Has Travel Changed You?
We asked our travelers — people who had never left the country before using Rick's guidebooks or going on a Rick Steves tour — to explain how their worldview (and thoughts about America) changed as a result of Rick's influence on their travels. Here are a few of the many great comments we received. For the entire list — or to add you thoughts, check out our Graffiti Wall.
My dad has since passed away, but I owe it all to him. When I was an obnoxious 16-year- old, I said: "Dad, buy me a car!" He responded: "No. But if you can show me that you can hold down a job and save enough for your own car, I will buy you a plane ticket to Europe and a Eurail pass!" What a wise man! He must have suspected that my life would be changed forever.
After that first classic 1970's backpacking trip across Europe, there was no stopping me. My life became guided by two stars: (1) Travel, and (2) be part of the solution, not the problem. Years later, I took the "Rick Steves pledge" (as found in the early pages of his book "Postcards from Europe") to try to travel to Europe every year. As I was living in an east coast city, I was often able to find a super-cheap February airfare and spend (usually) a 4-day weekend in Europe every year.
Then an amazing thing happened: after years of "dues paying" and working in one direction, I finally got a job offer in Europe! To quote Cinderella: Dreams do come true! I'm 45 now, but the wait just made it all the sweeter. After almost a year here, I still love it: I can't get enough of the open air markets, historic buildings & living history, and walking through the vineyards and forests. How has travel changed me? I think that, without my Dad's gift, I probably wouldn't be as open-minded and flexible. I might not have learned to love history, geography, languages and "unusual" foods. Most of all, I am happy to be able to give my 2 young kids the opportunity to experience life on this side of the pond. I am bursting with pride at how quickly they are picking up a second language. I don't deserve my good fortune, but thank God and thank you Dad!
Vienna, Austria Wed 09/29/2004
It's Your Fault, Rick!
I took my first trip with the help of Rick's ETBD book back in 1995. I haven't stopped traveling since. I've since become an ESL teacher (English as a Second Language) and now I wander the world, working, playing, learning, eating, drinking, studying, teaching. I'll probably never go home. It's all your fault, Rick.
USA Sun 09/26/2004
Travel is therapy. It searches the traveler's mind, diagnoses all his problems and immediately begins curing them. When you emerge from travel, you appreciate things like art and architecture. Your perspective on time expands. You are struck by the similarities between cultures, not the differences.
The human race does have it's redeeming qualities.
You are less religious, but closer to God.
Colors are brighter and more vivid.
You appreciate your friends and family much more.
Your IQ is raised by about 10 points.
Food tastes better.
You love America more, but realize it isn't right all the time.
You don't "anna study war no more."
You go home and embrace the mundane for what it is: a means to an end.
CO USA Sun 09/26/2004
Travel has changed my perspective.
|Strength through peace.|
The experience has forced me to pay much more attention to this presidential election; America is wonderful but like all other countries not perfect. Our leaders must recognize that money and power do not make us exempt from our responsibilities to all inhabitants of this planet, not just the ones we "approve" of and lead accordingly. We may have different languages, different religions or skin color but we are all the same race...the human race. Thanks Rick for making me even more aware of how small this planet is and how wonderful its diversity!!!
Mesa, AZ USA Sat 09/25/2004
Travel has now become the highlight of my life, and a direct contributor is ETBD. I have always had the travel bug and dreamed of going to Europe.
Fast forward 25 or 30 years, married, raising three kids, building my career…but never seemed to have the time or money to travel. As our 20th wedding anniversary approached, my wife and I decided it was time to just take the plunge. I had a brother who was stationed in Germany with the Air Force at the time, so we could pop in and out of his place, so the question was really "where all should we go?" We also had many questions and concerns about language barriers, getting around, where to stay, where to eat, on and on. It was really by accident that I found Rick's Best of Europe book, but two minutes of reading in the bookstore, and I was sold.
