Lonely Planet Book Review: “You Only Live Once”

Looking for a great gift for someone who needs a little inspiration? Or maybe that someone is you. “You Only Live Once: A Lifetime of Experiences for the Explorer in All of Us” is a new publication from Lonely Planet. It’s not a traditional travel guide. Instead, through a series of photographs, brief essays, and infographics, it introduces readers to a world of enriching experiences. It should come with a warning because you’ll want to walk out your front door and never look back.


The book features stunning photographs of people, places, and things to stimulate your wanderlust. Photo: You Only Live Once: A Lifetime of Experiences for the Explorer in All of Us. © Lonely Planet 2016

Everyone Needs a Little Inspiration

I adore guidebooks. My living room bookshelf is crammed with old ones, including a copy of Let’s Go Europe from 1983. I continue to buy them, despite living in the digital age. Why? A good guidebook contains timeless information about the essential things to see and do in a given location. When in Paris, you’ll want to visit the Eiffel Tower. That will never change, no matter the year. And you don’t need WiFi to read a guide BOOK.

Lonely Planet is a leading publisher of travel guidebooks. Their first title, Asia on the Cheap, was penned by company founders Tony and Maureen Wheeler at their kitchen table in 1973. I find their books to be more free wheeling than competitors such as Frommer’s and Fodor’s. Perhaps I identify more closely with them because my own philosophy is similar to theirs:

‘All you’ve got to do is decide to go and the hardest part is over. So go!’

I received a review copy of one of their new releases, You Only Live Once: A Lifetime of Experiences for the Explorer in All of Us and expected to be dazzled and inspired.

It was worse than that.

I’m sitting in my living room with my bags packed, wondering how I can run away from home for the next 20 years.

Why? Because You Only Live Once reminded me that there’s a big, beautiful world out there and I need to get on it if I’m going to see, do, and eat everything I want to before my clock runs out.

What to Do with an Hour, a Day, a Week, or a Year

The book features 336 pages with dreamy photos of exotic places like the Peak District National Park in England and Hobbiton Matamata in New Zealand. Adventures are organized into sections by time; the editors make it clear in the intro that these are just suggestions, to be used by readers as jumping off points for their own imagination.

I forgot this. I dove into the book as I was heading out to Pennsylvania for a weekend trip. I turned quickly to the index. Scranton wasn’t there. Neither was Pennsylvania. I tossed the book aside.

I realized I was being hasty and picked it back up and turned to the Hour section and found a segment about outdoor cinemas. Did you know that you can watch a movie in Athens under the stars with the Acropolis looming in the background? Nope? Me neither. I put it on my bucket list. I would also like to see the world’s other scenic cinemas including Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

While this was all great information for the future, I still faced my immediate predicament, namely, what to do in Scranton. And then the lightbulb went off. Although there might not be a devastatingly gorgeous outdoor cinema in the Electric City, there is a drive-in. And going to a drive-in is one of life’s really fun things you need to do at least once.

And that’s when I realized what I could do with You Only Live Once.

Lonely Planet Book Review: "You Only Live Once: A Lifetime of Experiences for the Explorer in All of Us"

Lonely Planet Book Review: “You Only Live Once: A Lifetime of Experiences for the Explorer in All of Us”

For example, I’m a dedicated walker. As my primary exercise, I’ve adopted a Fitbit and manipulate my day to include 10,000 steps. Sometimes this necessitates going up and down my house staircase 20 or 30 times before retiring for the evening. How wonderful it would be to channel this “training” into a walking holiday! I dove into You Only Live Once and read through several profiles of the word’s great walks, including the Wales Coast Path. The promise of breathtaking vistas, rejuvenating salty air, and a refreshing pint at the end of a good day’s walk was enough to make me research similar jaunts that I could do near my home.

What I Added to my Bucket List:

  • Kayak along the Dalmatian coast in Croatia
  • Mindfully participate in a sunset in Utah’s Arches National Park – no camera!
  • Sleep in a castle.

A Way with Words and Photos

The prose in You Only Live Once is jaunty and engaging. The authors are Brits, I believe, so for us Yanks there are quite a few charming turns of the tongue. One hiking destination, Scotland’s John O’Groats, is described as a “damp squib.” I’ll be using that phrase often.

The book’s layout draws you in, primarily through the use of engaging photos. It’s not just dreamy landscapes that woo you but yummy food and engaging people pictures too. One section encourages readers to Become a World Champion and features a gentleman sporting a curliqued, Medusian beard.

There are maps, sidebars, and asides sprinkled throughout that make this a fun little book to leave around and pick up when you have a minute or two. For example, flipping through the other day, I found a word cloud titled 50 Dishes to Try Before You Die. While I’m a huge fan of Polish pierogi, I think I won’t regret it if I never try cullen skink, “a smoky fishy soup from Scotland.”

My only complaint about the physical book is that it’s set in tiny type and necessitated the use of my reading glasses, something I avoid as much as possible to stave off the inevitable. I get it. YOLO is the mantra of millennials. But boomers, maybe even more than youngsters, feel the pressing need to suck the marrow out of each day. And our eyesight sucks.

All in all, You Only Live Once: A Lifetime of Experiences for the Explorer in All of Us by Lonely Planet is a fun take on the traditional travel guidebook. It offers readers inspiration for their own adventures, great and small. I think it would make an excellent gift for a twenty-something, to introduce them to the big, wide, wonderful world that’s outside their front door. Or give it to an older friend or colleague who needs a little push to stoke a passion that’s slumbering.

I’m considering taking the day off today. Rather than call in sick, I think I’ll just send the boss an email:

“Dear Work. I won’t be in today. Or possibly ever. Blame Lonely Planet.”

You Only Live Once Lonely Planet Cover

You Only Live Once: A Lifetime of Experiences for the Explorer in All of Us. © Lonely Planet 2016

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2 thoughts on “Lonely Planet Book Review: “You Only Live Once”

  1. Sunset @ Moab Arches and Red Rocks — definitely!! Tack on the cliffside Indian dwellings at Mesa Verde while you’re in the area. (Read Edward Abbey’s Monkey Wrench Gang and Desert Solitaire to get stoked up — he wrote Solitaire while he was babysitting the Arches in the winters of ’56 & “57 — HAYDUKE LIVES!).

    And don’t walk that Wales Trail without me — it’s on my bucket list too!! 🙂

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