For Immediate Release
Contact: Ashley Sytsma
Rick Steves' Other Journey
Turning travel lessons into a life of social activism
Edmonds, WA, August 30, 2007 — A few weeks ago, tour organizer Rick Steves wrote out a check for $80,000 to American Forests to plant 80,000 trees. The point of Steves' donation was to help offset the CO2 generated by his tour members flying to Europe in 2008. But it was just the latest example of how 30 years of "close to the ground" travel has created a social activist and philanthropist whose causes are as diverse as his travel conglomerate of guidebooks, tours, TV and radio shows, syndicated newspaper column, and signature line of travel gear.
As a travel guidebook researcher, Steves has slept in hundreds of strange places…but has always had a roof over his head. Knowing that many aren't so lucky, in 2005 he renovated and donated the use of a 24-unit apartment complex to the Trinity Project to provide transitional housing for single mothers and their children in Lynnwood, WA. "Because of my business, I really have an affinity for people who need accommodation," said Steves in a recent interview. "I think the issue of homelessness strikes a chord with me, in part, because of my travels…I can't imagine the weight of having no money, no roof over my head, no job, and small children to care for."
Steves' commitment to food-and-shelter philanthropy turns global through support of the international relief and development community. "If you know what's good for you, you don't want to be 'filthy rich' in a desperately poor world. It's just not a pretty picture." Because of this, Steves works closely with organizations such as Mercy Corps and Bread for the World — and has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to combat poverty around the world.
Steves' travel also breeds a commitment to social corporate responsibility. Facilities manufacturing Rick Steves' line of travel gear undergo comprehensive and rigorous inspections to ensure humane and ethical worker conditions. "Businesses can't operate with blinders on. We must promote human-ness in our increasingly materialistic world."
A keen student of other societies' approach to issues, Steves believes our government can learn from Europe's very different approach to drug policy. As a result he has become an outspoken proponent of marijuana law reform. According to Steves, a board member of NORML (working to reform marijuana laws in the USA), "We'll all be better off when we let our police officers, courts and prisons deal with real criminals and start taxing marijuana rather than arresting those who enjoy using it."
Steves teaches travelers to become "temporary locals" by conversing with people on our travels, and trying to see our shared world — and ourselves — through their eyes. His hope is for American travelers to broaden their global perspectives. As any good teacher, he takes his own lesson to heart – as demonstrated by his dedication to social activism.