Summer’s done! The temperature has thankfully gone down; no more 36°C heat, yay! Now we have to deal with torrential rains and flooding all the way until the fourth quarter. This means we’ll spend more time at home, hopefully safe and dry, but also resist the strong urge to go out and travel even in unsafe conditions.
This change in season won’t matter to those who’ve already made early annual “pilgrimages” to the Philippines’ gorgeous beaches, mountains, and other tourist hotspots. But I can’t help but feel a bit shortchanged. I had just one trip on my summer calendar, and during the last week of May! I don’t even know if it still counts, but whatever. Thankfully, the skies remained clear for the most part.
It has also been a year since I traveled with friends, and to be honest, this very recent trip gave me the most fun and relaxation I’ve had in years! It’s mainly because we’re all stressed out and had the same priorities for three days: our missions were to unwind, pig out, drink and swim. Walang arte. It also helped that I didn’t do the bulk of the pre-trip planning, or make crucial decisions. We all had our non-negotiables, but since we’ve known each other for more than two decades, it was all good. We’re pretty much used to each other by now.
Speaking of non-negotiables, I recently read two travel books that deal with this category, and more. The end result? Intensified wanderlust. Grrrr. Reading will have to do for now. 😉
One man’s (ongoing) journey
What I love the most about self-publishing is that it enables other people to tell their stories the way they want to tell them, and compete with authors backed by publishing giants. It levels the playing field, and gives smaller players valuable and career-making opportunities.
What I don’t love about it? The seeming lack of professional editing — the kind of editing that involves the fluency, knowledge, skill and intense attention to detail of professional copy editors. (I agree with this article, obviously. Guy Kawasaki values editing, too.)
My strong feelings about professional copy editing in self-publishing were put on overdrive while reading This Book is About Travel: A Modern Manual by Andrew Hyde. There are a handful of incomplete sentences (is that a formatting problem?); and glaring errors in capitalization, punctuation, word usage, and spelling. While reading, I had to restrain myself from highlighting entire paragraphs and clogging up the “My Notes and Marks” section of my Kindle app with errors, flipping tables, or giving up on the e-book altogether and bitching about the money I spent on it.
It’s a 151-page book, relatively short, but it took me three long weeks to finish because of all the grammatical and typographical errors. I initially thought Hyde didn’t get an editor for this e-book, but he said he had one. I’ve no idea if this editor of his edited text or images, or both. He also asked other folks to read the manuscript before it was published. Why oh why are there still so many published mistakes?
The e-book was outed thanks to a well-supported Kickstarter campaign, and promoted through Hyde’s blog and a dedicated website. There’s also 15things.me, where people are asked to enumerate and share their travel/life basics. (I tried it out, and quickly found that I’ll need more than 15 things. You know, like money. :P) The Kickstarter campaign was successful, and the websites are beautifully designed. I can’t help but feel appalled and disappointed that there are so many published typos and grammatical errors in the actual e-book. I’m the type of person who expects polished work, especially when I spend my own money for it. I really hope this doesn’t happen in Hyde’s next book, if he does self-publish another one.
/copy editing rant
OK. That’s finally out of my system. Let’s move on… to more cons. If you’re looking for a detailed guide on the places he visited within a two-year period, don’t read this e-book. This is a highly personal publication, with some of the chapters lifted from his blog. Each chapter contains his musings, observations and mindset during that particular time period; and they’re not always connected to his actual location at the time. This is fine for most readers looking for first-person stories, but if you want a Lonely Planet-ish travel book (e.g., instructional, like a real manual), read something else.
There are also some travel tips that can’t be applied to all cases, particularly for those coming from third-world countries. (I admit that I may be asking for too much here.) Money can be a real issue for aspiring/longtime travelers in this category, and sometimes, even extreme hard work may not give them enough funds to travel as extensively and thoroughly as Hyde does. He can say that it’s just another restriction I needlessly put on myself and on others, but in the end, not everything can be solved by hard work and determination. That’s too idealistic, in my opinion. There are different costs of living, personal priorities and circumstances, and complications regarding a traveler’s nationality/country of origin (among other things) to contend with.
