“For every traveler who has any taste of his own, the only useful guidebook will be the one which he himself has written.”
-Aldous Huxley (writer, author of Brave New World)
I came across this quote while looking through Moleskine travel notebooks (my favorite!) at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Usually, when I see a quote I like I just remember some key words and the author and then look it up online when I get home. But this one rang so true that I just had to write it down right then and there. The line for the Van Gogh Museum was about an hour and a half long (yes I measured the length of the line in hours) and on top of that it was raining – no bueno! Fortunately, I was being my usual observant self and while walking to the museum spotted a sign for “Museum Tickets” at the Diamant Museum (less than a block away!). Now, I almost walked by it because I assumed it was only for the Diamant Museum, but I thought “What the heck” the worst they could do is say no right? So long story short – I was able to purchase tickets for both the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum there and bypass that loooong line and walk straight to the door. Talk about a triumphant feeling! It was the kind of feeling where you want to let everyone at the end of the line in on your little secret. This quote made me think of this because no other guidebooks would have told you that – they probably wouldn’t have even known about it.
Writing your own guidebook, both figuratively and literally, is about more than just keeping track of little secrets like skipping the lines at the Van Gogh Museum. It’s about experiencing a country through your own eyes and not through the eyes of Rick Steves or Anthony Bourdain. You don’t have the same interests, personality, or hobbies as the people who write those guidebooks so why would you prioritize your trip according to what they deem as “must-sees.” Writing your own guidebook means recording the smells that intoxicate you, keeping track of the special hints that people give you, and looking at your destination through a set of fresh new eyes, as if you were the first person to ever visit. Your opinions, views, and experiences are just as important and valid (if not moreso, especially to your close friends and relatives) as any other guidebook author’s – you’re just not getting paid for them. Well, not yet anyway. 😉