Day June 24, 2007
In nearly four decades of incessant globe-trotting, Tony Wheeler, the co-founder of Lonely Planet, has seen nearly all the planet’s sensationally wonderful places. He’s also seen the great places, the pretty good places, the so-so places and the not-too-bad places. There wasn’t much left to do but to start collecting passport stamps from the really bad places.
The result is one of the most oddly compelling travel books in recent years, “Bad Lands: A Tourist on the Axis of Evil — With Additional Excursions to Places That Are Slightly Misguided, Mildly Malevolent, Seriously Off-Course, Extraordinarily Reclusive and Much Misunderstood.”
Wheeler pulled off the Axis of Evil hat trick: Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Then he moved on to Afghanistan, Burma/Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and George W. Bush’s new favorite country, Albania, for a nostalgic look at the bad old days under Enver Hoxha.
The obvious question is, uh, why? I asked Wheeler this over lunch in San Francisco recently.