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Loco for Lokum: on assignment inTurkey The lowdown on winning the 2011 World Nomads/Rough Guides Scholarship...

5 Things I Now Know About Writing a Guide Book

TURKEY | Wednesday, 29 June 2011 | Views [2073] | Comments [4]

1. You can’t always trust the map

Perhaps I’ve never followed my city maps so meticulously before, or perhaps Istanbul is uniquely difficult to map out, but each map here seems to vary, both in accuracy and scale. It’s the amateur travel writers, like myself, that spend 30 minutes pouring over the same 3 cubic cm of map, desperately willing for street names and side streets to match up to those on the ground and innocently believing that a map cannot ever be wrong. Well, I’ve learnt my lesson. Maps can and are often not as accurate as they’d have you believe, and while it’s worth the time cross-referencing and triple-checking your own observations, inevitably you’ll just have to cross it out and draw your own.


2. Hiking shoes are tax-deductible

If they’re not they should be, for I would venture that every potential travel writer, certainly those in the field of Guide Book writing, need to invest in a good pair of hiking boots to assure their feet make it through longer than a week on the job. In short, there’s a lot of walking to be done. It makes sense when you consider every hotel, restaurant, tourist attraction, bar, shop and nightclub has to be visited by said author. On foot. Sure, you might hop on the metro or tram for a few stops, but the reality is, walking is the only way to get everywhere. Add to that the fact that you’re constantly in a hurry and you mount up quite a substantial step count. On the plus point, the exercise contrasts well with the hours spent sitting at a desk typing everything up so I’m not complaining.


3. You’ll need a second suitcase

Despite typically being an eco-conscious traveler, my backpack has now doubled in size thanks to the ridiculous amount of business cards, leaflets, brochures, timetables, maps, notebooks and god knows what else that I seem to have acquired on route. Thankfully I only have 4 areas I’m updating; otherwise a more thorough organisational system would be needed (at the moment zip-lock bags will suffice). I’ll be soothing my conscious a little by sticking this lot in the recycling bin once I’ve finished the write up.


4. The Four Seasons was not made for travelers like me

In retrospect, I should have probably taken to the website instead, being as my presence in the hotel foyer was such an underwhelming event to the staff, who seemed to take great pleasure in smirking down at me from behind the glittering reception counter and refusing blankly to bother giving me so much as a brochure. In defence of ridiculously priced hotels, the Çirağan Palace hotel just down the road, which - being literally a palace – is vastly more fancy and probably pricier, gave me a guided tour and free run of the grounds without so much as a passing snigger at my scuffed hikers and sweat stained t-shirt. Not that either of these will be within my budget during the next few decades, but if they ever are, I know which one I’ll be checking into.


5. You Never Stop Working

Whether this will enhance or hinder my travel experiences is yet to be known, but one thing’s for sure: I will never again be able to travel oblivious to details. Even in one short week my brain has rewired itself to hunt out ATMS, public toilets, opening times and bus numbers. I can’t take public transport without checking the timetable and alternate destinations nor visit a restaurant without considering the price range, décor and benefits of the location. Anything and everything has become potential writing material and my brain simply won’t shut off. For someone who, thanks to a incurable tendency for getting lost in my own little world, often trips over her own feet or walks into lampposts, this new found observation for my surroundings has been quite revelationary. Turns out there’s a hell of a lot going on in the world if you bother to actually pay attention!



Yes, souvenir shopping is classed as work...




Wow, Christine... I thought you already were SUPER BUSY with a brain in FULL GEAR before you started the guidebook stuff! Yikes! good luck and hope you can turn off and sleep at nights! lol. Lash

  Lash Jul 3, 2011 1:25 AM


Hi ZOE! oohhhh, boy. I apologize, I mean Zoe, not Christine! :)) Lash

  Lash Jul 3, 2011 1:27 AM


haha, thats ok! I was wondering who Christine was! Yeah, it was hard work but a lot of fun too so I'm not complaining!

  zoe_smith Jul 3, 2011 1:03 PM


Can totally relate to the Istanbul map thing especially in Sultanahmet. Those narrow little streets that change direction are challenging. Throw in a couple of bits of old city wall & a few roadworks & it is most disorienting. On the up side the locals are really helpful & friendly.

  SUE Jul 4, 2011 3:04 PM

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