Lonely Planet Writer

Traveller talk: September 2016

Manta ray floating underwater among other fish. Have you met a manta ray in the wild? © StudioSmart / Shutterstock

In September Thorn Tree users were talking about their concern for the environment and awe for Mother Nature, as well as their love of Italian food and resignation in the face of increased security checks since 9/11. Here are some of our top moderator picks...

Tales of the unexpected

An amazing thread developed from zebec's post (inspired by friendly_checkingirl) asking TT-ers to share their wildlife and nature experiences. Many TT-ers told of amazing sunrises, starry nights and watching the Northern Lights – with mooseintransit recalling riding out a thunderstorm in a bivvy bag while enjoying the light show. TT-ers shared near misses with black mambas, hippos and elephants; being wooed by camels; and stumbling across whales with their calves, and boars with their piglets.

Friendly_checkingirl was recently snorkelling off a reef in Punta Allen, Mexico, and unexpectedly found a pair of sea turtles mating. She also shares a story of a dive where she spotted a gathering of giant manta rays waiting to be cleaned by cleaner fish. Cosima shares a humorous tale, where 'monkeys stole my Cure T-shirt off the clothes line' in a Borneo national park. 'All attempts at retrieval were met with utter contempt.'

But the 'ahhh' factor goes to nutraxfornerves who had a baby panda chew on her fingers and a young orangutan run up to her for a cuddle.

Reduce, reuse, and recyle

With the respect for our awesome planet that these stories inspire, bjd asked the practical question: what to do with old guidebooks? There were a number of solutions, all with the environment in mind, such as donating them to charity bookshops and passing them – and even print outs – along to other travellers along the way. Many stay in use, with the internet filling in any gaps and helping to update information. When they have truly reached the end of the road, crafting was suggested. A bit obsessed with old National Geographics, zebec collects them to give to their students to create 'massive foam board collages'.

While Venice is a top pick for many guidebooks, mariafromraincity asks whether it's 'nothing more than an old, tired, decrepit Disneyland.' Meanwhile, TT-ers discussed the merits of limiting the numbers of tourists allowed to visit top attractions – started by lucapal, who noted that officials plan to limit the number of tourists allowed into Dubronik to 6000 daily.

Tired of truffle pasta? Not us © Sarymsakov Andrey / Shutterstock

How to escape tourist traps

A funny discussion on tricks to avoid tourist traps was started by Dhettema. While most of the tips are probably sound, a shout out has to go to mooseintransit for his tongue-in-cheek recommendations on dressing down and comments that he always wears his 'transition-lensed spectacles rather than Ray Ban or Oakley sunglasses'.

Going back to the Italian theme, manuelthebarber reveals his disappointment in the homogeneity of menus in Italy despite it being 'a land of traditions' and wonders if he's doing something wrong. Clementis_fur_cap suggests some adventurous-sounding dishes such as asino (donkey) and stinko (pigs leg). Myitalianobsession shares a link to his blog on how to find good food in Italy and debate follows, meandering around the Slow Food movement.

Increased security measures

With it being September, thoughts turned to 9/11 and fieldgate asked how it has affected travel over the past 15 years. A thoughtful thread followed with much comparison of before and after, and a focus on border security – including those dreaded full-body scanners that show what you look like naked – with a sprinkling of talk about the UK's decision to leave Europe and how this will affect travel. But marichel1981 summed it up nicely: 'The only way to get thru the security line and immigration is by having a sense of humor. Never wake up in a bad mood before international travel.'