It's not just the design aesthetic that makes these guides so special; no, it's the content between the binding that blow all other city guide books out of the water. I'm sorry, Lonely Planet, but these are infinitely cooler. In addition to the best places to eat, shop, see, and do, each guide offers a history of the city through clips of almanacs from decades past, and spotlights individuals in the community who evince its culture.
When I heard about the Detroit guide launch at a fancy USA-made watch retailer, I decided why not take a day trip, see the city, get a new copy, and meet the creator. It was pretty incredible.
Detroit as seen from Windsor, Ontario
I'll admit I didn't know what to expect visiting Detroit. I purposely waited to buy the guide at the event and didn't do too much research because I knew I wanted to drive into Canada (my first visit), to get the best view of Detroit, and wouldn't have too much time. Everyone you talk to, it seems, will warn you of the dangers of the Motor City and display shock when you announce you plan to visit. Yes, issues of bankruptcy and high crime rates cause anyone to cringe, but it's a city on the mend with many hidden gems that are worth exploring. Plus, practicing safe travel always goes a long way.
Honestly, Detroit itself was much like any other large city in the midwest: aging architecture, odd roundabouts, and history for miles. I loved it. Just driving by Comerica Park gave me chills. While I didn't get to see very much, I plan to make a nice weekend trip up sometime, Wildsam guide in hand.
Shinola, a Detroit-based, USA-made leather goods retailer, hosted the event and gave guests an opportunity to mingle, take in the finery of tanned leather watch bands and handsome bicycles, and meet the makers.
For my literary friends: The Wildsam name was inspired by the novel East of Eden by Steinbeck.
She loves Detroit (originally from Virginia) and has lived in the same house for 53 years. She explained to me the ways in which refrigerators used to be kept in the homes-- built-in, with motors powering them in the basement. Her brother, and confidante, was one of the distinguished Tuskegee Airmen during WWII and survived a POW camp. I can only imagine the changes she's seen in the city's landscape. If it weren't for her interview in the guide, I would never have heard her story, learned about her powerful work; it was truly an honor.
Wildsam doesn't simply suggest the best things to see and do, but also celebrates the diverse and beautiful individuals who inhabit a city, who make the city, who bring it alive. It's a refreshing look at travel and I'm embracing it completely.
*Wildsam currently only features cities in the United States (Austin, San Francisco, Nashville, and Detroit at present); however, a recent partnership with JCrew produced London neighborhood guides, so keep an eye out. **Not a sponsored post.
So, what are you waiting for? Support small business and grab a copy today!