The Ultimate A-to-Z Travel List by Lonely Planet Writer Brett Atkinson

Brett Atkinson shares a few things he learned from taking on around 50 Girl Guide Finding Missions in 15 countries. Photo / Brett & Carol Atkinson

Since 2006, Auckland-based travel and food writer Brett Atkinson has worked as a freelance writer for Lonely Planet. While his current focus is on exploring New Zealand, here’s what he’s been missing out on while our borders are closed, and a few things he’s learned from taking on around 50 Guide Search Missions in 15 country.

Since 2006, Auckland-based travel and food writer Brett Atkinson has worked as a freelance writer for Lonely Planet.  Photo / Brett & Carol Atkinson
Since 2006, Auckland-based travel and food writer Brett Atkinson has worked as a freelance writer for Lonely Planet. Photo / Brett & Carol Atkinson


I love them all, big and small, from Asian mega-hubs like Changi in Singapore and Incheon in Seoul, to tiny airstrips like Atiu in the Cook Islands, or landing in the middle of a curious audience of lions. premises in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. That first slip of an airplane’s wheels in a new destination always reinforces the promise of “Okay, what’s next?” “


At home, I am definitely a morning person, and when I travel breakfast is often my favorite meal. Cities are slowly waking up to a relaxed vibe, and now is the perfect time to perch on a small plastic stool in Malaysia devouring a bowl of laksa or pairing a brioche with the first espresso of the day at a Sicilian cafe.

Craft beer

There is no shortage of great beers in New Zealand, but some of my favorite memories are brewing abroad. Amid Tokyo’s tangle of neon and Japanese kanji characters, the international hoppy acronym of I, P, and A still signals excellent breweries, while Portland’s reputation as a hotspot of the Pacific Northwest is reinforced with more than 70 breweries.


Behind the wheel of a car is often my bliss, and my favorite drives include the California Highway 1 coastal forest route through Big Sur or along the borders of Iran and Syria amid the vast landscapes of the south-eastern Turkey. The tunes of Paul Kelly and Hunters & Collectors always go hand in hand with a road trip through the Australian outback.

Anticipated debuts

Breakfast is just one good reason to wake up with shining eyes and bushy tails. The layered aromas of coffee, duty-free scents and gasoline all combine while waiting for an early morning red-eye flight, while getting up before dawn is always the best strategy to maximize sunrise fun. sun and safaris.


Coming back to certain destinations multiple times to update Lonely Planet information means that casual acquaintances from first trips often become good friends and fellow travelers a few years later. In the case of a few trusted partners on the road – xin chao in Kien Tran in Hanoi, Vietnam, and merhaba in Sabahattin Alkan in Van, Turkey – F now also stands for Family.


To paraphrase Mark Twain’s “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated” line, travel guide sales were actually very robust until 2020. Going forward, there will certainly be a need for updated travel information. up to date, so I hope I can come back in the hunt for the best experiences that various destinations have to offer. Checking in with good friends on Messenger or FaceTime just isn’t the same.


As much as I’m a fan of Airbnb and other self-catering accommodations, sometimes it’s good to skip the occasional hassle of entry codes and key collection, and head to the front desk of a hotel and hotels. ‘save. Especially when the breakfast is mid-range. The Sri Lankan hotel almost always includes an array of curries and sambals.

he is

I’ve taken an armada of ferries to interesting islands, but the navigation hasn’t always been smooth. A creaky wooden ferry connecting the town of Padang in Sumatra to the Mentawai Islands ran aground halfway due to an engine problem, while spring storms prevented me from returning to the Turkish mainland from the Gokceada Island for four days. The first rule of writing a guide? Always be flexible with your schedule.

Jump on a motorbike

By far the best way to explore a big Asian city is to jump on the back of a motorbike. Smartphone apps like Grab make it as easy as summoning an Uber in New Zealand. Remember to keep your knees tucked in during rush hour in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam. One of these days, the helmet the driver gives me may actually fit my big head.


Kiwi highlights on the water include drifting along Doubtful Sound in mild Fiordland rain, but I also had the chance to paddle with sea lions in Ecuador and the cold waters of Bay of Tutka in Alaska. After capsizing on the Vltava River near the Czech town of Cesky Krumlov, a sealed barrel containing my money, car keys and passport drifted away from me and was luckily retrieved 400m downstream. Lesson learned.

some lakes

Massive lakes like Lake Van in eastern Turkey can often resemble the ocean, while my favorite reminders of volcanic energy on the planet include Oregon’s vast Crater Lake National Park and multicolored waters. atop the Kelimutu Mountains on the Indonesian island of Flores.

