My hostel roommate the other night, an Aussie on a round-the-world tour, informed me that he’d run across ‘several of your lot’, meaning guidebook writers, in the mere two months he’d been traveling so far. Indeed, if you’ve ever spent serious time on the road in spring or summer you too have probably unknowingly encountered several guidebook writers. We’re everywhere, usually trying to keep a low profile. Up at dawn, back late, encumbered with an astounding amount of paperwork for a backpacker and very focused, which comes off as vaguely anti-social.
Ever mused, in hushed tones, about the eccentric loner staying in the hostel’s only private room and smelling faintly of dirty laundry and stress? Yeah, that was a guidebook writer. Here’s a comprehensive list of more telltale guidebook writer signs:
• Looks at every business marquee while speed-walking down the street at a scorching 5 MPH.
• Is traveling alone and has a rental car.
• Painstakingly saves all receipts.
• Seems constantly distracted and lonely (by ‘distracted and lonely’ I mean horny)
• Grills you and everyone else in the hostel for details about where you went and what you did that day and how you liked it. Then scribbles every detail down in a ludicrously large, bursting filofax or PDA.
• May be intentionally vague when questioned about their career.
• Seems to have memorized ridiculous amounts of information about the country you’re in.
• Looks exhausted and disheveled, yet still intriguingly sexy.
Of course some of these details vary for females. I know at least one who uses her cleavage to get cooperation and/or entry to swanky restaurants and bars when doormen frown at her trainers. (My Man Cleavage, while impressive, doesn’t inspire the same acquiescence.) On the flip side, I’ll admit to batting my eyelashes and smiling sweetly at female hotel desk clerks and waitresses which frequently gets me the world. And it goes without saying, with my ageless, “smoochy” baby-face, gay men are putty in my hands.
Finally, I’m not going to sugarcoat it, if the guidebook writer seems eccentric, it’s probably because they’re genuinely eccentric. And not just a little eccentric. Exceedingly eccentric, in some cases. I’ve spent a lot of time in rooms full of guidebook writers and it never ceases to make me (of all people) feel like a well-adjusted, charming, social wizard.
In truth, you kind of need to be a little peculiar to do this job. Occasionally one starts out sane and is duly driven batshit crazy by the singular, wide-ranging obligations expected of guidebook work. Either way, it’s an even bet that your guidebook writer, no matter how badly you might like to sit and pick their brain for hours, will ultimately make you wish you were in a public place, where you could excuse yourself from the table, walk casually into the bathroom, heave a chair through the window, jump down two stories into a dumpster and make your escape.