Winston Aldworth

Winston Aldworth is the Herald's Travel Editor.

Book review: The Travel Book

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Buddhist monks releasing lanterns during the Yi Peng Sansai Kathina ceremony. Photo / Lonely Planet Images
Buddhist monks releasing lanterns during the Yi Peng Sansai Kathina ceremony. Photo / Lonely Planet Images

Unless you're a gazillionaire signed up for one of those trips into space, your next holiday is somewhere inside these pages. Granted, this A-Z of everywhere on Earth is a bit light on detail, but it's heavy on inspiration.

With publishers Lonely Planet battling in the "details" market against the constantly updated (and generally unverifiable) likes of TripAdvisor, inspiration could be their strong suit. Besides, they probably figure if the double-page spread on a country in here fires your imagination you might just get the book on that destination.

In here, every country gets its 15 minutes with a dozen or so facts and recommendations for each. The recommendations are sharp and well-informed, from Afghanistan ("Watch a buzkashi match - Afghan polo played with a headless goat instead of a ball") to Zimbabwe ("Sense the palpable spirit exuded by the sacred Matobo Hills, a dramatic showroom hosting 3000 ancient rock-art sites"), but they're designed to whet your appetite for travel, not flesh out the meal.

To actually find out how to get to a buzkashi match or to the Matobo Hills you'll need to put this beautiful book down and go do some proper research.

Best fact: "On average 3000 [$5000] a day is tossed into the Fontana di Trevi, Rome's lucky fountain that promises a return trip to the capital in exchange for a coin." ("Do you reckon we could set up a fake one?" asks my colleague. "American tourists would never know.")

The real strength of this book is the imagery. The photography underpins the inspiration with beautiful shots.

Pretty much every spread carries something worth lingering over ... wondering about ... imagining the cost involved.

My edition will be flicked through many times. We wouldn't be Kiwis if we didn't turn straight to the page on NuZilnd.

Thankfully there's no mention of botulism outbreaks here, although they do recommend reading the Bone People, "a haunting story of New Zealand identity and child abuse". Among the trademarks of my next destination, Sweden, are "sexually liberated socialists".

Best get packing.

The Travel Book: A journey through every country in the world - Lonely Planet $49.99

- NZ Herald

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