Lonely Planet Writer

What Douglas Adams teaches us about travel

dougadamsDo you know where your towel is?

It's a question every traveller should ask, according to the exceptionally clever Douglas Adams, author of the ultimate guidebook, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. A towel, the guide reminds us, is 'the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.'

In addition to his authoring awesomeness, Adams was a passionate champion for animal rights, a technology nerd (one of the original Apple fan boys) and a proud atheist, who insisted people take responsibility for their own destinies.

He died before his time in 2001 and fans assemble every year on May 25 to honour his unique way of seeing the universe with International Towel Day.

Over the last 24 hours, towel lovers have been praising the terrycloth all over the globe. It's a reason to come together, find things in common and have a beer (or cup of tea). You can follow many of the towel inspired events on Twitter by searching for #towelday. People meet in bars, don bathroom apparel and parade through the streets, or just curl up with Adams and his characters. They catalyse their curiosity (the other indispensible travel accessory).

N.B. In a coincidence that adds up to 42, May 25 is also Geek Pride Day.

Adams has galaxies worth to teach us about travel. He inspired readers of all generations (including yours truly) to feverishly pursue wonder and whimsy in all places and experiences.

His Last Chance to See is a rich, funny and heartbreaking chronicle of the planet's endangered species and the extraordinary landscapes they dwell in. You can listen to the original BBC radio series here, and explore the Stephen Fry sequel (a dear friend of Douglas) here. It's a must for wildlife lovers. I first gobbled up Last Chance in the early 90s. It was the first time I'd ever heard of most the places it covered and I've been slightly obsessed with visiting Madagascar ever since I heard Adams schoolboyesque gushing over the remarkable Aye-Aye.

.. any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still know where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

RacumAdams' iconic axiom, Don't Panic is always a good fallback when you discover the hot water doesn't work in your hotel, you landed in the wrong country or that damn volcano has started vomiting ash again.

The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate.

Lonely Planet producer Amy Gray says she follows in Adams' footsteps because: 'Anyone who becomes a fan of Bop Ad is also a whimsical observer of the world. Where better to indulge this love away from the page than by travelling? It’s not his specific books that have inspired me, it’s just the way he approaches the Universe....ok, I did once do a lot of travelling in a bathrobe but I’m legally not allowed to discuss that.'

Next time you go tripping, Don't Panic, pack your towel, chug a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster and check out the planet's vast, huge, mind-numbing bigness.

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be - Douglas Adams


[Photo credits: BBC/Racum/douglasadams.com]