Lonely Planet vs. Internet
Sitting in our current hostel with extremely poor internet has made me realise that I couldn’t do this trip without being able to browse the web.
I use the Lonely Planet Country guide as a starting point, a way marker to decide where to go to. It offers some detailed advice as to how to get from major cities but for smaller areas you have to be in the know. For example, it doesn’t tell you exactly where buses go from in a small town of 8 million people (we are in China). To find that out I would normally search the Thorntree forum or TripAdvisor for forum posts of people who have recently done the trip. We also have a friend who has just finished touring China.
Another problem with the travel guide is that it has become more of a mid-range/high-end guide. Some of the accommodation suggestions are extremely expensive such as The Four Seasons, Hilton and Intercontinental. Furthermore, I like to plan or at least I like to know exactly how to get from place to place with precise timings. I don’t like to go with the flow and so to rely on the Lonely Planet pre-internet era or at least pre-mass internet era would have put me out of my comfort zone.
I suppose travelling has cemented the fact that I like to have all information to hand. It has also highlighted the limitations of having just one piece of literature. The best guides are the people who actually go to and experience these places whereas he shortcomings of the Lonely planet writers stem from the fact that they have to race through places and also there is only so much information you can fit in. Our China book is a pretty hefty tome as it is!
In summary, having good internet access is really important. It means I can find out the information I want swiftly or fill in any blanks in my knowledge. Slow internet hampers our travel because I have to spend longer researching. Some hostels have knowledgeable staff who can easily help but that’s not usually the case either!