Massive lakes like Lake Van in eastern Turkey can often resemble the ocean.  Photo / Brett & Carol Atkinson
Massive lakes like Lake Van in eastern Turkey can often resemble the ocean. Photo / Brett & Carol Atkinson


Also file under E for Early Start. No traveler has ever regretted having visited a market as it opens. These are often the perfect spots for breakfast and lunch, with favorites like man’oushe flatbreads in Beirut or grilled Mexican chorizo ​​in Oaxaca. There was even this time when I could have a beer for breakfast at the central market in Budapest.

No traveler has ever regretted visiting a market as it opens, with beautiful places including ones like the Budapest Central Market.  Photo / 123rf
No traveler has ever regretted having visited a market as it opens, with beautiful places like the Budapest Central Market. Photo / 123rf


Looking for a big city like Perth, Prague or Hanoi is usually an opportunity to rent an apartment, use it as a base to explore the destination in depth and find out what makes local neighborhoods like Leederville, Karlin or Long Bien vibrate. At the very least, the guy from the cafe downstairs usually knows my name a few days later.

Off the beaten track

Exploring the emerging neighborhoods of a city or the emerging regions of a country is the best part of updating a guide. New cafes, bars, restaurants and galleries usually lead the charge, while researching areas like Ha Giang province in northern Vietnam and the remote highlands of Kelabit in Borneo are two favorite Lonely Planet memories.


I’m definitely the second best photographer in the house – my wife Carol is much more accomplished – but I definitely miss taking pictures while on assignment. Often times it will be just to jog my memory or support my notes when I get home, but I’m still proud of a few of them. Especially those of the Alaskan bear and the Namibian lion.

Brett Atkinson's wife Carol is the lead photographer, but he's still proud of a few of his own, including this Namibian lion.  Photo / Brett & Carol Atkinson
Brett Atkinson’s wife Carol is the lead photographer, but he’s still proud of a few of his own, including this Namibian lion. Photo / Brett & Carol Atkinson


Ask the right questions of the right people, and guide research can soon come to life. Ask the Uber driver or chef where they like to eat or ask the guys at the brewery what they like to do on the weekends, and you soon add an extra day in a city to hunt down some new leads. Remember, always be flexible with your schedule.


Sometimes getting around a country’s rivers is the best way to explore a destination, but water level issues sometimes make it tricky. The low waters of the Mekong meant that a trip down the river was replaced by a bumpy local bus in Laos, while exploring Borneo’s forested hinterland on the Batang Rejang River allowed me to refresh your heels in the sleepy riverside town of Kapit for a few days. At least the local kopi cafe guy knew my name.

street food

I’m never happier than digging into a bowl of Burmese mohinga noodles or pizza-style lahmacun in Turkey. We now get a good range of international flavors in New Zealand, but the dishes always taste better framed by the sights and sounds of Mandalay or Gaziantep. It’s always a good idea to go on a street food tour when you first arrive in a city to know what to order with confidence later in your stay.


Joining other guided tours is also a good idea, especially in a large city where tours often have a specific purpose. Recent highlights include a walking tour of Palermo to learn about the anti-mafia initiatives of the Addiopizzo movement in Sicily.

Underground experiments

Underground experiences while researching for Lonely Planet included the underground city of Derinkuyu in Turkey’s Cappadocia region, exploring the labyrinthine catacombs of Naples, and the spooky “Church of Bones” in the Czech town of Kutna Hora.


Getting that little stamp or sticker in your passport is always a great time before travel. Even if it takes a month for him to return from a certain Southeast Asian embassy in Canberra.


From lions and elephants in Namibia and Botswana to humpback whales in Niue and Alaska, seeing animals in the wild is always a special experience. Closer to home, the albatrosses, penguins and sea lions of the Otago Peninsula have been a decent proxy for the Galapagos Islands over the past few months.


Yes, waiting in line with your shoes and belt on is a problem, but I will gladly take it once we can travel again. Maybe next time I won’t leave my laptop at Auckland Airport before I fly to San Francisco.


No one will ever approach me for SailGP or the America’s Cup, but after helping navigate a catamaran amid the sheltered waters of the Western Sahara region of Morocco, I have the right to dream, right?


Across Australia, the open grasslands of Taronga Western Plains Zoo can be experienced safari-style, while exploring the excellent San Diego Zoo in California was actually one of my last memories at overseas in February 2020. At least we can visit the new Southeast Asian Jungle Trail when it opens soon at the Auckland Zoo.

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