't always get away!

The Daily Rant said...

I found you after you commented on my guest post over at Bleeding Espresso. I'm SO excited to start delving into your blog!!! Maybe I'll be able to glean some tips on how to give some of my posts a more "travel writer" feel to them. I'm thinking of starting a category that is specifically tourist related. I can't wait to see what I can find out here at your place!

Thanks for your comment and Happy Blog Birthday!

The Daily Rant

Lara Dunston said...

Hi SeaLaura - thank you so much! Sincerely appreciated. Hopefully I can also give you some ideas as to where you can go where you *can* get away.

Hi Salena - nice to 'meet' you! I really enjoyed your post on Bleeding Espresso. What an exciting job *you* have! How impressive to be at the wheels of one of those mighty things. You really should start a travel category - just think about all the experience you have and the stuff you know that would benefit travellers that you probably take for granted. Don't hesitate to give me a shout if there's something specifically I can help you with.

Thanks again for dropping by!

Michael Esposito said...

I think that it's a great idea to celebrate your first anniversary. I like the variety of topics you present and, like the other readers, certainly encourage you to continue. My Latin and Caribbean travel blog turned one year old on June 26.

Jessie V said...

Happy birthday! I only recently discovered your site, and am addicted!

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Michael - Thank you! Yeah, I thought by celebrating the blog's birthday, it was a way for me to reflect on why I'd started and how it had evolved. Thanks for the encouragement. And a happy (belated) birthday to your blog too! Good on you!

Hi Jessie - Thanks! I'm glad you're enjoying it. Much appreciated.

The Bohemian Bahamian said...

Hi Lara!

I love your blog and the insights you give on here. I really hope you can accomplish your own brand of guidebook one day.