Archive: Has Travel Changed You?: 2005
Rick Steves wants to hear from people who had never left the country before using Rick's guidebooks or going on a Rick Steves tour. Please let us know how your worldview changed as a result of Rick's influence on your travel . Did you meet someone abroad who made a dramatic impact on your life ? Has traveling overseas changed your views on America?
How travel has changed me
Ten years ago, my sister and I headed off to Italy with our "Grand Tour" itinerary based on information taken from Rick's books. We literally mapped out our mad dash around Tuscany and beyond using Rick's advise. We booked everything from hotels, train tickets, bus tickets, rental car, and museums, using his name and showing his books! It worked then and it still works now. My life has changed in a way that I would NEVER have imagined 10 years ago. I have come full circle - from being a wide-eyed tourist to becoming a Tuscany tour guide! Because of the wonderful people in Italy who became my friends and encouraged me, I created my own tour business. To say that travel has changed me is an understatment. It changed my life. I am always in a dual-state of existance... daily I project myself 7 hours ahead and imagine what my Italian friends are doing... Yes, I'm obscessed! Travel has changed my worldview because, through my trips to Italy, I have met people from all parts of the world. These people have all had a dramatic impact upon me, whether large or small. I truly believe that traveling to Italy has made me a better, more patient, more understanding person. The Americans that I've met while traveling have, for the most part, been wonderful, smart, friendly people. I have learned that people are basically the same every where. I consider that my experiences in Italy are truly a gift. I cannot imagine life without going to Tuscany at least twice a year. I would live there in a heartbeat. My only regret is that I didn't start traveling until 10 years ago! SO, do not hesitate - grab that Rick Steves book and GO! Davi Mondt Lowman
Davi Mondt Lowman
Sherburn, MN USA Thu 12/29/2005
We have been made bold by three May trips to Europe. Today we are making reservations for CHINA! Our problem is no Rick Steves guidebook.
EXTON, PA USA Mon 12/19/2005
Europe on Rick's guidebooks
I have now been to Europe 3 times in the past 5 years and every visit has included using Rick's guidebooks. My first visit was to Paris and I carried his Paris handbook with me throughout the city. Second and third trips have been to Italy and entirely booked using Rick's guidebook. I'm planning a 4th trip in June 2006, again using Rick's books, going to Germany, Paris and several places in Italy, and taking 10 friends. They are counting on my "expertise" and are confident of the hotels, itinerary and activities based on the combined knowledge and experience using Rick's guidebooks and my travel to Europe. It took me most of my adult life to get to Europe, and now I can't wait to start planning a new trip! Visiting Europe has changed how I view everyday things such as shopping, using mass transportation and so much more. I encourage all my younger friends to make travel a priority as it does open your eyes!
Portland, OR USA Sat 12/17/2005
People are remarkably similar, throughout the world. Rude persons are everywhere and wonderful ones abound everywhere. The kinds of folks you encounter in other lands are no different from those you run into here. anybody who has gone to NYC knows that all that garbage about uncaring people who are standoffish and unhelpful, is so much idiocy. Probably mouthed by people who never went there. You hear the same descriptions of London from English who live far from there, of Paris from rural French, of Berlin from Bavarians. How odd!
Paul n Sara
Newburyport , m USA Fri 12/02/2005
We were in Paris in early September and had a great time there. On the contrary to what I heard from my friends and co-workers, I found Parisians to be polite and not snobbish at all. Especially for a city that size. We were treated much more rudely in New York City and Los Angeles. We greeted them and thanked them in French but we had no difficulty conversing with them in English at all. We didn't even ask if they spoke English. We asked questions in English and had no difficulty finding things, ordering things, and etc.. No one really treated us rudely as I had originally expected. We planned a lot of things ahead of time and not hold up any lines in museums, metro, and etc. I think that is the key. If you're not sure, you need to let others go ahead of you as you would in U.S.
