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Does Anybody Care About '1,000 Places to See Before You Die' Anymore?

January 15, 2014 at 10:48 AM | by | Comments (0)

Every so often, a traveler needs to have a good rant. Here, Jaunted Editor Cynthia shares a few thoughts on an old guidebook and its dwindling power.

The book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die was first published in 2003. It was a steamroller of a hit, topping best seller lists (especially around graduation time in the spring) and finding its place on the bookshelves of anyone who’d listed “travel” as one of their interests.

I was a bookseller at the time, enjoying steady employment after a year of wandering Europe “on a shoestring," and getting that book into shopping bags was something of my specialty. Indeed I was suited for the job, having racked up postcard moments at nearly 100 of those 1,000 sites.

Ten years later, what has changed? The book is still for sale, now ranked #95,806 on Amazon. My area of expertise remains the sharing of travel information, although you’re getting it for free now. A shift has come, alas, in the way travelers compile bucket lists.

The "1,000 Places to See Before You Die" of today is not a mass market paperback of generic recommendations for “the food markets of Singapore” and “the bridges of Paris” peppered with the usual Tower of London and Grand Canyon bits. Social sharing means the focus is shifting from the imperative to set foot on a specific piece of soil to cross off a list item. Instead, a traveler may seek out specific moments from an infinite galaxy of experiences.

Instead of 1,000 distinct places, it’s a million beach sunset images on Pinterest, or an ever-growing “to do” list of saved Foursquare venues for afternoon tea. Instagram thrives on inspiring wanderlust, and indeed I myself am a little addicted to hits of daydream fodder…except it often goes beyond just daydreaming or armchair travel. Post an insta, pin a pin, tweet a recommendation, add a Foursquare tip, share a Facebook gallery, and you’re influencing travel at a grassroots level, in a minuscule but still meaningful way that reaches directly into the consciousness of fellow travelers.

If we are to wonder why guidebooks are dying, it’s because they offer limited possibilities, prêt-à-porter.

Forget I ever sold that book; doubtless it’s gathering dust in your basement or a box anyway. Allow me now to offer one very different recommendation: go and do your own thing, make mistakes and triumphs, and remember that somewhere there's someone (or many) thirsting to benefit from all that world knowledge you're cultivating. The impetus for travel need not come from a book.

[Photo: Jaunted]

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