The Travel Channel's "Lonely Planet" takes you on a trip off the beaten track. 

Armchair Adventures

Travel is broadening. Travel is educational. And while those are important reasons for seeing how the rest of the world lives, travel most of all is just plain fun.

Fun is the approach you'll find on the Travel Channel's delightful "Lonely Planet" series.

Not everybody wants to travel the way the bubbly young hosts of "Lonely Planet" do — with backpacks, on bikes, on buses, with second-class train tickets — and not everybody wants to stay in the accommodations they pick — in pensions, in youth hostels, in tents — but there are few who wouldn't jump at the chance to see the cities and countries they visit, on every continent including our own and some places you've never even heard of.

You may be the type who wants to stay only in five-star hotels and eat only at restaurants that boast Michelin stars. That's OK. "Lonely Planet" is still useful as a way of seeing what's available before you call your travel agent and buy those first-class plane tickets.

And there's no shortage of "Lonely Planet" programs to set your imagination afire. The series airs three times a day, and each one is different. In the afternoon, it might be Vilnius. In the early evening, it could be Mongolia. Later, it may be some island that's hard to find even in a big atlas, a really big atlas.

On one recent journey, the destination was the Czech Republic and Southern Poland, and the host was the effervescent, twentysomething Justine Shapiro. Born in South Africa, Shapiro — when she's not traveling for the "Lonely Planet" series — produces documentary films, most recently a film about the children of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Shapiro's tour included several of the bigger cities, notably Prague ("The #22 tram is the best one to take to see the city, but it's also known as the Pickpocket Express.") and Krakow ("This is Poland's ancient royal capital, especially lovely because it was essentially undamaged physically by World War II."). But her itinerary also included a techno-rave in Teplice in Northern Bohemia, a canoe trip in Southern Bohemia, and a stop in Czestochowa, the site of Poland's holiest Catholic shrine and home of the Black Madonna.

She also made time for a visit to Auschwitz and the concentration camp museum, where she had a serious talk with a tour guide about visitors' reactions.

"Lonely Planet" is no substitute for a good guide book. For that, there's always the Lonely Planet print series. But as a fascinating taste of where to go if you think you've seen it all, it's satisfying and


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