Thu, Jan 05, 2017 - Page 14 News List

Travel writers remember Robert Storey

By Joshua Samuel Brown and Ryan Ver Berkmoes

A train passes along the seashore in Taitung in this file photograph. Travel writer Robert Storey, who passed away last month, called Taitung his home for many years.

photo: Wang Hsiu-ting

I was on a long-distance train starting an intercontinental journey when I learned of Robert Storey’s untimely passing. From what I know of Robert’s own life philosophy I think he would have approved of the setting.

Though I never met Robert, he was a fellow traveler in the most elemental sense, and his life and work shaped my own in strange and subtle ways.

Storey’s guidebooks were among the first I’d ever read, and his stamp was embedded in the first guidebook I ever wrote for Lonely Planet in 2007, an update of a book which he’d originally written. By that time, Robert had become something of a legendary figure, a first-generation Lonely Planet author who had worked on many of the company’s early guides in the pre-Internet days when authors still took notes by hand as opposed to computers. It was an honor to cut my teeth for the company on a project bearing so much of Robert’s creative DNA, to follow (in some cases, literally) in his own footsteps as a travel writer.

Long before I came on board with Lonely Planet, Robert had achieved something akin to legendary status in Taiwan, and was considered by many in the expatriate community an accomplished adventurer and old Taiwan hand. But to me, Robert was an enigma. While I knew him through his reputation and work, our paths had never crossed, either physically or on the Internet. Unlike my own generation of travel writer, Robert didn’t keep a blog, and his presence on social media seemed limited to a few posts a month on Facebook.

A few months back as I began preparing for another book project (a more leisurely literary trip around Taiwan than my usual guidebook output), I put out a few digital feelers in an attempt to connect with Robert. I thought it would be good — fitting, even — to finally meet this person whose professional life had so intersected with my own. Robert got back to me almost instantly — so quickly, in fact, that I felt a bit stupid for not having simply reached out to him through the all-connecting book of faces earlier. I told him a bit about the project, and we made plans to meet up in Taidong in mid-January. While our meeting won’t occur (at least not in this lifetime), I take consolation in the fact that Robert’s contributions to travel, to Taiwan and to the fraternity of travel writers lives on.

— Joshua Samuel Brown, co-author of Lonely Planet Taiwan 7th & 8th edition and several other Lonely Planet guides

I went to Macau in 1993, when it had but one casino, a shabby place that got more attention than it deserved from tourists. I was carrying a Lonely Planet guidebook written by Robert Storey and it was invaluable for its usual clear-eyed advice on what to see and miss in the little enclave.

But it also was memorable for a feature Robert had written about gambling. At some earlier stage in his life he’d worked as a slot machine repairman in Las Vegas. His writing about the inner workings of the gaming business was both comical and illuminating, kind of exactly what you want in a great travel guide.

Four years later I began writing for Lonely Planet and in the over 120 guidebooks I’ve worked on since, I’ve often asked myself if a feature I was writing reached the level of Robert’s gambling piece.

— Ryan Ver Berkmoes, Lonely Planet author

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