Along with his partner Maureen, Tony Wheeler has published books under the household travel guide name Lonely Planet.
In this digital age, many travelers have risen to stardom by harnessing the might of the Internet to share their stories and pictures. But the Wheelers did not earn their reputation this way.
The couple explored Indonesia long before you posted that blog entry about your amazing trip to Komodo Island or uploaded that stunning photo of Yogyakarta’s Borobudur temple on Instagram.
Their first journey began in 1972, covering an Asia-Europe route and lasting for six months.
Based on that journey, they wrote and published their first guidebook titled Across Asia on the Cheap.
“We started in 1972. A lot has changed since then,” Wheeler told The Jakarta Post Travel last Thursday as he recalled his early days of traveling.
“So many people travel more extensively now – going to remote places and experiencing new things.”
After publishing their second book, South-East Asia on a Shoestring, in 1975, as well as a number of other publications featuring more detailed guides on cities and countries, the couple established quite a reputation among travelers.
Wheeler is now based in Australia where he still travels frequently, including to Indonesia – a country he is quite familiar with. The UK-born man is particularly fond of the Nusa Tenggara Islands and Sumatra.
“On my recent visit to Lake Kelimutu [on Flores] the color [of the lake] has changed; it is different from the one I saw during my first visit back then,” he said.
Wheeler’s next visit to Indonesia will be to attend and speak at the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival (UWRF) on Oct. 11-15, 2013.
This festival in Ubud brings together writers and storytelling enthusiasts from around the world to celebrate their passion in literature.
“I was there when they held the festival for the first time ever, ten years ago,” said Wheeler.
On this tenth occasion of the event, he will be speaking in three sessions about his new book, Dark Lands, and about the recent developments of travel writing.
“People now put themselves into the picture,” Wheeler said of the time we are living in now, in which sharing information about travel has become a norm.
He added that people had eliminated the need to be objective when they shared information about a destination or a trip.
One of Wheeler’s UWRF sessions will be held on Oct. 13 in the afternoon at the Neka Art Museum, Ubud.
Other figures in the international line-up include Sebastian Faulks, Lionel Shriver, Michael Leunig, Ruth Ozel and Tash Aw. Local names include Ayu Utami and Dewi Lestari.
Wheeler appears happy with the location.
“Bali is a place of great diversity, particularly in Ubud. It offers plenty of interesting things – not just beauty. People can learn the culture, the food, the language and many other things.”
Having said that, he still urges travelers visiting Indonesia to go off the beaten track, “Don’t keep going to places like Kuta or Yogyakarta. There’s so much more to Indonesia.”