Bummed your travel plans for the next 3/6/12 months are cancelled? So is Rick Steves! We checked in with him remotely, to see what the travel king has been up to during quarantine.
Seattle Refined: Rick Steves - what a treat! Thanks so much for joining us today.
Rick Steves: I’m happy to be here. There’s nowhere else to go!
What have you been doing during your quarantine time?
I’m lucky I have lots of work to do. We still have a hundred people on our staff, and we’re producing our TV shows and our guidebooks and our tours and trying to hold it together - and hoping we’ll still have a company when we come out of this crisis.
When did your love for traveling start?
I never really cared about Europe when I was just a kid here at Edmonds High School. One day my dad, who was a piano teacher, came home and said ‘Son, we’re going to Germany to see piano factories.’ I went to Europe a couple times to see the piano factories in Germany, the relatives in Norway, and I thought ‘That’s not bad.” So I vowed to go back to Europe every year and I have. I thought if I could just package the lessons from those mistakes into a book or a talk or whatever, other people could learn from my mistakes and go on their own and have a better trip. So that’s really what I’ve been doing ever since I was a kid.
How many times do you think you have traveled to Europe since that original trip as a teen?
I don’t know how many times I’ve been but since 1980 when I wrote my first guidebook I’ve been taking this mission seriously.
Taking it waaay back to when you first starting traveling to Europe, I read that you wrote some postcards (circa 1970 something) - we asked you to dig them out, and you did!
Well, I’ve got piles of these postcards. Back in the old days before internet my parents worried about where would I be, they said 'Write a postcard every day.' But these are from 1975 and it’s just - if I look through these, I can see the traveling spirit of a little kid who’s getting out there realizing this world is filled with fascinating people and wonderful experiences.
This was from when I was in Greece slumming around. On that same trip I remember going to a nude beach and seeing how skin that has never seen the sunshine is very tender. I also got one of my journals out - Europe 1975.
That is so cool that you have that. I love that, what a treasure!
It is a treasure. If my house was going to burn down, I’d grab my journals before anything else. Those were the 'Europe Through The Gutter' days, before I dreamed up 'Europe Through The Back Door!'
One thing that’s really helping me get through this time personally is your 'Daily Dose of Europe' on the Rick Steves website and Facebook page.
We’ve written this book called "For the Love of Europe" which is my 100 favorite experiences in 100 essays, and it will be out in early July. We decided to serialize the book on my Facebook page on my website. I read through the comments from people and it’s such a wonderful community.
I have been thinking about teachers and parents who are homeschooling, and how important it is that we keep this education going because that is our future. What we’ve done is make all of our TV programming available for schools in a new program called “Classroom Europe.” I took a hundred TV shows and I broke them into ad-free screenable clips. It’s free and teachers and parents are using it a lot to help their kids get a little does of travel in their history and their art.
When this is over and we’re able to travel again, where is Rick Steves going?
The big disappointment for me - I had planned a 'Best of Europe' three week trip with the family. My son was going to be the tour guide I would be actually on vacation on a Rick Steves tour with all these wonderful friends and family and I had to cancel that. We’re gonna do it again next year, God willing.
Where’s the tour gonna go?
Starts in Amsterdam, goes down the Rhine River into Bavaria to see the famous castles. Through the Alps to Venice, Florence, Rome, [and then] what we call the vacation from our vacation in the Italian Riviera, the Cinque Terre, and then we finish with a finale in the capital of Europe and that’s Paris.
I think that’s a beautiful idea. Speaking of Bavaria and the Alps I don’t know if this came from there, but I know you have a hat on hand that I think we need to see.
You know I haven’t showed this to anybody really - my goofy hat. When I was a kid, 14 years old, my dad and I had a competition. And back then people would buy a hat and then they would fill it with the beautiful little pins, and and each one would be a souvenir of your favorite places. I look at this and it brings back some memories and it reminds me I was a dorky little traveler. And I still am!
For folks that are kind of feeling dejected right now, what can we do now to prepare ourselves for travel hopefully in the near future?
If you have a trip coming up in the next year or 5 years or 10 years, it’s a good investment of time and energy right now to enjoy the art, get to know the history, get to know the cuisine. It’s gonna be incremental. I think when we come out of this, first it's going to be regional travel, and then after that it will be individuals, getting on an airplane when people are comfortable and flying to Europe doing their solo travel thing. Then after that when we’re solid and comfortable and feeling safe, then we’ll see organized travel.
Rick Steves thank you so much for sharing your passion.
Happy travels even if we’re staying home for a little while.