Review Wednesday: Plymouth Primer and the BASED traveler website

Sometimes you come across something that is such a great idea, you can’t believe no-one has had it before. Today’s review is about one of those great ideas – a guidebook (which will hopefully become a series of books) and an accompanying website aimed purely at expats living in some of those more forgotten cities that more traditional guidebooks just don’t reach.

The BASEDtraveler website, and the “primer” books that go with it, are the brainchild of American expat Emily Stewart, who quit her well-paid sales job in Plymouth to set up her own company which provides – in her own words –┬á “comprehensive, amusing, and diverse information for creating the most delightful life as an expatriate living internationally in port cities, industrial hubs, academic villages, or military locations.”

plymouth primer

In other words, she’s reaching out to all those people living in the less well-known, the less-glamorous and the less-written about parts of the world but who still need to know where to find decent accommodation, how to get around their new location, what the local schools are like and where they can find a local job.

But as well as including meticulous detail about the location the book is based on (for example, in the case of the Plymouth Primer, there is information about which charity shops in the city are the best place to look for certain items of furniture and which local newspaper is best for job-hunting), Emily also outlines a huge amount of information about moving to the UK that would be useful wherever you ended up living. In fact, I would go so far as to say the book would be useful even for those of us who are natives and have lived here all our lives – how to open a bank account, what the British workplace culture is like (“Your first days in the office will likely be a whirlwind of introductions, offers of coffee, faffing about, and signing papers”) and even a useful dictionary to explain terms like “bimble” “bric-a-brac” and “pissing out”.

In her introduction, Emily calls the book a “labor of love”. I would say this was an understatement. You can see that she has poured everything into this book. Its detail is extraordinary and anyone moving to Plymouth will be extremely well prepared if they pick this up before they arrive. She also writes with a low-level sense of gentle humour, and what comes across as a genuine fondness for the place she is writing about – another plus point for anyone who might be worried about finding themselves suddenly cast adrift in one of the lesser-known cities of the world.

Accompanying the book is the BASEDtraveler website, which includes up-to-date information and reviews. This makes perfect sense as this avoids the traditional guide-book conundrum of how to write about somewhere that will probably have closed down by the time the book is published. The website also includes her personal blog and a quick-and-easy how-to list of things like how to calculate your tax benefits, how to build credit when you have none and how-to get a library card (I told you it was useful for natives as well as expats!).

At the moment, the Plymouth Primer is a proto-type and the only other book in the series is Wiesbaden in Germany, which has it’s own section of the website just like Plymouth, with more information and how-to guides (how-to have a baby in Germany, how to navigate an indoor kinderspielpark….). But Emily is on the look out for writers and contributors to help grow the company, so let her know if you think you fit the bill (eg lives somewhere slightly off the usual expat-beaten-track) and would like to get involved.

It’s a tough market out there and trying to get a book and website like this noticed in the crowded world of guidebooks is going to be tough for Emily. But if anyone deserves success, she does – she has obviously worked so hard on this book, I really hope lots and lots of people buy it. Now, I’m off to find out how to get my bus pass ­čÖé

Recommended for: Anyone moving to Plymouth or Wiesbaden; anyone moving to the UK or Germany; anyone interested in collaborating on a future Primer book.

To find out more about Plymouth and Wiesbaden Primers and the BASEDtraveler website, including how to buy the books, click here.

If you are interested in writing for the site or even writing your own Primer click here

EDITED TO SAY: Huge apologies but Emily has contacted me to explain that the Wiesbaden Primer isn’t actually available quite yet. However, you can still find plenty of information about the town on the website.