Here’s How 6 Months Of Tony’s Life Lead To The Creation Of The Biggest Travel Guide In The World: Lonely Planet
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9th Dec | 2 min read

Before being sold to the BBC in 2007 and the NC2 Media in 2013, Lonely Planet was created and operated by Tony and Maureen Wheeler. Today, Tony still travels widely and has most recently published a book called Dark Lands, an exploration through some of the world’s most troubled countries, including the Congo, Zimbabwe, and Pakistan.

You can read about Tony’s travels on his blog.

We recently spoke with Tony about the 6 months of his life that helped create the biggest travel guide book in the world. Here’s the story of how he started Lonely Planet. 

I was inspired to travel by...

Growing up in Pakistan, the Bahamas, and the USA as a child. Enjoying travel when I first started doing it without parents. The Hippie Trail in 1972, the trip that led to Lonely Planet.

The hippie trail

Was a route many took back in the 70s that typically went from Europe through South East Asia.

It was the lack of information on this journey that led us to start Lonely Planet.  But hey, word of mouth is always the best information. 

Favorite memory – oh the whole trip, how often can you look back to six months of your life from many years ago and still remember so much of it. If we hadn’t done that trip we wouldn’t have started Lonely Planet and wouldn’t have kept on traveling. 

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The name came from...

A song Joe Cocker performed in the seminal ‘60s rock&roll band on the road movie Mad Dogs & Englishmen. Although we got the words wrong, he actually sings Lovely Planet.

The biggest challenge with starting the company

Things are always tougher when you’re small, just you it’s no problem, you go broke, well you go back to ‘real life’, a 9-to-5 job. As soon as you have people working for you, then you start to sweat. It’s Thursday, how do you pay people tomorrow?

When we took the trip in 72, things were very different

The fact that we can’t travel at all right now is the biggest change since then! Back in the pre-pandemic era, the social changes (my ‘group,’ the boomers, going further than our parents and previous generations), cultural changes (the Beatles were in India, it was the era of the Marrakesh Express, the Magic Bus, etc), technical (introduction of jumbo jets/widebodies, all the Asian airlines which sprang into existence – Thai International, Singapore Airlines), later on, the internet, low-cost-carriers, etc. And China, both inbound and outbound, a very substantial part of our world which was completely closed off even when I started traveling.

I still have a lot of traveling left in me

I’ve got a long list of places I’d like to get to, when we can go anywhere again.

My advice to people just starting their journey

Many years ago we said the hardest thing was the decision to go, so just go. Do it! Although next lifetime my biggest goal is to be better at languages.

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