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Travel: Brochure of the week

With their luminous packs, backpackers seem to be taking over the world and the agencies specialising in independent travel have probably profited most from this. I've found two brochures specialising in the ultimate in international drifting: the round-the-world trip.

STA grandly announces itself as the world leader in young independent travel, its brochure is glossy (in an unpretentious way, of course) and bursting with colour. It isn't too confusing as the important bits (the prices) jump out at you. Areas are neatly sliced into manageable travel- and-tour deals. STA concentrates on its products, presenting itself as a kind of global supermarket, with flights on "seasonal special offer" and insurance by the check-out.

The authors of both brochures make strenuous efforts to show that they are just like us - us being twentysomethings who want to take the chance before it's too late. Bridge the World - a young company - manages to set itself out as the plucky alternative to its competitors. Their brochure, "The Spirit of Travel", talks of "travel possibilities" and there is an emphasis on the trip being "yours to arrange".

Basically, the brochure presents itself as a starter-pack for the aspiring long-term backpacker. The graphics are a homely black and blue, though the layout can get a bit monotonous, with advice boxes and token snapshots making all continents look roughly the same. Rather like a school options paper, it outlines possible routes, a, b and c (in this case, the Darwin, Golden Hind and Columbus). Considering that whole continents are dealt with in a couple of pages, the booklet does pretty well in giving us the bare basics of travelling practicalities while sneakily slipping in package tours for the less confident.

The fine line that both brochures are treading is to reassure us that we are doing something safe, while persuading us that we are also doing something exciting. The art of travel PR in a nutshell.

Ground Level, STA Travel: 0171-361 6166; The Spirit of Travel, Bridge the World: 0171-911 0900.