Howdy all! Well, with his book still hot off the presses – Pakistan Traveller Third Edition, bigger, better and mucho-chunky! I thought now was the perfect time to do a patented interview with the man who loves Pakistan! That was supposed to, and did, rhyme, by the way! So without much ado, May the interview begin!
1/ Hi Tim! It’s been ages since we’ve chatted on the blog – what have you been up to during the last 12-14 months since I last saw you in Australia?
Hi Andy! Yes, it’s been ages! Since then, I’ve been living it up in Lahore and teaching English here and there… I also took a trip to the UK over New Year… but mostly I’ve been working on my new book!
2/ You’ve released a mighty THIRD edition of the world’s best guide book to Pakistan, ‘Pakistan Traveller’ – what has kept you motivated through the times of this pandemic to work on and complete what is a bumper edition of your amazing book.
Thank you! Yep, it was a crazy time. I had originally wanted to publish it in November 2019. The first and second editions were released 2 years apart, which I consider to be an appropriate time period between updates. The sheer scope of this new edition, plus trying to take it into a much more professional format, and trying to self-publish rather than go through Amazon, meant it took much, much longer – 4 and a half years. Ultimately I was quite thankful that we didn’t publish it in November 2019, because of what lay around the corner… It was a blessing in disguise then, that we were ready to publish as the world opened up again after the pandemic.
In terms of motivation, it was really lacking in the beginning, but in mid-2020 once I started to see the new design and layout, which is so beautiful, I became really focussed on finishing it. There was also a part of me that stayed focussed on it once I began, because it was a way to immerse myself in Pakistan even while I was being confined to my flat in Melbourne. And finally, there was perhaps a superstitious feeling that, somehow, if the book was ready in time for travel to start up again, then finishing it sooner would cause it to happen sooner! I don’t really believe that, of course… but I perhaps had an underlying sense of the timelines converging – the completion of the book and the reopening of travel.
3/ You haven’t done this book on your own, you’ve worked with fellow Pakistanophile Alex Reynolds, tell us a bit about her and her contribution to the book!
Alex was the one who, in late 2018, said that she loved the content of the second edition of Pakistan Traveller, but that the layout and design was not doing it justice. She offered to work on the design and layout of the next edition, and we took it from there! She has done an incredible job with the maps, images, overall colour palette and aesthetic… It has taken the book from being a sort-of ‘hack’ guide to Pakistan to being a professional, viable publication which could sit alongside any others in a bookstore.
She has also filled in a few gaps in the coverage, particularly in the northern areas of Pakistan, where she had completed a more ‘in-depth’ exploration than I had – for example, Chipursan, Yasin and Nagar Valleys. She has edited it a bit, and also written a dedicated women travellers’ section, based on her extensive experience travelling solo in Pakistan.
4/ What have been the major challenges in producing the book?
In the research and planning stage (2019) it was finding the time and motivation to write while I was also travelling and doing publicity for the second edition. In the writing stage (2020) it was being motivated, particularly in the early days of lockdown, to do anything, even when it seemed that I had more time than ever. In the publishing stage (2021) it was finding publishers who knew exactly what we wanted (no shiny magazine-style paper, not a giant encyclopedia) and could do a good job of it (no rough cut edges, quality binding, no fading print lines) at a decent price. It’s incredible how difficult it is for these three things to coincide. During trial printings we so often got a great price but terrible quality, or quality paper but a book whose size would only fit on a coffee table.
5/ What are the main differences (aside from updated information such as prices etc) from this edition to the previous one?
This book has a whole new, professional design and aesthetic, which can even be seen from the cover – all designed by Alex! New, detailed and accurate maps using professional mapping software, and expanded coverage including all of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan!
6/ have you discovered anything new in Pakistan in the process or writing and planning the book this time around you hadn’t experienced or seen before?
Just kidding. There were countless things! I couldn’t name just one… such as the petrogyphs on the rocks near Gahkuch in GB, or the Lakki Shah springs in the desert in Sindh… lots of little hidden treasures which are only worth maybe 10 minutes of your time at a stop in the road… but they’re everywhere. That’s perhaps what this edition excels at – attention to detail.
7/ For the first time traveller to Pakistan, where would you recommend they head on their first time in Pakistan???
I would say it’s best to sample the two things that are iconically Pakistani – first, the cities, with their chaotic laneways, bustling markets, lip-smacking street food, spectacular ageing architecture and historic landmarks. For this, Lahore fits the bill perfectly – it’s accessible, friendly, fairly easy-going. Wherever you go, it’s going to be an amazing trip – for example Peshawar is also great, but perhaps a bit too “out there” for a first-time visitor… I love both Karachi and Rawalpindi, but visitors get more from those cities with additional time and context – they’re not as touristically-accessible as Lahore.
Secondly, the magnificent mountains. How far into the mountains you go depends mostly on how much time you have. From Lahore, I’d recommend travelling north to Islamabad and then onwards towards Gilgit and Hunza – it’s a long drive, but you won’t regret it. There are also flights from Islamabad and seasonally from Lahore to Gilgit and Skardu if you are cash-rich time-poor. If you are both cash and time poor, then Naran and Swat are both about five hours drive from Islamabad, and both are lovely.
8/ So what’s next for you Tim? What plans for the rest of 2022 and well, are you already working on or planning a fourth edition of Pakistan Traveller?
Next is to promote the book and tell everyone to get out there and buy it, then come to Pakistan! I’m hoping to get back on the road in the next few months too – a trip around Pakistan. A fourth edition has been mentioned… we’ll just have to wait and see!
9/ Finally, thanks so much for your valuable time Tim, how can people reach you, see your content etc? And also for Alex!
Thanks again Tim! 😊 For anyone who wants a copy of Pakistan Traveller, CLICK HERE!
Thanks for popping by! May the Journey Never End!