Travel Guides With A Laugh – Jetlag Travel Guides
Hi there people in Travel Tart land – I’ve scored an interview with Tom Gleisner who was involved in the production of the piss take Funny Travel Guides, Molvania – A Land Untouched By Modern Dentistry and San Sombrero.
Molvania has some great one liners, such as ‘Despite being a land-locked country, Molvanians love their seafood. Here a fisherman from Lake Vjaza checks his catch for mercury levels.’
Molvania is part of the ‘Jetlag Travel Guides’ which is a series of travel guide parodies. If you accidentally buy one of these instead of a real travel guide book thinking that it’s an actual guide for a real location, then you’re in real trouble! Some other funny titles are Phaic Tan – Sunstroke on a Shoestring, and San Sombrero – A Land Of Carnivals, Cocktails and Coups.
For those of you who are not familiar with the Jetlag Travel Guides, I’ve referred to them as a ‘cross breed between Lonely Planet and Monty Python’. Tom Gleisner created these along with his two mates from Working Dog Productions, Rob Sitch and Santo Cilauro.
Believe it or not, there is also a Jet Lag Travel iPhone App!
Anyway, here is the interview!
Travel Guides With Tom Gleisner!
The Travel Tart: Thanks for your time Tom. By the way, I’m from an era that remembers you from the D-Generation days! Just wondering, how the hell did you come up with the very original idea of Jetlag Travel Guides?
Tom Gleisner: Like a lot our ideas it had a rather long gestation period. Way back around 1990 Rob, Santo and I were travelling with our respective partners through Portugal. A beautiful country and a great trip, but it did seem that entire place was under some form of renovation. Castles were closed, ancient buildings covered in scaffolding. We began mucking round with our (real) Michelin travel guides, making up entries such as “the cathedral is one of the oldest in Europe; some of its scaffolding dates back to the late 1500’s…” It certainly amused us at the time, but it was over a decade later that Santo reminded us of the idea and said ‘wouldn’t it be fun to create an entire guide book to a country that doesn’t exist?’ He was right.
The Travel Tart: I find the way that humour works, is that when something is piss-your-pants funny, the closer to the truth it is. When I was reading Molvania, I had to snigger at how true some of the sections were in terms of some of the things I’ve experienced travelling! Have you thought about writing for one of the travel guide companies? Your writing would be fairly accurate!
Tom Gleisner: We did gain a lot of amusement from the sort of ‘coded language’ you get in a typical guide book. Statements like “the town is well worth the effort” have a clear underlying meaning, namely that the town is nothing BUT effort and you should really only visit if you want to brag about it. Guest houses that were “charming” or “quaint” were generally dilapidated and devoid of plumbing. That sort of thing.
The Travel Tart: Just wondering, are you able to name the actual countries that inspired each Jetlag book? I have a pretty good idea! Or would that land you in prison if you ever dared to visit!
Tom Gleisner: I guess Molvania owes a lot to Romania. Many of the photos were taken by my friend Bill Bachman who is a professional photographer and had recently returned from a trip there sponsored by the Romanian Tourism Authority (formerly the Secret Police). But we were also inspired by countries as far afield as Turkey and Italy. Phaic Tan was a genuine amalgamation of Thailand and Cambodia, with a bit of Burma sprinkled in. San Sombrero might be a little harder to pin down. Rob and I actually visited Cuba while we were writing the book, but we found so much there that we loved – not good for comedy. The book also contains quite a few shots from Mexico.
The Travel Tart: Have you had anyone approach you to ask if Molvania actually exists?
Tom Gleisner: No, but it was our original goal to write the book and have it placed in the Travel Section so that hopefully some boringly boastful traveler would loudly declare that s/he had already visited. It would be the ultimate (travel-based) practical joke.
The Travel Tart: While Molvania came out first, there are some parallels with Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat portrayal of Kazakhstan (except Molvania is much more subtle!). Even though I know you were poking fun at the concept of travel books, did you cop some flak about some of the portrayal of eastern European countries, even though Molvania is a fictional place?
Tom Gleisner: No, our perfect defence was that we never named the country, just the general region. And it was kind of a Catch-22 for residents of Eastern Europe. If anyone was to take offence at our depiction of their country then they would – by definition – be admitting that their country accurately resembled the one described in the book. (If that makes sense?)
The Travel Tart: I notice there are some more travel spoof guides coming, with great names such as ‘Sailing the Syphollos Straits’ and ‘Surviving Moustachistan – Central Asia’s Forgotten Jewel’. I’d have to consume copious amounts of beer to even have one of these titles enter my head, and then I’d forget about it the next morning. How do you all come up with these crazy titles? Are any drugs involved? ;P
Tom Gleisner: No drugs, just a lot of time on our hands. We don’t intend actually writing these titles, they were just something we had fun creating for the final pages. Although, you never know…
The Travel Tart: I written a couple of pieces regarding Travel Personalities Explained and other annoying travel types which makes fun of some of the interesting characters on the road (such as the Pisshead, the Root Rat etc). What Travel Personality do you like making the most fun of?
Tom Gleisner: Our favourite travel type was depicted in all 3 books by Philippe Miseree. He’s the sort of boring professional traveler who has always been somewhere “before it was trendy” and spends all his time telling you how that place (Bali, Katmandhu, Berlin) was SO much better 20 years ago but now it’s been RUINED by tourists (note – he is not a ‘tourist’, he’s a ‘Traveler’). We also had fun with the super-cautious traveler who is so constantly fearful of being mugged/drugged/ripped off that s/he never leaves the hotel.
The Travel Tart: Travel has changed a lot in 20 years, especially with the advent of the internet (see Travel 2010 vs Travel in 1990). What’s your take on the most annoying travel related change in the past 2 decades?
Tom Gleisner: Possibly Facebook. It’s one thing to be deluged by your friend’s travel photos when they return, but to be drip fed a daily update from whatever remote location they’re in kind of undercuts the magic of travel. Wasn’t it once about actually GOING AWAY?
The Travel Tart: I always end up with a question in my interviews about the place where you thought ‘hell yeah, I love this travel thing!’. Where was the place you first felt this?
Tom Gleisner: I do love Southeast Asia, and despite all the years of tourism I still find Bali quite magical. This tiny Hindu kingdom, impossibly beautiful, right on our doorstep.
The Travel Tart: Thanks so much for your time Tom! Much appreciated!
Tom Gleisner: You’re welcome!
More Funny Travel Guide Stuff
- Funny face masks on Amazon
- Funny travel books
- Funny travel movies
- Funny travel TV shows
- Funny travel mugs!