Americans, you may have noticed, are different from you and me. It’s not just that they speak differently and wear tartan shorts, it’s the way they approach their fellow men – and women. The average American spends a large part of his conversational life talking about himself in the most intimate way.
Hilary Bradt, writing in Backpacking in North America (published in 1978)
Backpacking in North America was a typically pioneering Bradt book. Until George and Hilary Bradt published this guide to America’s Great Outdoors, there were no up-to-date British-produced guidebooks to the USA. There were two reasons for this: first, the exchange rate was so unfavourable that the British crossed the Atlantic to earn lots of money (as did Hilary) but not to go on holiday; and, second, flights were prohibitively expensive. Then the dollar came down and, in 1977, Freddie Laker introduced cheap transatlantic flights on his Skytrain. Travel to the USA was transformed.
After a few years, guides to the US proliferated but not before Backpacking in North America had apparently become a cult classic in the US for the sections warning of the hazards of being an innocent Brit in New York. After all, Bradt guides have always tried to explain exotic cultures to their readers. Bradt still focuses its attention on North America’s Great Outdoors, with titles on Alaska and Canada’s Yukon and Nova Scotia. However, the spread of the country is served by our popular USA By Rail, reminding travellers that there are more interesting ways of exploring the continent than by plane or car.
Mexico is officially part of North America, and our narrative title The Urban Circus – a true story about the precarious life of the jugglers and fire eaters (or malabaristas) who entertain motorists at city road junctions – stands out as exceptionally well written and absorbing.
Bradt’s approach to the Caribbean is equally eclectic, with detailed guides to the little-known and thus unspoilt islands of Dominica and Turks and Caicos, as well as the Cayman Islands, Grenada, Carriacou, Petite Martinique, and a ground-breaking guide to Haiti. Those seeking to get off the beaten path in this most popular of regions are well served.