Thu, Jan 05, 2017 - Page 13 News List

The passing of a Lonely Planet pioneer

Robert Storey helped blaze a tourism trail through East Asia, and then found his own private paradise in southeast Taiwan

By David Frazier  /  Contributing reporter

When I first arrived in Taipei in 1995, I was reading Storey’s 1994 Taiwan guide on the plane. But it was only 15 years later that I realized that the geeky face in the front of my guidebook was actually attached to a real person. I bumped into Storey by total happenstance in Kasa, a sleepy Taitung cafe. Though his name was known to most Taiwan expats, only a couple of my Taitung-based friends had ever met him. I mainly remember Robert for his dry, intelligent sense of humor. We met again over the years and traded e-mails and books.

Of all of the guidebooks Storey worked on, he held on to his authorship of the Taiwan guide tenaciously. Early generation Lonely Planet authors owned their guides’ copyrights, and Storey refused to relinquish his Taiwan guide copyright. Lonely Planet could only proceed by rewriting the guide from start to finish, which they did with the help of three writers for the fifth edition in 2001.

Storey spent nearly all of his 30 years in Taiwan in Taitung, and the descriptions in his 1994 guide hint at his reasons. “Taitung is likely to remain a quiet backwater for a long time” and is “blissfully free of the traffic jams, noise and pollution which characterize Taiwan’s big cities.”

“On the east coast it’s easy to forget where you are. The sparsely inhabited rugged landscape could pass for the coast of New Zealand.”

His Taitung chapter in that book was just six and a half pages, and many of his friends believed this brevity was a smokescreen, a way of keeping Taitung a secret.

Storey suffered for years from Crohn’s disease, an often debilitating and painful ailment of the intestinal tract. The disease kept him from drinking alcohol, but otherwise he did not reveal his suffering publicly.

After Storey stopped writing for the Lonely Planet in 2001, he devoted himself to a new passion, the open-source Linux operating system, which he wrote about on a site called Distrowatch. He also consulted for Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture and three years ago opened a guest house in Taitung city.

Storey relinquished his US citizenship late last year to become a citizen of Taiwan, an event which his friend say gave him much satisfaction.

Friends knew him as humorous, knowledgeable and a person to go to for advice on difficult questions. He is survived by his wife and remembered fondly by the small group of friends who knew him.

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