OR USA Mon 11/28/2005
Travel that changes you
I have always been an avid reader and history buff, but felt that reading European history was not enough. Last March I went to Paris. It was a very meaningful experience because my family left Paris in 1666 to come to the US. I had done much research on my geneology. This brought all of the places to life for me. (You have no true sense of what a site is like until you are there in person, regardless of how descriptive a book you have been reading.) It made me realize how much French culture my family had retained over 300 years. I visited the parish that my family was baptised and married in for generations prior to forging a life in the New World. More than this, travel also gave me a greater sense of the global community that we now live in. At the Eiffel Tower I saw faces from all over the world, Europeans, Asians...you name them I saw and spoke to many of them. Speaking to all of these people I realized that I am so fortunate to live in a country so diverse and with so many oppurtunites. I think I had become complacent living in a country that is inexpensive and full of promise. Traveling is a way to broaden our horizons, and see our own world from a new perspective. And, heck, it's fun!!!
Albany, NY USA Sat 11/26/2005
I was in Paris in early September (missed the riots by two weeks). I went to Paris afraid to be an American because of all the postings on this forum as well as others. What I found changed my life and forced me to admit that no matter what - I loved being an American and I wasn't going to hide that because I might offend a Parisian. I made sure I gave them the utmost respect, but not at the expense of loosing my self respect. I always entered a shop respectfully and always acknowledge the shopkeeper by saying a few French phrases (I took the time to learn a little French before I left), but when I asked them if they spoke English, a few just looked at me rudely and still spoke French - no matter what I asked them in my chopped French. After about two days of this, I snapped and made up my mind that I wasn't going to allow a few rude shopkeepers to spoil my vacation. I simply refuse to pay a business or a vendor to be rude to me. My new philosophy was to drop the intimidated American look when I entered a shop, acknowledge them in their language and ask if they speak English, if they don't, it's okay, because I can't speak French, but can we at least try and work it out language-wise? If not, I just thanked them and went to the next shop until I found someone who would work with me. In Paris, I made sure not to be an Ugly-American, but my new confidence gave me the courage not to deal with Ugly-Parisians and I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of my stay in the wonderful city of Paris!
Houston, Tx USA Sat 11/26/2005
4 years ago I decided that I was finally going to go to Europe. I'd been thinking about going for awhile after catching Rick Steves' Cinque Terre show, but there was always some obstacle that prevented me from going. Finally, I just went out and bought ETBD, which basically became my Bible. I was constantly reading it and highlighting passages. There was no one to go with me and since I had finally made up my mind to take the leap, I decided to go alone. Before I knew it, I was on my way to London. The experiences I had were so incredible, and the moments that seemed so small at the time, somehow feel the most significant. I was gone for a month and it was the most eye-opening and greatest experience I've ever had. My favorite experience of the trip was on the train to Verona, Italy. I was in a compartment by myself, when this little Italian grandmother opened the door. She didn't speak English, I don't speak Italian and somehow we managed to have a conversation. We were using hand signals, it was almost like charades, and then she was helping me with my pronunciation. The whole incident lasted about 30 minutes, but it is the most significant to me. Since my trip to Europe and that day, I have found myself to be more understanding of people with a language barrier and more interested in their stories. I'm sure that some of this has to do with just getting a little bit older, but for the most part it's because of going to Europe. I'm a pretty independent person in general, but backpacking around Europe gave me such a confidence that I had never felt before. I did everything on my own (with a little help from Rick!) and that is the greatest feeling. I can't wait to go back next year, but this time I'm taking my younger sister, so that we can share the experience with eachother! Going to Europe was the best thing I could have ever done. The only regret I have is that I can't go every time I have the urge (which is a lot)!!! Thank you Rick for writing ETBD!!
Sacramento, CA USA Sat 11/19/2005
Travel Opened My Eyes
The first time I went to Europe I was almost 50 and needed to do something dramatic. In addition, I had been collecting travel brochures since I was 12. So I went with my daughters, thinking "now I've done this, this will satisfy me." In reality, I start planning my next trip on the plane on the way home. I try to go every 12-18 months. It has changed me so much -- I appreciate the differences in the cultures. I find so many people interested in me and in the United States as much as I am interested in them. We are all different, but we are all the same. Ireland was my "gateway" trip, so everytime I go I start at Dublin, and then branch out from there. Usually I go solo, but last time I took my mother. Another time I went solo, but met up with a daughter halfway through the trip. One of the most important things I do on my trips is attend church. There I am with family. And it helps me avoid the whole Americanization of Christianity attitude when I get back home. It is a delight when I visit the same church a year later and they remember me. I am more courageous because of my travels and, I hope, a more compassionate person because of what I have seen and whom I have met. The expense of travel is really an issue for me because I "live on the edge" financially. My ex-husband once asked my daughters how I could afford to go to Europe. They told him it was because I didn't spend $1500 on a chair - I spent it on an experience. You can't put a price tag on experiences.
