Half a Century with Lonely Planet: The Backpacker’s Bible


Key Takeaways

  • Celebrating 50 years of Lonely Planet’s iconic travel guides.
  • From a cross-continent journey to the birth of the backpacker’s bible.
  • Balancing the line between revealing hidden gems and promoting overtourism.

Nicole Thorpe, having traveled to 50 countries over 22 years, never embarked on a journey without her trusty Lonely Planet guidebook.

She likens it to a “bible,” holding cherished memories from her travels.

Even today, when planning a new trip, the guidebook is her first purchase.

The Humble Beginnings of Lonely Planet

According to a CBC blog post, 50 years ago, the first Lonely Planet book, Across Asia on the Cheap, saw the light of day.

Tony and Maureen Wheeler, founders and travel enthusiasts, embarked on a monumental journey from Europe, through Asia, to Australia.

Without initial intentions of publishing their experiences, the overwhelming interest in their journey led to the inception of Lonely Planet.

A Guide for Every Traveler

Tony Wheeler initially aimed these guidebooks at fellow young and budget-conscious travelers.

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Yet, the scope broadened, catering not just to backpackers but to a diverse audience.

Lonely Planet’s reputation as the ‘backpacker’s bible’ persisted, but its reach expanded beyond that label.

Journey from Europe to Australia

In 1972, the Wheelers set out on a remarkable adventure without any plans to pen down a book.

Their travels took them across diverse terrains, from Europe to Asia, culminating in Australia.

The journey led to a realization: there was a need for such guidebooks.

Bridging the Information Gap

Lonely Planet wasn’t merely about promoting popular tourist spots. It was about providing insights into lesser-known treasures.

However, this also came with accusations of ‘ruining’ untouched places.

While acknowledging these concerns, Wheeler emphasizes the role of guidebook writers: revealing hidden gems without compromising the essence.

Opening Doors to Uncharted Territories

The guidebooks not only shed light on popular destinations but also direct travelers to unexplored places, like a small village in Portugal famous for its fish stew cataplana.

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Such places, previously mainly known to locals, became accessible to global travelers.

Lonely Planet’s Impact on Travelers

Many travelers credit Lonely Planet for guiding them to unique experiences.

Wheeler cherishes feedback from travelers, especially when they acknowledge how the guidebooks encouraged their adventurous spirits.

What We Think

Lonely Planet’s 50-year journey exemplifies how passion and authentic experiences can create a lasting legacy.

The guidebooks, balancing revealing and conserving, remain essential companions for travelers worldwide, encouraging exploration and fostering understanding among diverse cultures.

This also serves as an inspiration for numerous travel blogs out there who want to make it big but have to undergo the test of time and figure out how to engage readers before that.


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