“The world is a book….


My book box with room for more titles.

…and those who do not travel read only one page” (Saint Augustine).

Non-exisiting hotels, a recommended restaurant with a cockroach infested kitchen, or an undiscovered and unspoilt paradise with busloads of noisy Chinese. Anyone who has ever used a guidebook will have had similar experiences, when expectations collide painfully with a cruel reality. If – according to Augustine – the world is a book, does a  wellknown guide at least give us a few pages of relevant and reliable information?

Yes and no. If anything, a guidebook offers a quick, inexpensive and practical orientation. Very useful in the preparatory fase for a global itinerary: not to be missed, what to steer away from. As soon as we’re on the road it loses part of its up-to-date-ness. When a new and revised edition is published it is already outdated. Perhaps a guidebook is gradually becoming an anachronism with all the Tripadvisors, blogs and forums packed with recent information of travellers en route.

I still enjoy buying a new guidebook. As with all new books I fumble it, leaf through it, savour its smell, carefully break the back, read the editor’s blurb and admire the photographs in eager anticipation. (I also haver some guides on the iPad: practical, compact and light weight, a comfortable read even in low light, but browsing the pages somehow does not affect my heartbeat and the smell in no way evokes fantasies of exotic destinations).

I have a box reserved for books and the number of African guidebooks in it is reaching 30, and still counting. My curiosity (no wanderlust without curiosity) is especially aroused by Bradt’s guides of Sierra Leone and South Sudan, a country that became independent some two years ago after a long and bloody civil war. That there is a guide to South Sudan is remarkable in itself as it has no tourist infrastructure to speak of. Bradt calls it “the dark side of the moon” and “the lost heart of Africa”, but it is developing fast and “now is the time to go”.

I also carry a couple of reference books that should be in every overlander’s book box:

Chris Scott’s Overlanding Handbook and Tom Sheppard’s Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide. Indispensible and highly recommended!

Chris Scott, Overlanders Handbook

Chris Scott, Overlanders’ Handbook

Tom Sheppard, Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide

Tom Sheppard, Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide


2 thoughts on ““The world is a book….

  1. Tony

    Hey Gee,
    Geluk gewenst met het begin van je avontuur. Ikzelf ben met een VW transporter onderweg naar Sierra Leone (en terug) en heb zelf ook een hond bij (opgepikt in Marokko). Misschien komen we elkaar ergens tegen, ik zal proberen te volgen waar je ongeveer zit.
    Tony (Titbird op de HUBB)


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