Rick Steves has new fan in this travel writer. I listened to him speak at the L.A. Travel & Adventure Show in Long Beach last month. He is charismatic, funny, and has many years of European travel under his belt. His company is called Europe Through the Back Door and is based in Washington state. With about 80 employees, over 50 guidebooks, a TV spot, and a radio gig, this guy is dishing out tons of travel advice. His company also has a successful tour program that takes small groups of no more than 25 people through European locales.
Rick leans towards “authentic” travel. More specifically, he suggests venturing away from the big hotels with big promotional budgets and truly tasting the culture. You can still visit the big attractions, but you should know how best to see them and then later get off the beaten path. The local people are what bring your vacation to life. For instance, Rick can tell you how to visit the Eiffel Tower without waiting in the long line of tourists. And then he can point you to a beautiful bed and breakfast outside of town where the lady of the house cooks authentic cuisine, treats you like family, and the untouched countryside is at your fingertips. You may have to sacrifice, as he says, predictable plumbing, but the cultural rewards are worth it.
To further your authentic experience, Rick suggests that travelers become “temporary locals”. Meet the people, live and eat as they do, attempt to speak as they do, celebrate as they do, and walk away really knowing their everyday life. More importantly, Rick believes travel provides a global perspective which is the best souvenir one can acquire. In his latest book, Travel as a Political Act, Rick speaks of building bridges between cultures. Understanding a certain people, knowing their hardships, and learning their history can be a “significant force for peace”. Seeing the world and, in some cases less fortunate communities, reminds us to be grateful for the opportunities and privileges we have been afforded.
While Rick loves authentic travel, that’s not the only way he explores the globe. He enjoys cruising and considers it a great way to go down a checklist of places without getting diarrhea. For people who want a perfectly packaged vacation, he suggests a magical place in Orlando, Florida (wink, wink). But if you are ready to venture into a more rich and rewarding travel experience, check out Europe Through the Back Door. You can taste wine made in the backyard of an Italian villa or learn to play the spoons with locals in a German bar. I don’t know about you, but that sounds much more enticing than a two-hour line at the Louvre. Two places Rick suggests visiting now: Turkey and Prague. Now go plan your next European adventure!
To learn more about Rick, visit his website at http://www.ricksteves.com.