Yes, you’re probably going to hell

A couple of years ago I went on holiday to India, to my hometown of Ooty, into Kerala and up the west coast to Goa. At the time I was an inhouse editor at Lonely Planet, but I didn’t mention this to most people I met – mainly because people usually want to bitch at you about how LP’s Prague map had the train station in the wrong place or the bus to Beijing was 100 yuan more expensive than the China guide said it would be, and that’s really nothing to do with me. But before I took this trip to India, the author of LP’s Goa guide told me about a guesthouse in Goa that I just had to visit, and he told me to say hi to the owners from him.

Which I did. And when they found out I was a Lonely Planet editor, the owners were all over me for the rest of the stay – reduced rates, taking me out for an expensive meal, arranging guides for me, all things I really hadn’t asked for and felt uncomfortable with. But I was part of the magical world of Lonely Planet, which can make or break a business with a few lines in a guidebook. It wouldn’t have been hard for me to take advantage of them and pick up a few freebies. I didn’t.

But Thomas Kohnstamm says that’s what he had to do to survive as a Lonely Planet author. That, and deal drugs, make things up and plagiarize. I’ve been stewing about this for days – yes, I do think Lonely Planet should pay its authors more, no question, but man, this guy is a dick.

Why did he keep coming back for more if he thought he was unfairly paid? Why is he laughing about the fact that he screwed over all those readers? I had a much longer rant planned, but this guy puts it just as well. Go on, go read it.

I’ve pitched for writing work on LP’s India and Sri Lanka guides, to be researched later this year. Fingers crossed. But if the pay isn’t enough to cover my air fare, than I’ll turn it down, or try to renegotiate. I won’t do a crappy job and then expect people to applaud me as a gonzo travel writer.

(Oh, and while you’re here, go read the articles I wrote for

Update: He thinks he’s been misquoted and taken out of context: hmmmm. I’m inclined to have a small amount of sympathy, but, you know, I’m sure his book will sell well (much better than mine…) on the back of all the controversy.

2 Responses to “Yes, you’re probably going to hell”

  1. Rachel says:

    Definitely a goober!!
    Why announce to the world that you are a liar and cheat?
    Better still why take the job at all if you could not live on the wage provided?
    A complete tosser!!

  2. kate says:

    There are various interviews with the guy coming out now where he’s backtracking a bit and sheepishly claiming that the more outlandish claims were blown up by marketing people flogging his book, so now I’m cautiously feeling a bit bad for him… it’s not hard to imagine a marketroid blowing things way out of proportion for the sake of sales (but then of course the author benefits from that – so I don’t know quite who I’m pissed off at here!)

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