With confidence, we set out on our first real trip. Neither of us had been out of the US before; my wife had never even been out of the Midwest and her first plane ride was to Europe. We had a blast, and can directly attribute our successful travel skills to Rick Steves.
It was on the breakwater in Vernazza, over a bottle of wine, watching the sun set, that we made a pact that we would travel at least every two years. We are back from our third trip, and planning a trip to Greece next year for our 25th anniversary. Life for us has finally become a journey, not a grind. Our several weeks of intense living each trip has made us look for "travel moments" in everyday life.
I hear concerns from friends about travel, about safety, about having the skills to do it, about the cost; but you really need to decide to just do it, and then experience it the best you can, even make it up as you go. As for cost, travel for me is a priority. I can drive my '78 Chevy pickup and put the equivalent of a car payment in the bank. It doesn't bother me, the sacrifices are worth the payback. Is travel able to change your life? For me, it gave me a life back.
IA USA Wed 09/22/2004
Learning from Europe
Traveling through Europe the Rick Steves way gives you a much more intimate understanding of what's going on in the world. Talking with with Europeans about politics is easier there and they enjoy it. Reading the newspapers over there makes you learn about things going on in America that you don't learn from our media. Sometimes I see Europeans as elderly and wise parents that look at America and can honestly say, "been there, done that" politically, especially now with current U.S. politics. I get a much stronger sense of community in Europe than I do here. Americans have a lot to learn from European history.
Seattle, WA USA Sun 09/19/2004
Enriched Life via locals in Europe
|Travel is our fountain of youth.|
I grew up in a very sheltered environment, mingling only with my own community — with no "outsiders." As I got older, I left my old lifestyle and started discovering the world, which included traveling. My first trip was to Paris, France, of course, with Rick Steves guidebook in hand. I took his advice to not only check out the landmarks and tourist places, but to see the inside streets and experience the local culture. Since then, I've become addicted to traveling and learning about other cultures. I stay in youth hostels or pensions. Traveling makes one a more tolerant and compassionate person.
West Orange, NJ USA Thu 09/16/2004
Everyday is something new!
Traveling has broadened my perspective about people and living life in general. We have much to learn from Europeans — driving energy efficient cars, using far less throw away products, walking more, eating food from local markets, enjoying music and art more,and on and on. Our country is young and we are not always the best at everything but there is no place like home.
Eureka, USA Thu 09/16/2004
How Travel Changed My Life
This is a totally different take on this subject. My husband and I have traveled all over the world and to Europe many times on tours. I love Rick, his books and PBS shows and want to have a more "Rick Steves" experience — that is really getting to know a place and living like a local.
Then a couple of years ago we found what worked for us - timeshare exchange. Timeshare isn't just beach resorts. We exchanged for 2 weeks in historic manor house estates in England, a castle in Scotland and a canal boat at Bath. We met local people, shopped at local markets, traveled the back roads on day trips, and went to local pubs and restaurants. I'm not suggesting that your readers go out and buy timeshares, but that those who already own can benefit from some wonderful exchanges.
After seeing Rick's latest PBS show I'm planning a timeshare exchange to the Bavarian Alps. We've been to Germany on tours but this time we are going to spend a whole week in one place living like the locals. Thanks Rick!
El Cerrito, CA USA Tue 09/14/2004
Has travel changed my life? Wow, what a question! I could go on and on with this subject! In the spring of 1999 I lived in a cubicle in corporate America. My vacation had accumulated to its maximum amount because I never went anywhere, and I was in a "use it or lose it" situation. The only foreign countries I had seen were Mexico and Canada. One of my co-workers pointed me to Rick Steves' website.
|I like the French!|
After a little investigation, I decided to give it a shot and signed up for Rick's Best of Europe tour. I made plans to meet up with a couple friends and travel Britain when this tour wrapped up in Paris. In total I spent five weeks in Europe. These were the most "eye-opening" five weeks of my life. I realized that there is so much out there to see and experience! The world is a huge place, filled with so many interesting people! People with lifestyles so vastly different from ours!
