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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Enriching the experience of travel: it's all about context

I have a secret: despite writing and contributing to some 25 Lonely Planet guidebooks, I have to admit I've always preferred Rough Guides - primarily for their fantastic Contexts chapters at the back of the books. While many guidebook publishers have been cutting back on word counts in the history, politics and culture chapters of their guides over recent years (yes, I'm talking about you, Lonely Planet!), Rough Guides have maintained their compelling Contexts chapters. These comprehensive sections sometimes stretch to 50 pages or more, demonstrating an appreciation that this is the kind of fascinating stuff that really enriches a traveller's experience of a place, helping us to understand a culture and get beneath the skin of a destination. Context is therefore a fitting name for the first-rate organization with whom we recently did a number of very cool workshops and walking tours in Rome. More on Context and context soon!


Nomadic Matt said...

That's actually the big difference I see between the two. Rough Guides has much information about the history and culture of a place than LP...but I like the LP layout/style I get LP's for it helps lol

Lara Dunston said...

Yeah, I've never been a fan of the basic LP layout/style of their country or regional guides to be honest, although I do like the new little Encounter guides (depending on who has shot them - I've the ones we wrote, Buenos Aires and Dubai, because I think Terry did a great job with the photography) and I used to like their old 'Best of' guides. But I find that it's just a matter of adjusting to layout and style, and it's difficult with all guides at first until you get used to their style.

Getting a guide for free is not reason enough to use it in my opinion! :) It's got to be a great guide, in that it's got to be useful and it's got to show you a great time.

Once again, thanks for taking the time to read - and comment - Matt! :)

Unknown said...

I think your comment about "context" is on the button. We've just (and I know you are not a great fan of guides) launched a series of rich audio guides to London as I was frustrated and disappointed by my own experiences. Every guide has a chapter specifically linking to other aspects of the other guides as well as a series of useful links on each guide's website page, which we hope to add to, plus we've rolled in a FastFacts section to each guide, designed to highlight other local points of interest to maximise the visitor's experience. Randle

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Randle - I'm a fan of high quality guides for sure. I'm just not a fan of bad ones. Your guides certainly sound interesting. You haven't left me a link, but contact me - I'm happy to test them out. Cheers, Lara