Travel Guru Rick Steves

My favorite traveling companion is Rick Steves!  This travel guru of PBS-fame is the go-to source for all things Europe.  His line of travel guidebooks, website, PBS shows, packing recommendations, and even luggage are hands-down the best way to research a trip abroad.  I first started using his guidebook in 2001, planning a 3-month solo backpacking stint across Europe.  Rick never let me down with restaurant, accommodations or activity reviews. When I met my husband in 2008, we bonded right away over travel.  When I found out he too was a big Rick Steves fan, I knew we were a match :)  Rick's philosophy is "travel through the back door," wherein you venture off the beaten path to really connect with the locals.  As opposed to staying in chain hotels and eating comfort food, he encourages you to stay in B&B's, rent a room from a family, or stay in a hostel, so you can really engage with the culture. He also encourages you to pack as light as possible, so you're not literally weighed down with baggage.  It's much easier to access cobblestone streets and alleys where taxis can't venture if you can hoof it on foot, at least most of the way. 

Rick's "travel through the back door philosophy":




“Travel is intensified living – maximum thrills per minute and one of the last great sources of legal adventure.  Travel is freedom.  It’s recess, and we need it.  Experiencing the real Europe requires catching it by surprise, going casual…”Through the Back Door.”
Affording travel is a matter of priorities.  (Make do with the old car.)  You can travel – simply, safely, and comfortably – anywhere in Europe for $70 a day plus transportation costs.  In many ways, spending more money only builds a thicker wall between you and what you came to see.  Europe is a cultural carnival and, time after time, you’ll find that its best acts are free and the best seats are the cheap ones.
A tight budget forces you to travel close to the ground, meeting and communicating with the people, not relying on service with a purchased smile.  Never sacrifice sleep, nutrition, safety, or cleanliness in the name of budget.  Simply enjoy the local-style alternatives to expensive hotels and restaurants.
Extroverts have more fun.  If your trip is low on magic moments, kick yourself and make things happen.  If you don’t enjoy a place, maybe you don’t know enough about it.  Seek the truth.  Recognize tourist traps.  Give a culture the benefit of your open mind.  See things as different but not better or worse. Any culture has much to share.
Of course, travel, like the world, is a series of hills and valleys.  Be fanatically positive and militantly optimistic.  If something’s not to your liking, change your liking.  Travel is addicting.  It can make you a happier American as well as a citizen of the world.  Our Earth is home to 6 billion equally important people.  It’s humbling to travel and find that people don’t envy Americans.  They like us, but with all due respect, they wouldn’t trade passports. 
Globetrotting destroys ethnocentricity.  It helps you understand and appreciate different cultures.  Travel changes people.  It broadens perspectives and teaches new ways to measure quality of life.  Many travelers toss aside their hometown blinders.  Their prized souvenirs are the strands of different cultures they decide to knit into their own character.  The world is a cultural yarn shop.  And Back Door Travelers are weaving the ultimate tapestry."

I highly recommend reading "Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door" whether it's your first trip overseas or tenth!  His travel lessons resonate no matter your destination!

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