Ten Ways to Use a Lonely Planet (Besides Getting Lost)
Show me a traveller that hasn’t used a Lonely Planet at some point and I’ll show you a good night out without getting hard liquor involved. Since we all know every good night starts and finishes with a period of solid drinking, it therefore must be true that everyone has used this book at one point or another. Now I love a good travel guide as much as the next drunk aimless wanderer, and yes, on occasion, Lonely Planet has put in the hard yards and shown me some good fucking times. I’ll even concede that the maps are helpful for navigating around a city. BUT this piece-of-shit book has gotten me lost and confused more times than it has gotten me to “the greatest vegetarian restaurant in China” or “the Burmese embassy in Beijing”. In fact, so infrequent is Mr Planet in his descriptions that while travelling it is sometimes necessary to facilitate new forms for this book to be used, just so that you can justify the $39.95 you spent in the bookstore before you left. So without further ado, please find below my workable list of useful things to do with a Lonely Planet guide (besides read it).
1. Toilet Paper
While travelling in Shanghai, my travel buddy and I stayed in what can only be described as the stupidest hostel ever. On a power trip do-it-yourself revolution, this hostel decided that it would be better for its guests to do everything themselves, such as get their own toilet paper and make their own beds. Now I’m happy to make my bed, but take away my toilet privileges and I will lose my shit (metaphorically, not physically). Upon awakening after an intoxicated evening, my travelling companion was in dire need of peeing away the previous night’s shame, but without toilet paper had no way of doing so. In a desperate bid for bathroom-based salvation, she ripped several pages of Shanghai maps out of Mr Planet and voilà! Toilet paper was created. Paper cuts may have been sustained but hey, at least we didn’t have to spend any money on something that is only used once.
2. Book Trade
Not finished reading Shantaram, but really need to get stuck into that Jackie Collins novel available for swapping in your hostel? Chuck down your Lonely Planet. As I mentioned before, the maps are super helpful, so before you discard this gem, rip out the maps of where you are headed next and then tuck Ms Collins’s novel under your arm and slink away like the crafty fox that you are. Warning: you may cause bad karma by ripping out main mapping sections and this karma could come back in any form (like a DIY hostel, for example).
3. Dinner Plate
Eating some street food and have nowhere to rest your seahorse skewer besides your lap? Whip out the book sturdy enough to support an entire meal and enjoy not getting dust and possibly roadside faeces in your local delicacy. Bonus points if you can fashion yourself a knife and fork out of the contents page.
4. Drug Paraphernalia
Not that I condone the use of narcotics while sightseeing, but perhaps there is a spunky surf rat at your hostel rolling a suspicious looking substance and he runs out of rolling paper. Or there could be a strung-out Pete Doherty lookalike in need of a sturdy snorting surface. Either way, Lonely Planet has you covered in terms of helping a brother in need and possibly getting you some action with a drug-addled backpacker.
It is unwise to carry a shotgun or a knife while travelling as 87% of people who carry weapons end up injuring themselves (I should mention I don’t know statistics). But sometimes you may end up in a situation where you will need to defend yourself against a criminal or zombie. This is where a sturdy book such as Lonely Planet comes in handy. Obviously, the larger volumes will be of more assistance in this situation; your standard ‘Cambodia’ book may do nothing but stun your opponent, where the heavier bound ‘Southeast Asia’ manual will probably knock them out cold.
Long haul travel combined with scarce space in a backpack means that sometimes you will be travelling with nothing but a sarong and possibly some t-shirts as your pillow. This can often lead to a stiff neck and irreparable damage to the spinal cord. Enter Lonely Planet. Rip out as many pages as possible, stuff your t-shirt with said paper and tie up at both ends. Now sleeping on a 24 hour bus will be as magical as sleeping next to baby Jesus on a cloud.
7. Pick Up Manual
Are you dying to talk to the British accented cute-as-fuck hobo sitting in the corner of the bar, but are unsure what to say to him besides, “Are you related to the Queen?” Then use this trusty book to guide you off the streets of whatever city you are in and into his heart. Start by memorising all the fun history facts in the back of the book and then casually strike up a conversation that begins with: “Did you know that the Colosseum was originally known as the Flavian amphitheatre?” If that fiery factoid hasn’t gotten his engine revving, try using the map section and ask him to point out the nearest place the two of you can get a room.
Run out of money to bribe those border officials with? Why not use this all-purpose book as a substitute for real money. It might not carry much market value, but I am sure once you explain to the officials that it cost you $39.95 in Australia, they will let you off without an anal probe.
9. Fire Starter
While I don’t recommend trying to start a fire in your hostel or any other commercial area, if you happen to be camping or enjoying a spontaneous outdoor picnic, this bad boy could come in handy. As a lover of books, I generally don’t condone the burning of literature, but if you’re in a tight spot and the choice is frostbite or setting fire to ‘On the Road’, having a Lonely Planet on hand offers up a practical third option.
Don’t trust putting that 18k solid gold bracelet you got for your 21st in the hostel’s safe? Then simply hollow out this trusty novella by cutting a hole in the middle and you will find a clever new way to store your valuables. People can always crack safes, but I bet you one thousand dollars they would never think to look inside a travel guide. Note: If you’re truly carrying 18k worth of gold around with you, you probably shouldn’t be travelling in a hostel and I would have no qualms in robbing you.
Lonely Planet is not all bad; it legitimately can be a great book for navigating your itchy feet around the globe. However, if on more than one occasion you find that it has led you to a shit restaurant or a dodgy hostel, then seek solace in the knowledge that there are at least 10 other things you can do with this book to pass the time, and at least two of them will probably result in you getting laid.
Rowan still hasn’t finished War & Peace, but she did use it to balance her dinner once. Living in London, she’s steadily working her way through the Europe’s great cities and hopes to try every wine in England before her visa expires.