Q&A with Lonely Planet’s Tony Wheeler

Meet the man behind the travel book empire 


After more than four decades of sniffing out adventure destinations, the co-founder of Lonely Planet Publications goes way off the beaten track in his recently released Tony Wheeler’s Dark Lands. Focusing on adventures in countries troubled by conflict and fiscal ruin made Wheeler, now 67, feel like a pioneer. Although he and his wife, Maureen, no longer have a formal role with Lonely Planet, Wheeler still loves to talk travel, and he’s happy to dispense a pointer or two.

Where is home?

I spend a third of the year in my home in London, [England,] a third in Melbourne, Australia (headquarters for Lonely Planet Publications), and a third on the road. 

How did the world’s largest independent guidebook publishing house get its name?  

There’s a line in a song that Joe Cocker sang in the ’70s [“Space Captain”]. It goes, “Once I was travelling across the sky/this lonely planet caught my eye.” I learned afterward that it’s actually “lovely planet,” so I guess we’ve been a mistake all these years. 

Any tips when it comes to choosing a restaurant in a foreign place?

Go to the noisiest place. If it’s crowded and people are enjoying themselves, then, of course, the food is good.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My wife, Maureen. We’ve been travelling together since the day we met. She claims the night we met I got her lost—what any good travel writer should be able to do. 

What is your motto?

Just go. Just get out there and do it.

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