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AP: Why do you still list "engineer" as your occupation on visas?

Wheeler: You go back to places you really loved when you went there, that were sort of empty, and now everybody knows them. I think of Bali: Now everybody's got an "I've been to Bali" T shirt. But with "Dark Lands," I showed that you can still go to places where people are having amazing adventures. The Congo, for example, I only met a half dozen tourists the whole time I was there and all of them were writing a book about it.

before digital media started to outpace print.

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He also visited Haiti, Zimbabwe, Papua New Guinea and Nauru, a Polynesian island where the locals got rich mining guano (bird poop fertilizer) then squandered their wealth on an airline and other extravagances.

AP: Looking back on the timing of the sale, don't you feel incredibly lucky? You sold before the recession and Prada White Wallet

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The Wheelers made a fortune when the BBC bought the company in 2007 before the recession, but the BBC sold the company earlier this year at a huge loss. Meanwhile Wheeler, 66, is still doing what he built the brand on: traveling the world and writing about it.

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Wheeler: People say, "Oh, that's the shoestring budget, backpackers' young people guide" but we're not that any more. I'm OK with it, but it's partly in a way why we thought it was time for us to move out. They were doing a lot of things I could see the reasons for doing, but it's not my first love.

Wheeler: There's no question we sold out at the perfect moment. It wasn't just the recession that hurt Lonely Planet we also sold out just as the Australian dollar took off. (Lonely Planet is based in Melbourne, where Wheeler lives, and the surge in Australian currency resulted in foreign exchange losses.)

Wheeler: We spent a bit of time talking to NC2. Maureen met Daniel (Houghton, NC2's executive director and now LP chief operating officer) three or four times. He came out to Australia when the deal was being finalized, and I had dinner with him in London. What he's doing, I have no idea. I think if he just sat there and did nothing, it might keep going wonderfully. But the jury is out. He says they're concentrating on the digital side, and that was one of the things LP was putting a lot of effort into even before we left.

A third one would be in Haiti, listening to music in the Oloffson Hotel on Thursday night. It's such a buzz being there.

"Dark Lands" is a follow up to Wheeler's 2007 book, "Bad Lands," which was about visiting "Axis of Evil" countries Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and other notorious spots. In a phone interview, Wheeler talked about "Dark Lands" and Lonely Planet.

His newest book, "Dark Lands," recounts his recent adventures in countries troubled by ethnic strife, drug wars, colonial history and fiscal ruin. His itinerary included Colombia, where he was mugged; Congo, where he was arrested for taking a photo; the Palestinian territories, where kids pelted him with stones; and Pakistan, where he visited the site of Osama bin Laden's assassination.

This June 30, 2011 photo shows Tony Wheeler, co founder of Lonely Planet, at the crater rim of the very active Nyiragongo Volcano near Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo across the border from Rwanda. (Lonely Planet, Timothy Churella/AP Photo)

AP: You were mugged, arrested and pelted with stones on this trip. Do those count as highlights?

And in China, it's just astonishing. . You see hordes of Chinese tourists on those packaged tours, but for young people and university students, so many of whom speak English, they would love to be out there doing independent travel. LP is part of that image.

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AP: Where is the brand's current owner, NC2 Media, headed?

AP: Many places that were once off the beaten path have become overrun, and sometimes Lonely Planet recommendations contributed to that. How was this trip different?

Wheeler: One of the things about LP that the BBC didn't really pick up on is that we look at it as an English language brand, but it's very big in other languages. I've been to Italy twice this year and we've got a huge following there. We're the biggest seller of guidebooks in the Italian language. I get recognized on the street once a year in other places, but in Italy it happens a lot.

Wheeler: If applying for a visa or arriving in a country, the two things I always fall back on are engineer or schoolteacher. It's really safe. And the worst thing possible you don't want to be a doctor. If you're a doctor, immediately people will be ill.

Wheeler: They do count in a way. But I'd also say climbing up the Nyiragongo volcano in Congo was a highlight. It was like a children's picture book of what a volcano should be. Smoke, dust, a big empty muddy hole, lava bubbling up. It was noisy; it smelt. It was perfect.

AP: How do you feel about the changes at Lonely Planet? Even before you sold LP, the brand had begun to shed its backpacker budget image with more upscale guides.

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Wheeler: I lived in Pakistan from the time I was a year old to when I was 5. I've got very clear memories of it. Then I spent a year in England, then two in the Bahamas, then another year in England, then Detroit and Baltimore. I came back to England to finish school and went to university and did an engineering degree. I spent a couple of years as a car engineer.

AP: Your father was a manager for British Airways. Where Latest Prada Bags did you live growing up?

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Wheeler: All of those countries have trouble. Some you cannot see an easy solution, others, well, things are getting better. The best example is Colombia. On most measures, Colombia is doing far better (with the decline of drug violence) than it was a couple of years ago. It has a lot of attractions. People say it's the best Spanish colonial architecture in South America, Prada Bags Shoulder

Also going into the jungle in Papua New Guinea to get to Admiral Yamamoto's aircraft. (Isoroku Yamamoto masterminded the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; his aircraft was shot down in 1943.)

This Feb. 20, 2012, photo shows Tony Wheeler, co founder of Lonely Planet, with the rusting wreckage of a mining truck at the gigantic Panguna mine site in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. The site was abandoned by the owners Rio Tinto when the war in Bougainville broke out in 1989. (Lonely Planet, Chris Imba/AP Photo)

Tony Wheeler wrote his first travel book with his wife Maureen in 1973 after driving across Europe and Asia. It sold 1,500 copies in a week and launched a guidebook empire called Lonely Planet.

and Cartagena is one of the most beautiful cities. OK, I got mugged, but you can get mugged anywhere.

new book recounts 'dark' exploits

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AP: Would any of the countries in "Dark Lands" work for a conventional vacation?

AP: Are there untapped areas of opportunity?

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