I couldn’t help but be reminded of how I used to blog while reading This Book is About Travel: A Modern Manual. I think the text can be too “emo” at times; it makes me recall my early, overly emotional LiveJournal entries; or the memes I see on Tumblr these days. 😛 There are lots of flowery prose and let’s-talk-about-the-meaning-of-life type of sentences. It was a bit of a turn-off, actually.
But after I stopped smirking and started thinking about it, I realized that hey, he raised plenty of good points, overly flowery language and all. And as a solo traveler, I can relate to him in many ways. I found myself nodding in agreement when Hyde talked about the following:
- Traveler stereotypes and tendencies. He delved into the “real” vs. “fake” traveler, and travelers’ tendency to categorize everyone and even look down on fellow travelers. We’re all travelers. There’s absolutely no need to be catty! BTW, I am “Option #1”: the kind of traveler who’s OC with planning and research — and I do all those months or even years before leaving Manila!
- The helpfulness of strangers. That part where a kind (and ridiculously rich) Emirati paid for Hyde’s boat fare without a second thought made me remember all the strangers who provided help when I clearly needed it, or even when I didn’t ask for it directly.
- The complexities of modern travel. Admittedly, the adage “take only pictures, leave only footprints” can be hard to follow since every action already has an impact. Andrew Blackwell’s Visit Sunny Chernobyl… also comes to mind, specifically Blackwell’s sentiments that there’s no place in the world that can truly be considered pure and untouched by humanity.
- The cultural differences that come up during trips. Also includes the biases and faults one may find.
- Romance on the road. Yeah, I enjoyed this one. A place can take on an entirely new vibe when you’re with a loved one. And… Paris! My bitter, black and cold heart got slightly mended by this chapter. Slightly. 😛
- The way travel changes a person and his/her perspective. It really is the best kind of education.
- The different things travelers do to amuse themselves during lull moments. I like integrating some of the people I meet and see on the road into my short stories. That’s about it. I never devised personal games or went to extremes; maybe I should, maybe I shouldn’t. I particularly loved Hyde’s “Mark, Sue” game. But dude, pretending to be homeless was a really risky move!
- The wild and scary things that happen during travel. Read “Over the Atlantic” and think about all your seatmates on long-haul flights, then consider yourself fucking lucky you never sat beside Hyde’s single-serving friend. And I’ve made it a point to stay relatively sober while traveling. Hyde’s “New York City” chapter can serve as a warning. 😉 As for health problems, the “Chiang Mai, Thailand” chapter really got to me; the concussion I suffered in Siem Reap, Cambodia, in 2009 was top of mind.
- The locals’ and tourists’ responses to criticism of countries and places. The author got banned from Nepal for criticizing the country, and detailing the nasty effects of its tourism push on communities and the environment. “Rethinking Nepal” looks back on the brouhaha with a more sedate tone. Reminds me of all the times Filipinos get pissed off after negative depictions of our country, and criticism from foreign nationals. It makes one question when to speak up, in what manner, and to what extent. Constructive criticism for one person can be thought of as combative words by others.
- Post-travel depression. Oh, I know. I often say “I need a trip to get over this trip!”, and don’t get the disinterest of other people in travel stories and lessons.
The “manual” aspect of This Book is About Travel: A Modern Manual comes in the chapters where Hyde tells readers how he plans and does research for his trips, and also in the interviews he did with other travelers. Thanks for those resources! I can’t and won’t whittle down all my material possessions to just 15 things (that aren’t really 15 things), or leave important aspects of my long-term trips completely unplanned and open, but it’s nice to know about what Hyde and other more flexible travelers do for their own trips. Each trip does require a lot of work beforehand, but maybe I can also leave some things to chance when I get to my destination(s).
I particularly loved the e-book’s overall message: Travel starts with you. You give yourself permission to leave, explore, learn and grow. No one else. If you don’t start now, you never will! It’s a good motivator for people to start planning their own long-term trips, and it got me to resume planning and research for my third solo trip. I may not be able to do it for two straight years, but I’ll certainly take the little opportunities that come my way.