Voltaire was ahead of his time Not just the French philospher Voltaire, but travel
philosopher Voltaire Brown who wrote the satirical travel guidebook to Europe, rivaling Let's
Go and Lonely Planet. Doug Knell, creator of Voltaire Brown, wanted to have a series of Voltaire
Brown books, but the publishing industry didn't want or need a Douglas Knell on the scene.
Should Doug Knell have never created Voltaire Brown to write a guidebook about travel to Europe?
Was it a stupid move? The publishers thought so. Thy never gave the guidebook a chance. Let's Go
and Lonely Planet continued to sell like hotcakes. Doug's Republic gives Voltaire Brown a chance to shine
Don't Travel Europe
"For decades, people have sought the ideal guide for traveling through Europe, a guide that was witty,
entertaining, informative, and packed with crude jokes you could tell your cousins. It was our objective to capture the spirit,
the philosophy -- and, yes -- the social decadence of Europe, as well as come up with some damn good jokes you could tell at
a party. Welcome to the first and last edition of Voltaire Brown’s Don’t Travel Europe."
Driving around Delaware with a college friend in 1990, we started
making jokes about a guidebook through Europe that would lead men to
Europe's finest hookers. A possible title would have been
Let's Do Europe, a spoof on Harvard Student Services Let's Go
guides. By the mid-1990's, the Lonely Planet
guides had become omnipresent on the travel circuit, even if travel
hadn't yet become democratized and sanitized like it's become post 2000,
to the point where elderly people with Alzheimer's can be seen touring
the theme park Vietnam has become. Lonely Planet guides
are always politically correct, and the view of every country they write
a travel book on is a positive one. Let's be honest.
Not every country in the world is worth traveling to, is it?
Was Voltaire always an idiot or was he just ahead of his
So I adopted an alter-ego of Voltaire Brown, a name created from the
juxtaposition of the brilliant French enlightenment philosopher and one
of the most common English surnames in existence. Voltaire was meant to be a
run-of-the-mill everyday (and unsuccessful) travel philosopher. My
Voltaire would take the opposite stance of the p.c. Lonely Planet
scribes. His philosophy was that Europe was full
of snooty cultural supremacists. You were better off as a traveler
saving your money and spending it on all-you-could-eat Chinese buffets
in your own country.
I started writing the book in April of 1994. Three months later, I
embarked on my 3-yr odyssey through Asia and Africa. I didn't get
back to the United States until 1997. I diligently continued with
the book after I moved out to California, thinking I could use the
satirical chapters as a calling card in Hollywood. But alas,
scatalogical and goofball humor was coming into vogue by the late 1990's
and wit was out. The pages on which Voltaire was printed were used
to mop up the coffee stains on the desks of Hollywood agents. The
American Pie actors, Adam Sandler, and Jim Carrey went onto
become millionaires, as Voltaire Brown got dumped into a paper shredder.
Publishers shunned it and potential agents had much better things to do,
like try to line up mediocre talent Andrew Dice-Clay with a TV series.
The book got read and appreciated by too few and sat in digital format
on my server for over a decade until I figured it might get a second
chance and the respect it deserved via Doug's Republic.
Had the internet existed in the mid-1990's, Voltaire could have avoided
the publishing route entirely and gone straight to the masses via his
own blog and forums. That sort of internet didn't really come into
existence until the early 2000's. Now there are plenty of other
sites around mocking travel. Does that mean Voltaire Brown was
ahead of his time?
The original intention was to write this book mocking Europe, and if
well received, pen another book mocking Asia. Asia, the largest
continent on earth, is full of different cultures, and there's a lot to
satirize. Considering Voltaire never struck a chord, the Asian
masses were speared his rapier wit.
This book was authored before European currency integration. There
was talk in the air about a unified European currency in those days, but
the currency was still five years away from supplanting national
currencies and eight from becoming the sole legal tender. From the
time I finished the book until 2010, twelve more countries have
joined the European Union, most of which Voltaire writes about but not
from a European Union point-of-view. The world continues to grow
smaller and more standardized, and Europe continues to grow more
One advantage of writing a guide book like this one, Voltaire points
out, is that it never becomes dated. "Our guidebook can't be
considered inaccurate if none of our readers travels to Europe," he
wrote. If any of you reading these chapters takes great
offense with the words, then Voltaire did his job too well.
[When commenting on any chapters or subsections, specifically indicate which section your comments pertain to]
Are you a fan of Voltaire?
Maybe I should ask if you're a fan of Voltaire Brown instead. Voltaire Brown, the satirist, who
wrote a 1998 travel guidebook for Europe entitled DON'T TRAVEL EUROPE. Had the publishing
industry been on track with the trends,they could have seen that the creation of Doug Knell was
a rivial to Let's Go and Lonely Planet. They didn't and let Douglas Knell's Voltaire Brown
gather dust in the digital realm. Let's Go and Lonely Planet continued to thrive, thrive, thrive.
Doug Knell and Voltaire Brown hit the skids. The hilarious travel guidebook for Europe remained
tucked away on a server. No one got to experience Voltaire's wit. Doug's Republic is determined
to let this book shine through the sun.