When I returned from this trip, I had totally forgotten about all the stupid little problems of my work life. I couldn't even remember my passwords to log onto the computer! I walked into the office and told all of my co-workers of my new goal in life: "I am going to set foot on every continent in the world. Including Antarctica!"
Since then I have been to the Caribbean Islands, Greece, Nepal, China, New Zealand, Fiji, Bahamas, Costa Rica, Alaska (twice), and I am making plans for Argentina and Chile this winter!
I still work in corporate America. But my biggest problem now is accumulating enough vacation time (and money) to experience all these places in the world that I feel I need to see! I now spend more money on traveling than I do on my home, my car or anything else, and I am HAPPY about that! The memories are worth more than a big house or a big screen TV! And it all started with Rick's Best of Europe tour.
Some day I will go on another ETBD tour, but for right now, I have to explore beyond Europe. Australia, Africa, and Antarctica are still calling me to achieve my goal!
Gresham, OR USA Mon 09/13/2004
A different perspective!
My wife and I just took our first trip to Europe when the olympics were on and I was startled to find out that there are athletes from countries other than the US. Though this is very sarcastic, our two weeks in Europe were very eye opening for two Americans who have rarely been out of the state of Illinois over the past five years.
We had many revelations. The French don't hate Americans and don't try to bait us on purpose. Wow. This was a biggie for us. We ended up extending our trip to Paris because we had not expected to be treated so well. In Italy, we had some very interesting discussions about politics that did not end in bad feelings. Wow. Never could figure out how to say polarized in Italian. My point is that I was very guilty of looking at the world view very narrowly and travel has changed me forever. I feel very lucky that we finally went abroad (I have even stopped saying overseas!)
Thanks Rick for your invaluable assistance during and after the process.
Chicago, IL USA Fri 09/10/2004
Citizen of the World
"He who is not busy being born is busy dying"--Bob Dylan.
Travel has stretched me and given me new understandings about the world. Although an adventurer in my personal life, I never went abroad until 2002 — at age 56. My girlfriend has family in Holland who sent her a plane ticket. She asked me to come along, so I took 3 weeks off work and we decided to rent a car and travel around Europe. While getting our international drivers license at AAA, I purchased Rick Steves "Europe through the Back Door" (sounded right up my alley, although I had never heard of the guy) and all the guidebooks to the countries we would travel to.
To make a wonderful long story short, it was a fantastic experience. We embodied the advice given in the books and were led day to day on the most marvelous adventure. I really bonded with the people of Europe and when I returned to the USA, I saw my own country through different eyes. Wow, why did we let go of so many of the great traditions of our forefathers in our headlong pursuit of progress? I loved the attitude of Europeans with their ease of enjoying the moment, the sidewalk cafe scene, the importance of family, market days, town squares, and their authentic manner. Europe has heart!
When I got back home I realized I actually felt more at home in Europe so I have returned two more times for extended periods and visited a total of 20 countries— with Rick Steves books as my "tour guide in the pocket." It has all left me changed and more in love with life and the big world "out there." Today I see myself as a citizen of the world.
Mount Vernon, WA USA Wed 09/08/2004
A good perspective from one who has traveled extensively. My travels are more limited, but annual trips to Europe over the last 30 years, mostly UK where we have family and friends, have profoundly influenced my geopolitical ideas. When Bush was elected, I was stunned by his provincialism and jingoistic foreign policies not to mention his indifference to environmental concerns.
At first, I thought his election was just a mistake of the electoral system. But now, I am beginning to believe that Bush, unfortunately, is very representative of many Americans.
Internet groups that I frequent contain postings that dismay me with incredibly dangerous, in my opinion, narrow mindedness regarding American foreign policy.
I have been a fan of your travel approach as we have always traveled in a similiar way. I think that you are doing a service to our country to introduce Americans to other cultures.
Now that I am retired, I wish I could figure out a way to make a similiar contribution.
Let me know if you have any ideas,