Vivian Lougheed can’t say enough about her recent trip to Bolivia, so the adventurous travel writer shouldn’t have any trouble filling hundreds of pages in a guide book she’s about to write on the South American country.
Lougheed was given the contract by American publisher Hunter Travel Guides last year, 45 minutes after the company received her query letter and resumé by email.
She had already trekked to 50 different countries around the world and written a handful of travel guides and story books, among them, Central America by Chicken Bus, which has sold over 10,000 copies since it was published in 1986, and popularized the word “chicken bus.” Lougheed coined the term almost two decades ago to describe the dominant mode of public transportation used in the Third World countries she visited.
Initially, the publisher contracted her to go to Venezuela, but due to a civil dispute American Airlines wouldn’t fly her out.
“I talked them into Bolivia because I love it, and if you love something then you can sell it,” said Lougheed, who just returned from her four-month information gathering trip last week.
“And before I left for that trip the girl who was supposed to write their Belize book couldn’t so I did a quick one-month job in that country,” said Lougheed. The product of that trip was a thick guide book that’s just been released by Hunter and is selling in local bookstores.
Soon it will be time for Lougheed to buckle down and distill her adventure into words. She has a deadline of July 1 to complete the book.
Sifting through sleeves of slides and a pile of souvenir dolls, pillow covers and clothing she brought back with her, the writer reflects on her trip.
“Bolivia is a wonderful country, rich in culture, full of diverse landscape. They love tourists and welcome them. It is an unspoiled place, and writing a guide book will spoil it, which is one of the ironies of the work I do.”
But more urgent is her desire to share travel stories and minutia with others so they can go and experience the country for themselves.
“Bolivia is what Guatemala was 20 years ago. Everything is so cheap. You can stay in a decent place for $1.50 US, eat quite well for $2 a night and buy a 750-millilitre bottle of beer for $1.25 US,” said Lougheed.
These facts will likely make it into the thick volume she compiles on where to go, what to do, how to get there, what to see and what to avoid in Bolivia, replete with personal anecdotes of her own travel perils and pearl discoveries.
She will tell daring travelers not to miss the experience of a seven-hour trek from La Paz, Bolivia’s capital, to Coroico, along the “Road of Death which gradually drops 10,000 feet requiring drivers to break the whole way down. No traveler will want to miss the jagged Tapiza mountains, pre-Inca ruins that cover the country and the spell-binding Uyuni salt flats that stretch out for hundreds of kilometres.
However, she won’t fail to mention a Bolivian money exchanger who ripped her off when she first arrived in the country.
“I needed money and the AMEX office was closed so I went to another place on the street that cashed traveler’s cheques, but he cheated me and I let him do it. Afterward I told him I was going to put it in my guide book. He rode off angry on his bike,” said an amused Lougheed.