Bad Lands and Unlikely Destinations with Tony and Maureen Wheeler.
The Wheeler's show slides, discuss travel writing and talk about two books: Bad Lands and Unlikely Destinations.
"Bad Lands" is an amusing travelogue and social commentary examining nine contrasting countries that are largely closed off from the outside world. This book appeals to those with an interest in politics or a curiosity about the state of the world today. "Unlikely Destinations" is a unique mix of autobiography, business history, and travel book, tracing the Wheelers' personal story and the evolution of their travel guide series, "Lonely Planet," that would become the world's largest independent guidebook publisher- Book Passage
Elaine Petrocelli is the owner of Book Passage in Corte Madera, an independent bookstore that is renowned for its event schedule of authors, reader events, conferences, and writing classes.
Elaine has been chosen "Bookseller of the Year" by Publishers Weekly magazine, and her constantly-updated list of book recommendations is followed by readers throughout the Bay Area and the nation.
Tony Wheeler was born in England in 1946 but spent most of his younger years overseas. Those years included a lengthy spell in Pakistan, a shorter period in the West Indies and all of his high school years in the USA. He returned to England to do an engineering degree, worked for a short time as an automotive engineer, then went back to university and completed an MBA.
As soon as Tony left business school in London in 1972, he and his wife Maureen set off for an overland trip to Asia. Their intention was to be away for about a year, get travel out of their systems and then settle down. When they arrived in Australia with 27 cents and a camera (which they soon pawned) between them, the continual questioning from people they met - How did you travel? What did you see? What did it cost? - inspired them to turn their diaries into a book. They called it Across Asia on the Cheap.
The first print run was 1500 copies, hand collated, hand trimmed and hand stapled. Tony and Maureen took the book around to bookshops in Sydney and it sold out in the first week. Eighteen months in Southeast Asia resulted in their second guide, South-East Asia on a Shoestring, which they put together in a backstreet Chinese hotel in Singapore in 1975. The 'yellow bible', as it became known because of its distinctive yellow cover, soon became the guide to the region. It has sold well over half a million copies worldwide and is now in its 13th edition, still retaining its familiar yellow cover.
Today there are over 500 Lonely Planet titles, each one with a 'between-the-lines message that travelers should respect the planet they wander' (San Francisco Examiner), and an adventurous, independent approach to travel. In addition to practical travel information each guide contains concise background information on the culture and history of the countries covered in the books.
Tony believes that travelers enjoy themselves much more when they know more about the places they're visiting. He says that travel writing is 'dawn to dusk hard work, always on the move, always checking things', but he and Maureen manage to fit in several trips each year. Tony continues to play an active part in researching, writing and updating Lonely Planet guides.
Over the past 30 years, Tony has researched and written Lonely Planet travel guides, diving guides and walking guides. He has also researched and published Chasing Rickshaws, a pictorial essay of the rickshaw in Southeast Asia, Time and Tide: The Islands of Tuvalu, a snapshot of life in the South Pacific and more recently Rice Trails: A Journey Through the Ricelands of Asia and Australia. Tony's most recent research trips took him to the Falklands and South Georgia Island, and East Timor. The East Timor guidebook was awarded the Pacific Asia Travel Association 2005 Gold Award for Best Travel Guidebook.
Maureen was born in Belfast in 1950. She attended Strand School in Sydenham where she passed her 11+ and got a scholarship to Princess Garden's Grammar School in Dunmurry. She went to Rupert Stanley Technical School to learn shorthand and typing skills and from there went to the Scottish Provident Insurance Company in Belfast to work as a secretary. (Maureen says her mother thought being a secretary was 'just about as good as it gets'.)
At the age of 20 she left Belfast for London and met Tony three days later on a bench in Regent's Park. In 1972, they travelled overland across Europe and Asia to Australia. At the end of their trip they were broke but were asked so many questions about how they did it they decided to write a travel guide. They wrote it at their kitchen table and trimmed and stapled it themselves. The book was called Across Asia on the Cheap. They wrote their second book South-East Asia on a Shoestring in a backstreet hotel in Singapore.
Maureen and Tony decided to settle in Australia. In 1975, when Maureen was 25, she went to La Trobe University in Melbourne where she did a Bachelor's degree in social work, convinced Lonely Planet could never support herself and Tony. She was determined she would never have to fall back on secretarial work, but faced with a choice between her social work and traveling, she chose to make travel her career.
Traveling with children became a way of life for Maureen after the births of Tashi and Kieran, and they considerably enlivened her journeys. This prompted Maureen to write a guidebook about it: Travel With Children is the result of years of experience on the road with the kids. In 1999 Maureen received the Inspiring Woman of Australia Award.
In 2001, she was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Ulster and voted Business Woman of the Year. As a woman who successfully balances the responsibilities of work, travel and family, Maureen Wheeler can relate her experiences of life on the road and the rewards of travel, or talk about what it's like to run a business with her husband. She can also share her insights on travel and offer tips and advice for any trip - from health and safety to getting over jet-lag and what to pack.
Maureen Wheeler and Lonely Planet have been featured in the New York Times Magazine, Forbes, Esquire, Smithsonian, Qantas In-flight Magazine, San Francisco Examiner and Travel & Leisure.