"Wealth will increasingly be defined by our ability to go offline whenever we want." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Thoughts
April 14, 2008

Do Travel Writers Belong In The Same Level Of Hell As Used Car Salesmen And Tax Collectors?

It’s a story you just knew would blow up one-day. Former Lonely Planet writer Thomas Kohnstamm claims to have written about Colombia without having ever visited the country. “They didn’t pay me enough to go to Colombia,” he told Australia’s Sunday Herald Sun newspaper. “I wrote the book in San Francisco. I got the information […]

It’s a story you just knew would blow up one-day. Former Lonely Planet writer Thomas Kohnstamm claims to have written about Colombia without having ever visited the country.

“They didn’t pay me enough to go to Colombia,” he told Australia’s Sunday Herald Sun newspaper.

“I wrote the book in San Francisco. I got the information from a chick I was dating who was in an intern in the Colombian consulate.”

In reality, the story is a little sensational than it seems.

“Lonely Planet publisher Piers Pickard told Associated Press that Kohnstamm’s revelation of not having been to Colombia was “disingenuous” because he was hired to write about the country’s history and not to travel there to review accommodation and restaurants.

Kohnstamm later told AP: “It was expected I would never go to Colombia.”

Maybe this story has traction because there is more than a hint of scepticism towards travel writing today? To be fair, I only know one professional travel writer in person and he is exceptionally well travelled and familiar with the destinations he writes about. But, I’ve also done enough travel and seen enough destinations that don’t measure up to the copy to know that there is a bit of fiction out there as well.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Travel writing, good accurate travel writing is a tough gig. Given the number of junkets around and the sheer cost of producing guidebooks and magazine features, some corners must be cut. So, just like used car salesman, not every travel writer is a disreputable. Caveat Emptor.

[tags] Travel, Journalism [/tags]

Responses
Toni 15 years ago

We tend not to use guide books that much – a beauty of the WWW is that there is almost always someone living where you want to go who has written about their own experience online.

Talking of writing, a certain forum has disappeared off the net for me. Do you think a bit of moderation with a scalpel is taking place?

Fernando Gros 15 years ago

Agree – there’s also quite a lot of good travel blogging and food blogging that beats the shallow end of travel journalism.

As for that forum, could be moderation with a blunt axe given some recent comments. Then again, they were down a few days back for what seemed like a halfday. The company that host this blog has been having serious router issues, which I think have been affecting a number of US ISPs, so maybe there is an explanation in there.

Toni 15 years ago

Still down.

Oh well, I can probably survive without it for a while.

Fernando Gros 15 years ago

OK, back online…

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