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Unlikely Destinations: The Lonely Planet Story Paperback – May 15, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The founders of the popular Lonely Planet travel guides deliver a lively autobiography that is as interesting, informative and amusing as their series itself. After meeting cute in 1970 on Belfast-native Maureen's first week in London, the couple went off on a planned one-year trip through the Far East that ended up with them stranded penniless in Australia, where they decided to publish a short travel guide on Asia that became the basis of their now multinational company. This look back at their almost 40-year career divides neatly into thirds, with the first energetically covering their various travels while they get their business off the ground, such as "incidents in Turkey that began ambiguously and ended with gratuitous acts of kindness"; the second frankly detailing why their early and "often fairly shoddy productions" became popular because they "were still better than anything else around"; and the third refreshingly discussing their current business ventures. Their chapter "All About Guidebooks" serves as an excellent short look at the history and the current state of the travel book market, and they convincingly argue that guidebooks such as theirs have not wrecked once-mysterious locations. (May)
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Review

"... a lively autobiography that is as interesting, informative and amusing as their series itself. ...This look back at their almost 40-year career divides neatly into thirds, with the first energetically covering their various travels while they get their business off the ground; ...the second frankly detailing why their early and "often fairly shoddy productions" became popular because they "were still better than anything else around"; and the third refreshingly discussing their current business ventures."—Publishers Weekly

"As spirited and engagingly human as the books that have taught us how and why and where to travel, Tony and Maureen Wheeler's story describes a miracle (from 27 cents to a multi-million dollar empire) that is in its way as inspiring and wondrous as the temples of Pagan or Easter Island's statues. Whether penniless backpackers or heads of a global company, Tony and Maureen somehow always exemplify the very best kind of travelers' enthusiasm and curiosity."—Pico Iyer

"Tony Wheeler, who often sleeps with a laptop stowed under his bed, does the majority of the writing, while Maureen offers welcome sidebars filled with her thoughts about a given situation. Neither shies away from writing about the strain running a company and constant traveling had on their marriage, which at times was rocky or the demands put on the lives of their two children, Tashi and Kieran, who just want to be normal teenagers and hang out with their friends instead of traveling the world."—Chicago Sun-Times

"...the Wheelers include everything from amusing anecdotes, to the struggle for finding the perfect "cliche, but not a cliche" cover photo for their books. The result is a fascinating business success story and the tale of a maturing relationship."—ForeWord Magazine

"A naive young couple sets off across Asia and, somehow, against tall odds, ends up managing a publishing empire that straddles the globe. Therein lies a story. And the story is intermittently funny, full of false stats, frustrations, mistakes and numerous exotic locales. I think this book is ultimately more inspiring than a whole shelf full of self-help screeds. Go ahead, start on page one and follow your bliss."—Tim Cahill

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Periplus Editions (HK) ltd. (May 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0794605230
  • ISBN-13: 978-0794605230
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,275,038 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By bklover on June 6, 2007
Format: Paperback
I'm not a person who generally reads armchair travel books. For the most part, I stick to fiction. But when my sister handed me this book and I started reading it (on the train, I was *really* bored), I just couldn't put it down!

Unlikely Destinations is more than just a travel story, although the places the Wheelers have been, how they got where they were going and what they've seen & experienced are incredibly thrilling in and of themselves. But this is also a love story between two people and between a married couple and travel, and eventually, a family of four and travel. It's a business adventure and cautionary tale, about starting your own business from nothing and turning it into a multi-million dollar company, despite or perhaps because of the many bumps encountered along the way. This is not a story about an overnight phenomenon, but rather it's about how much dedication, hard work, sacrifice and yes, love, it takes to follow the road less traveled.

I had a few minor gripes with the book, but nothing too serious. I would really have liked to have more of the story told by Maureen, and there were a few sections I felt like Tony was glossing over too much, but over all, this book just grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let go until I finished the last page. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Phillip Sego on January 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
First, I must start off by saying that I'm an avid traveler, aficionado of LP's guides, and have a taste for off-the-beaten-path trips. I've also had the pleasure of being acquainted with one of the individuals appearing in the Wheelers' tell-all. I know that LP guides are written by real people. I read this book based on the fine recommendations here.

Disappointed is too mild a word for my opinion of this book. I found Tony Wheeler to be narcissistic and petty. I found his recanting of employee relationships and friendships gone sour painful. He blamed his business errors on outside forces, rarely accepting that sometimes things don't go as planned. His decision making process was entrepreneurial and often quite irrational, which likely made LP what it is: the hands-down world leader in travel guides. But he didn't really seem to understand is the other side of entrepreneurship: what can create success can also lead to failure.

His desire to give us too much information pervades the book. I honestly didn't want to know about his marital problems and his rebellious teenagers. I was interested in LP's views of the world and its cultures, and his take on the difference between writing, pleasure, and business travel. My chief complaint of LP guides is that they tend to be somewhat dry, as if the author was being paid to travel (which is true of course), and really didn't enjoy it all that much.

In all, if you're an avid traveler and frequent user of LP guides, this book could have a very different effect on you that the author may have intended.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robert. on June 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
I am an avid traveller who has used Lonely Planet books from Bangaldesh to Nambia. When I'm not traveling, I'm often reading about traveling.

This book about how Lonely Planet (LP) began and grew was great. I enjoyed reading about the overland travel from Europe through Asia in the early 70's and how Maureen & Tony started LP.

The book is a mix of travel, personal relationships, and business. I thoroughly enjoyed all parts. Great book for entrepreneurs & travellers alike.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. Anderson on September 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
If you love to travel and love the idea of making your passion pay for itself, then this is a must read. An open and honest look at the creation and evolution of Lonely Planet!
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Format: Paperback
Those looking for hilarious travel anecdotes should probably look elsewhere for this book by Tony and Maureen Wheeler is far more the nuts and bolts story of two young people scraping by year after year in order to try and make something of their dream. It could so easily have gone horribly wrong. And in fact at times it seems strange that it didn't. The book doesn't shy away from the ins and outs of business and the pair certainly learned a range of lessons the hard way. But they stuck to their guns and decades later they are multi-millionaires with a globally famous brand.

This work is mostly written by Tony who seems to be the real driving force of things past a certain point though Maureen does get a chance to chime in throughout the book. The trials and tribulations of some of the early travel will probably appeal to those who love to discover a new destination or who love to travel to out of the way places. Those with an interest in being travel writers themselves will probably get a kick out of hearing how two of the most famous travel writers of the 20th century `made it' and those who are just fans of the books and travel in general should be able to glean some enjoyment out of the work as a look behind the scenes. Like watching a `making of' feature on your a favourite movie.

Downsides are that given the subject matter some people may find this a little dry. It is not a travelogue. It is the story of the business of Lonely Planet and the trials a couple of people who for years had little cash, children and business pressures. A perusal of some of the lower star rating reviews will expand on this theme.

I enjoyed it and have noted its positives. Others have taken a more negative view but if you are interested in LP then this is a good read even if you don't like it - if that makes sense.
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