Strictly by the [Guide] Book

Today’s post is hot off the press from Kirazli Karyn at Being Koy, veteran jobbing blogger and top drawer freelance writer. When I say veteran I mean prolific not aged. Karyn is a mere slip of a girl. She normally writes passionately and evocatively about her Turkish village idyll. It’s all true. We’ve seen it with our own eyes. Today she vents her spleen at the travel guide industry.


One of my friends visited Cirali recently, I suggested it, I thought he would find the ruins slowly collapsing into the forest beautiful, the tree houses were his sort of thing and as far as I was concerned seeing the flames of the Cimera on Mount Olympos was one of those big “things to see in Turkey”.  Turns out I was right, he loved it; he loved the whole hippy vibe, sitting around a campfire jamming on a battered guitar, swimming in the dramatic coves and camping in the trees by the side of a dirt road to the beach.  It was indeed, just his thing, but he got a bit nervous on the way there.


On the bus from Konya to Goreme to explore Cappadocia before heading down to the coast he hooked up with some Japanese travellers, none of whom were going on to Cirali, in fact they’d never heard of it.  It turns out this is because it wasn’t in their guide books and if it isn’t in the guide book, specifically in your demographically tailored, distinctively marketed guidebook, it doesn’t exist.

Some locations that used to be popular have disappeared from the guidebooks altogether despite the fact that they are beautiful and interesting and unique and others have appeared for no better reason than they are considered “off the beaten track” by some gung ho backpacking writer who has cottoned on to the fact that being a reviewer for some obscure guidebook is a glamorous sounding job and gets you laid more often than pretending to be a BA pilot and part time dolphin trainer.  This makes up for being paid a pittance to go to shit places and eat rubbish food and pretend they’re great.

Where am I?

These days there are guidebooks for everywhere and every type of travel and traveller and if these were not enough now the guidebooks are supplemented by websites and forums and even apps for your phone, so the brave voyager need never again make an uninformed decision during the whole of their adventurous trek – that’s really character building.  Places once considered off the beaten track are now, as a result, definitely middle of the well trodden road.  If Leonardo de Caprio now jumped off that waterfall to find The Beach he’d have to push aside 200 tourists tweeting about their experience on their iPhones before he could surge into the water in a sexy and manly way.

This year my little village Kirazli made it into Lonely Planet, it gets mentioned as worth a visit, and the little paragraph about it bigs up a restaurant that is at best, mediocre.  It used to be good, five years ago, it is now ok.  I can think of three other restaurants in the village that are better and cheaper and have nicer staff.  So basically this village gets mentioned for something it isn’t very good at and all the things it is really good at don’t get mentioned at all.  This is typical of guide books really and is why they should be treated as a jumping off point for your journey, not a step by step instruction manual. Sometimes they’re wrong and sometimes you just need to turn off your iPhone, talk to a real person on the same road as you or take an unplanned turning, because getting off the beaten track is actually a state of mind not a place you struggle to and you can do it with a single step or a single conversation, you can’t do it with a multi million selling guidebook, that’s a contradiction in terms.

This is Karyn’s second guest post. Her first was Shaken, Not Stirred.

4 thoughts on “Strictly by the [Guide] Book

  1. Hi, I’d like to share a link to the “Southeastern Anatolia” project– it’s a guide book that was funded by the municipalities in the part of Turkey that many guidebooks don’t ever mention, and it has amazing details of things I thought were secrets only to the locals… but the people who created this guide traveled to each of these places to write about it. These are mostly Kurdish areas, and this is one of the reasons it’s been left out of guide books. Areas like Bingol, with it’s spectacular mountains, or the Tuncelli (formerly Dersim) region with it’s natural springs, open Alevi traditions, and (also mountains)… as well as Hasankeyf on the Tigris. So many beautiful, amazing spots that people should see. The guide is in English, and even better, it’s FREE! I have the hard copy of the book, but you can download the sections you are interested in as PDF’s. Here is the link to the main page:

    A couple of my friends worked on it, it’s a great accomplishment and valuable for any traveler who wants to see the real Anatolia.


  2. ‘Give me a ship and a guide book to steer her by . .’ Totally agree; get of the motorised transport, get off the tarmac road, get out of the hotel/apart – go look for a dirt road without the tyre marks of a quad or motor bike and follow your nose . .


  3. Great post Karen..and so true.

    I gave up on guide books years ago. It’s much better in my opinion to explore, be brave and be spontaneous. Some of the best places I’ve discovered have never been mentioned in guide books.


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