Finally, through that esteemed mouthpiece that is The New York Times, the world knows that it does often suck to be a guidebook author:
While the phrase “travel writing” may invoke thoughts of steamer trunks, trains, Isak Dinesen and Graham Greene, or at the very least, well-financed junkets to spas in Rangoon for some glossy magazine or other, writing budget travel guides is most decidedly yeoman’s work. Most who do it quickly learn the one hard and fast rule of the trade: travel-guide writing is no vacation.
So goes “A Job with Travel but No Vacation,” in this Sunday’s Style section. I am absolutely overjoyed, because I believe this is the very first time some aspect of my life has been featured in the Styles section. (Oh, except for Joel and Deb’s wedding last year.)
They didn’t quote me, but then I didn’t get jumped in Caracas while in service to Lonely Planet, which is the anecdote that leads the story. Though I do happen to know this guy, and he is truly living the life 24/7. I, on the other hand, only occasionally rally myself from the sofa to go somewhere relatively crime-free.
Aside from showing me pictures of people I know, and notfying me about their being victims of muggings in South America, the story also tipped me off to a quality blog, Killing Batteries, which is seriously hilarious kvetching about the nightmare that is writing LP’s guide to Romania and Moldova.
One slightly alarming thing I noted in the story, however, is that I already seem to be pushing the industry’s upper limit, age-wise. I turn 34 this weekend, and I suspect my pluck and vigor are diminishing rapidly. In fact, my deterioration probably accelerated exponentially this past year, what with all the marrying, and the house-buying, and the lying in the hospital bed with a life-threatening illness.
And I have to admit, I am not jumping for joy at the prospect of writing the books I have to write this year. When I’m lying in bed at night, trying to arrange my travel schedule in my head, I think I would just rather stay home and chip the paint off the tiles in the new kitchen.
But then when the hell else will I manage to go to Chiapas and drive every back road and talk to strangers and poke my nose in all kinds of strange churches and hotels? Yes, writing guidebooks pays crap and allows for virtually no creative outlet (I wouldn’t be bothering with this blog if it did), but it is an amazing way to see the world…or be forced to see the world. And for someone like me, who is terribly lazy and not particularly outgoing, it’s a job I dread. But once I’m finally up and doing it, I am extremely grateful for having been made to do it.