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Open Letter to Lonely Planet

Posted on 8/4/04

In June, during a fit of procrastination, I wrote and sent this letter to Lonely Planet. They never answered. Though it’s kind of long and maybe they just fell asleep halfway through it.

I’m posting it here in the hopes that there are other travel geeks out there like me that would knock down their grandmothers to get their hands on my suggested product and if enough of us hassle them, maybe LP will get off their asses and get this thing on the streets, before Frommer’s beats them to the punch.

Dear Fellow Travel Junkies,

I am writing to propose a killer product enhancement to your already fabulously rotund and priceless glut of travel products and services. I am an aspiring travel writer. In 2003 I backpacked and feverishly wrote on the fly through every country in Western Europe - minus Finland and Switzerland, word is I didn’t miss much - virtually non-stop, for seven months straight, which, in case you were wondering, is so exhausting and punishing that it will age your face like a two term presidency. Beginning in November of this year, I will embark on a similar journey through Australia, New Zealand, Asia and a few, choice Pacific Islands.

I am deeply ashamed to admit that in my hasty search for a travel guidebook before the European trip, I impulsively grabbed “Frommer’s Europe” simply because it was thicker and thicker is better, right? That is, until you add that dead weight to your already over-packed encumbrance and suddenly thicker means swifter, debilitating back spasms, but I digress... As you are no doubt aware, Frommer’s is geared toward people who have a daily budget of about US$300 and don’t care to actually learn diddly about the places that they visit beyond where they need to go to buy and ship home their very own Mona Lisa dinette set. I unloaded that waste of half-a-tree after only two weeks. After traveling by the seat of my pants for months, a friend gave me a copy of your “Europe on a Shoestring” and from that moment on I have used and treasured it like the holy bible. I am a glassy-eyed, Lonely Planet disciple. Praise Vivek Wagle!

I am in the process of tweaking my gear for the next trip and this is where you come in. I am an unabashed geek. To get my work done and done well, I have the smallest and lightest, yet most powerful equipment available in the free world. My fully loaded, 30 gig Dell notebook is the size and weight of a bathroom floor tile. My four megapixel, 128 megebyte digital camera is small enough to be swallowed whole, if necessary, though I imagine that expelling it might be tricky, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Finally, my digital organizer (address book, calendar, alarm clock, calculator, memo pad, to do list, wireless email [United States only], infrared PC synch-up, data transfer, printer transmitter and, of course, games) is smaller (and less fattening) than a Krispy Kream doughnut. BUT, it is not wi-fi, wireless Internet capable, therefore it must be replaced immediately. I am buying the Palm Tungsten C, which, in addition to having enough geeky extras to require a drool bib, has the standard Palm Reader for ebooks. My first thought was “Dude! Free, wireless Internet orgy!” closely followed by “Holy (expletive)! I’ll get the ‘South East Asia on a shoestring’ in ebook format, so I won’t have to carry around a guidebook the size and weight of a gold brick!”

Sadly, as you know, you do not offer this product. You have the very cool sounding “CitySync” Palm Travel Cards, but these are pathetically inadequate for the odyssey I’m facing. So, my point, finally, is that it is imperative that you develop and allow me to test the ebook versions of your Asia, Australia and Pacific guidebooks. Not only will I put it through the paces in a very long term, grueling, real world environment, but I will rave about it endlessly in my essays which, if you believe my mother, will sell two billion copies and make me rich and revered by the travel and literary worlds and result in an unholy torrent of free advertising for you. It’s win-win. I knock about five pounds off my backpack, while supplementing my geek accouterments and you get to launch a new, thoroughly tested product that stands to save you time, money, distribution hassles, shipping costs and trees. You’re welcome.

I understand that you have a deluge of copyright details to sort out before you can unleash a product of this nature and all I can say on that front is; not my problem. I’m the idea man. Get someone smarter than me to handle those details, because I have planes to catch.

In closing, I love you guys. Seriously. This is not a joke. Categorical love, all around. Also, I realize this pitch is naïve and idealist, but this attitude is how I got into the travel writing business in the first place and although nobody has actually offered to pay me yet, I am having the time of my life and therefore my ideas should be worth something to somebody.

Thank you for reading this and I look forward to hearing from you and acting as a consultant to your team of developers that should get to work immediately because they only have five months to get me a beta release. Chop, chop!


Leif Pettersen

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