Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New-Breed Travel Guides

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New-Breed Travel Guides

Article excerpt

`GLOBALLY correct travel" could become the new buzzword of the '90s for the travel industry.

Insensitive cultural imperialism, with all its tourist trappings, is out. Political, environmental, and cultural awareness is in. And such notions are beginning to pop up in travel guides.

Fodor's is at the head of the globally correct pack with its new guidebook series, The Berkeley Guides: On the Loose in Eastern Europe (652 pp., $15.50), On the Loose in Mexico (556 pp., $14.50), On the Loose in the Pacific Northwest & Alaska (524 pp., $14.50), and On the Loose in California with Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon (492 pp., $14.50). Filled with lively, funny, and entertaining writing (though sometimes overly hip and underly tasteful), the series is penned by - who else? - students at the University of California, Berkeley.

"Most guidebooks concentrate on the touristy stuff, ignoring a country's society, politics, and culture. Boring!," states the introduction. "We give you the information you need to understand what's going on around you, whether it's a threat to the indigenous peoples or the explosion of cheap-labor factories.... We tell you about customs to respect, political and social situations you should be aware of, and your potential impact on the places you're visiting."

The budget guides are printed on recycled paper with soy-based inks, and two trees are planted for every tree used to produce the books. Useful advice includes: "The waitresses love to gyp clueless tourists, so do your best to act like someone in the know." "Don't expect to catch any Zs until midnight." Warnings such as "yucko" and "creepy" pepper the text.

Oddball sites, free accommodations, out-of-the-way places, and hands-on experiences are included. For example, one writer traveling in the Romanian countryside describes being taken in by a peasant family in exchange for milking cows and working in the fields.

If bedding down in a cow barn isn't your idea of nirvana, Prentice Hall's The Real Guide series offers a tame alternative. The latest addition, Europe: The Real Guide (1,242 pp., $18), is for middle-aged, middle-income, middle-of-the-road travelers who want to mix a wee bit of adventure into their budget travels. Straightforward, pitched to a "new breed of politically aware and socially sophisticated travelers," the series is actually only slightly more globally correct than standard guidebook fare. Both do include sections for women traveling alone, homosexuals, and special-needs travelers, though. Unfortunately, little background information is provided about the writers.

Back in the '60s, Harvard University students began producing a series of guidebooks from a "dungeonesque" Harvard Yard basement. Now the No. 1 best-selling international guide, the "Let's Go" budget guides will be The Berkeley Guides' greatest rival. …

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