The 10 best Lonely Planet articles of all time (that I wrote)

Why yes, this is a full-tilt, vanity listicle, shamelessly basking in personal achievement. You wanna make something of it?

All right, then.

listicleI’ve already forgotten how this got started, but for some reason I was cataloging all the Lonely Planet articles I’d written from late-2010 to early-2015 and figured out that I had clocked in 40 of those babies in just over four years, including the nine month, almost dead-stop digital commissioning gap after the 2013 BBC sale to NC2 Media. It may eventually be 41, if an article I wrote earlier this year gets posted around Halloween, as originally planned.

This kind of amazed me. For some reason I thought I was somewhere in the 20s, which apparently proves that I’m even more wildly prolific than I already think I am. Also, like any proud obsessive-compulsive, I love me a round number like I love hand washing. So, I decided a listicle was in order as a nostalgic look back at some of my most enjoyable work – and also to have an excuse to show off.

Writing Lonely Planet articles was one of my favorite gigs, because my impulse to goofball-ify all my writing was at first tolerated and later encouraged. I became the go-to guy for their wackiest ideas. I also had a ridiculous amount of latitude. The outlines I received from editors got shorter and shorter over time (one memorable outline was only six words long). It eventually got to the point where I think they were sometimes tossing vague ideas at me with a mischievous grin just to see what would happen.

Not all of the articles were winners, of course. Some performed poorly. Others, were just below what I like to think is my baseline wit and goofiness, particularly in the early days before I figured out what I could get away with.

But, enough of this wistful navel gazing. With input from my former editors Andy Murdock and James Kay, I have agonizingly ranked my top 10 favorite articles.

  1. Delicious world foods that won’t win beauty pageants

This was just plain fun to write, because I was able to get in a few deserving zings at food that, I don’t care what other people say, isn’t fit for civilized consumption.

  1. The real (and unspoken) rules of US roads

Fun to research. Also, I love mocking bad driving habits. Very cathartic.

  1. It rains in the tropics, and other travel buzz-kills

This was a public service, plain and simple. Travel is wrought with setbacks, disappointment and jerks who take your money and don’t care what happens to you. Too many people become completely unwound when things go wrong on a trip, when it’s (usually) easy enough to get the cursing jag out of the way, then regroup and start damage control.

  1. Afterburn: how to salvage a beach holiday after a painful start

This was very much leaning on the goofball side of the spectrum. Oh, I made a few helpful points, but from the very beginning this was designed to be mainly an entertainment piece, so I cut loose.

  1. Best places to have a cathartic breakdown

Google “cathartic breakdown.” This article is the top search result. I’m perversely pleased by that.

  1. How to travel with friends (and not want to kill them)

This was one of my best performers, visitor stats-wise. Not a particularly original topic, but I made it my own. That didn’t stop some hysterical blogger from getting on Twitter and going after me (and my editor) with a lengthy tirade about how we ripped off his article on the same topic. The titles were obviously similar and the arcs were vaguely comparable (how could they not be?), but that was pretty much where the similarities ended. Mine was judiciously researched (aka, I asked a bunch of travel bloggers on Facebook) and written with wit and style and his was platitude-laden, link-building, SEO bait. Fun fact: that was the first person I ever blocked on Twitter! Good times.

  1. Totally…like… bogus: the world’s worst travel advice

Service-oriented and only a few one-liners, but a powerhouse performer in terms of social media sharing.

  1. Best places for a do-nothing vacation

This wisdom grenade, building on my treatise “How to plan a do-nothing vacation,” was nominated for a Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award in 2013 in the “Service-Oriented Consumer Article” category (along with a staggering 72 other nominees). It was also the first time I managed to work the word “pooping” into the first paragraph of an LP article. I was extremely proud. Furthermore, the topic was a slam dunk for me. After one too many trips where I ran myself so ragged that I needed a holiday to recover from my vacation, I transformed into a devout do-nothing vacation advocate and, obviously, I’m able to expound on the topic at great length.

  1. Do leave home without it: stuff you should never take on a trip

Here’s my dirty secret: I suck at coming up with killer article ideas. Some of my best writing has been someone else’s idea (usually an editor), which I took and ran with. Not this one. I thought of this all by myself. This may be my absolute best effort at producing something that was equal parts useful, funny and shareable. I don’t have access to hard data, but I have been assured that this was one of my most popular LP articles, ever.

  1. The dirtiest things you touch when you travel

Speaking of hand washing, anyone who knows me will not be surprised to hear that this pitch was my idea as well. It’s a topic I’m very passionate about and so I was able to write with unusual authority. Also, my foibles seem to entertain people. Moreover, it was one of the few travel topics that hasn’t already been written to death by a thousand other people. Coming up with a truly original travel article topic these days is not easy. Speaking of, a wonderfully original idea from the mind of Andy Murdock, “The 10 most bromantic destinations,” died on the vine after it became clear that it served no useful purpose and publishing it would incur the wrath of several DMOs.

And, in no particular order, the remaining 30 articles are:

How – and how not – to cross the street around the world

What makes a terrible airport (and what would make an amazing one)

Historical adventurers way more interesting than you

Six things to do in Colorado besides get high

You booked a crappy hotel. Now what?

Return trip: why we go back for seconds

Travel world records: can you break one of these?

If cities had faces, we’d make out with these places (Kudo to Murdock on that title)

Be a frugal traveller, not a cheapskate

Make or break: travelling as a couple

The best Viking sites for travellers

Elba and Napoleon: an unlikely history

Packing for a round-the-world trip

Advanced tips for US road trips

The stuff of travel writers’ nightmares

Driving Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way

Six weird vehicles you can drive with no training whatsoever

Romania’s top five World Heritage Sites

Trip by design: what’s your favourite travel theme?

Amazing indoor spaces of the world

Ten lesser-known haunted places of the world

Moldova: embracing its status as Europe’s least-visited country

What are the world’s best free attractions?

The cheapest sightseeing tour in the world

In search of the real Dracula

48 Hours in Siena

Following in royal footsteps: Romania’s ‘Prince Charles Walk’

Table for one, please. Yes, just one. (Archived)