“And then there is the most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.¨
Introduction to the Top Twelve Travel Advice Resources
This list is in alphabetical order. I do not want to give the appearance that I prefer any one of these resources. They have different audiences and benefits. However, they should be part of any Fifty-Plus Nomad library.
The Top Twelve Travel Advice Podcasts, Books, TV Shows, and Websites
Besides Anthony Bourdain and Lonely Planet, the Amateur Traveler Podcast is a few sources for travel information to off-the-beaten-path countries. Amateur Traveler has managed to retain a homespun feel and be useful in one of the first podcasts. I like that the interviews are often with not professional travel advisors, including expats and more casual travelers.
I am so sorry that Anthony Bourdain killed himself. Parts Unknown (you must pay to watch) and No Reservations were the only travel TV shows consistently worth watching. (Samantha Brown, Lonely Planet’s Globetrekker, and Rough Guides TV shows were also worthwhile. However, they more or less disappeared in the 2010s).
Even though Anthony Bourdain’s shows were ostensibly about food, they did an excellent job of giving viewers a sense of a given place. Anthony always featured astute commentary, made from his unique voice. He was not afraid to be controversial. I always made a point to see one of his shows before going to a particular destination.
While I do not often use Anthony’s restaurant recommendations while traveling, I have been to nearly every restaurant that he recommended in Montreal. The food was always outstanding. (It can be hard to get reservations at his recommended restaurants. The restaurants can be hard to find).
I love that his shows went to genuinely off-the-beaten-path places, like Kurdistan and Liberia. His programs are the only widely available tourist information about some parts of the world. I wish all Americans would see Bourdain’s episodes on Mexico (Parts Unknown) and the US-Mexico border (No Reservations).
Barbara Winter’s publications are an essential resource if you need to find a way to make a living on the road. Her materials are great at helping entrepreneurs find business ideas that match their personalities and goals. She is also incredibly inspirational. I feel extremely blessed to know Barbara. I took her classes at the Learning Annex in 2003 and have followed her ever since. She has been a mentor, and I am sure that she can help you, too.
Facebook is a vital source of information if you plan to stay somewhere for a while. Once I started to join expat forums in Merida, I discovered many cultural events, restaurants, and businesses I did not know about before. For shorter trips, Facebook is more useful for determining what cities, etc., you want to visit than helping you plan the details for your trip.
International Living is the behemoth for people looking to live outside of the US. In my opinion, it is often overly commercial and uses too many hard-sell tactics. Sometimes their books can be excessively pricey for information, especially if you find more exhaustive books elsewhere. That aside, International Living does have some excellent, hard-to-find information, particularly about places not on the map for US expats. They also have some outstanding writers and research. I have heard good comments overall about their conferences as well.
More than anything else, International Living is an excellent source for figuring out where US expats might want to live. It is also overly targeted toward upper-middle-class readers. International Living does not, however, contain enough information about legal residency requirements or adjusting to life overseas.
Johnny Jet is one of the best sources for travel tips for airline travel, credit card bonus offers, and traditional accommodations on the internet. The site does not have much information geared toward extended travel or off-the-beaten-path places or experiences, etc. Johnny Jet also features a lot of sponsored ties with travel providers.
Evelyn Hannon, the founder of Journeywoman, was one of the internet’s earliest travel voices. Until she died in 2019, her website was one of the most trustworthy places for travel advice on the internet.
I had the pleasure to get to know Evelyn while I participated in Semester at Sea. She was as full of homespun advice and enthusiasm in person as on her website. Perhaps more than anyone else, Evelyn gave women the tools and courage to travel. I am glad that Journeywoman still exists after her death. It appears that while the site will be modernized, it will continue to keep Evelyn’s spirit.
Lonely Planet guides are encyclopedic. Some of my favorite things about Lonely Planet include that they:
- Feature excellent listing of alternative travel experiences like volunteering and classes. (In fact, most of the unique alternative travel experiences that I have done came from Lonely Planet listings).
- Contain enough information so that you can stay for a long time in one place using their recommendations. Rick Steves only the other hand only has enough information to last about a week
- Cover almost everywhere in the world.
- Have the best background information about the history and culture of their destinations of any guidebook series.
- Are well adapted to the Kindle format.
A few faults of Lonely Planet:
- I wish the guides had more practical advice on things like how to buy tickets, etc.
- They do not have much information about their sights. (Rick Steves guidebooks, for example, have enough detail so that you could see a site in some detail just using his books).
- They can be daunting in size. Lonely Planet’s extensive country guides can be over 1000 pages long, in small type.
Moon Handbook is similar to Lonely Planet; however, their guidebooks feature more of the individual author’s voice than Lonely Planet. Their guidebooks are a little less daunting and readable than Lonely Planet. They do not cover as many parts of the world. If I had a choice between the two guidebooks in North America, I would choose Moon.
My only criticism is that Moon Handbooks assume at times that their readers have a car. (Lonely Planet does a better job of covering public transportation). Moon Handbooks used to have an excellent series of guidebooks about living in other countries. (Sadly, these guidebooks appear to be out of print).
Matt Kepnes, the founder of Nomadic Matt, has become one of the most respected sources of travel advice on the internet. I recommend several of his posts and publications on my site. I have also attended his Travelcon, a convention for travel bloggers, and used his blogging course to help me start my business. However, when looking at his site, his audience is mainly budget travelers who tend to be under thirty years old.
The Smarter Travel website is an excellent source to find out about travel trends and issues. The site has a lot of sponsored content and can be a bit dry. I encourage you to subscribe, however, to be aware of changes in the travel industry.
Other Resources—Tourist Boards, etc
- Most traditional travel magazines and newspaper articles will help you get a sense of whether you want to visit a place. They do not, however, provide much concrete travel advice. Traditional travel media also creates the illusion that travel is expensive when, in fact, it can be quite inexpensive! Besides, many of the magazines and newspaper articles are going out of business.
- National tourist offices are excellent places to get specific questions about a place answered. Still, most of their information focuses on people with unlimited funds and limited time. They are often swamped with requests for information and thus may not be useful. Sometimes the best tourist offices are from the most unlikely places.
And, last but not least, Rick Steves.
- Here is my detailed review of Rick Steves
Some Additional Travel Information Related Resources
- Travel Information: Is it Better or Worse Than in the Past?When I developed my Big Blue Marble travel seminars in the 2000s, I was astonished by the quality of travel information available. Nowadays, sadly these resources are not available. I have developed this website in part to fill this void. Thankfully, podcasts, high quality blogs, and Youtube keep getting better and better. It is just harder to find them than it used to be.
- 24 Top Food Tips for TravelersDiscover tons of tips for finding authentic food while traveling. Learn about some of my favorite dishes and drinks.
- Rick Steves Is AwesomeRick Steves has perhaps helped make European travel a reality for more Americans than probably anyone else. I admire and refer to him frequently. However, his audience is very specific. Many Fifty-Plus Nomads do not share the same attributes as Rick Steves’ audience.
- Top Twelve Travel Advice Websites, Podcasts, and GuidebooksHere is a list of Paul Heller’s top twelve travel-related websites, podcasts, and guidebooks.
- My Favorite 50+ Top Travel MemoirsThis is a list of Paul Heller’s, the Founder of Fifty-Plus Nomad, top 50 travel memoirs.