Lonely Planet founder reprises original trip - on budget air

Sat Oct 31, 2015 9:01am EDT
 
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By Bill Tarrant

(Reuters) - Tony Wheeler famously started the Lonely Planet series of travel guides in 1973 after embarking from London in a minivan, driving through the "hippie backpacker trail" in Asia and finally arriving in Sydney, where he and his wife Maureen had 27 cents between them.

After selling the Lonely Planet enterprise for $133 million in 2007 to the BBC, Wheeler, 66, no longer needs to travel on the cheap.

Nevertheless, there he was taking 22 different budget airline flights earlier this year from London to Melbourne, Australia, in a month-long reprise of his first epic journey.

It wasn't nearly as romantic - the cramped airplanes seats, tedious airport security and delays - "but I enjoyed it, I really did", Wheeler said in an interview on the sidelines of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival on the Indonesian island of Bali at the weekend.

His new book, which is not yet published, also looks back at the history of air travel in the region, and chronicles the startling growth of budget airline and the characters who started them.

'BOOKS CHANGED WITH US'

Tony and Maureen started the guidebooks based on the diaries of his original trip. The books, originally pitched toward the young baby boomer backpack generation that was discovering Asia, changed over time.   Continued...