In 1972, Tony and Maureen Wheeler completed a backpacking trip overland from England to Australia. When they arrived, friends asked them where they had gone along the way, where they had stopped and where they had eaten. In response, they made a guidebook for the trip and called it Across Asia on the Cheap. It became the first of a series they would later name Lonely Planet. Eighty million copies later, they are one of the largest travel publishers in the world. Periplus Publishing just released the duo’s autobiography, The Lonely Planet Story.
- By Chris Otchy
- | Oct 19, 2006
Is there anywhere you haven’t been?
Oh yeah, lots of places. Mongolia, Yemen…You know, the thing about travelling is the more places you go, the more you hear about. The more you travel, the bigger the world gets.
What’s the most beautiful place you’ve been to?
Antarctica. Everything’s either blue or white; either completely barren or penguins as far as the eye can see. That’s probably the most beautiful place we’ve been.
Do you still use your own books when you travel and stay in guesthouses, or are you a bit beyond that now?
Yes, of course we still use them! Well, we’re a lot older and the thing about getting older is you have more money so you have more choices. We have the option of being able to stay in hotels now. But if you go to somewhere like Ethiopia, there aren’t many options, and we’re still happy to stay in guesthouses.
Where does the name come from?
Our very first book we did, we made it ourselves—right on our kitchen table. Once we made it we had to come up with a name for our company. We were sitting in an Italian restaurant trying to think of a name and couldn’t think of anything. We had just seen a movie, and there was a Joe Cocker song in it called “Space Captain.” I was sitting there humming the lyrics to myself, which go, “Once I was traveling across the sky/ This lonely planet caught my eye…” And we said, “Ah, that’s it! Lonely Planet.” Of course it wasn’t until later we realized the lyric is actually, “This lovely planet caught my eye.” So the name is actually based on an error I made over thirty years ago.