Mission, KS USA Mon 11/07/2005
The impact of Itay
My husband, teenaged son and I just got back from Italy--Rome and Florence less than a week ago. The Rome portion was a Rick Steves guided tour. Mostly because of his highly informative and helpful guides, Heidi and Reagan, we experienced an internal transformation on the cultural and spiritual level. Our heart and soul has been redefined--transforming us all into better overall human beings. Nearly every person in Italy we encountered was especially helpful and with a warm and accommedating spirit. One thing that I found out about the Italian workforce is that they seem to hold the importance and value of the employee to a higher and more valued level than the typical American run "big businesses" and companies. We have lost that essential "we care for our employees and their families." sentiment that made this country great. This alone saddened me greatly to come back home. I felt like I had "lost" something upon returning home. Another aspect of our travels that I am going to try--is to change our dining rituals by spending more time at the dinner table savoring the food and the moments we have together. The fantastic Italian cuisine will be intergrated into our menu options. Also, no more California wine for me. Italian vino rules!
Finally, I want to travel with the Rick Steves group again several times to different European locations because this trip impacted me to the point where I almost want to move from Atlanta and its horrible traffic, heavy crime and the exponentially growing and influentual hip-hop culture that is what our city is now all about. I have lost my original Southern roots and identity here in the new ATL. I may choose to move to Europe and never look back.
Wow! What a great trip! It was that good!
Canton, GA USA Mon 11/07/2005
I could not agree more with the below comments regarding self-loathing Americans. I have been to Europe 11 times and have always appreciated what I have learned and experienced while there. I have to say however based on what I hear about Europe from some I have to question weather or not I was actually there. I thought I remembered the pilot welcoming me to cities like London, Lisbon, Rome, Athens, Warsaw, Frankfort, Zurich, and Paris. But now I'm not sure. There seems to be this place called Europe where someone like me (college educated) would be considered your basic moron.
I know this is not true and maybe that is how travel has changed me. Fifteen years ago right after finishing college I remember hearing some of the over the top, exaggerated criticisms of America from Europe (that's right this is not new) and sometimes I believed them. Now after traveling so much I understand, nowhere is perfect and not every one gets it right all the time. However, on the whole, where I live is not bad nor is where they live. Now I understand when you allow some one or some group to beat you down always pointing out your faults both real and perceived that is how you get involved in an abusive relationship. I do not accept that kind of behavior from myself and I will not accept it from others.
On the lighter side after 15yrs of travel to 34 different countries I can say I'm now. more Republican (guess I'm the anti-Rick), a better cook, without a car, a saver, the proud sponsor of a child in Zambia and the Philippines, a better worker, able to appreciate true liberalism, convinced that willful ignorance is not tolerance, and lastly I believe that travel is not a brand. It is not something that you can purchase which helps you mentally separate yourself from the masses. Travel does not make you better, smarter, sexier, open minded, or different.
Chicago, IL USA Sat 11/05/2005
By all means, travel has changed me. But what sometimes amuses me and sometime irritates me (sometimes both) is the self-loathing process that some people get from travel. For instance, the "Fat, ugly, and uneducated" comment below.
Travelling around the world (literally a couple times), lots of times courtesy of the military, and a few times on my own dime, has helped me to appreciate things I might otherwise take for granted. It has helped me to appreciate other cultures and even see where some things I think of as acceptable or even commendable can be insulting or rude to others. But I am glad that I haven't fallen into the self-loathing process (or more properly, the others-like-me loathing process). What I mean by this is the bizarre impression that all Americans (except the heroic protagonist, of course), or at least the majority, are rude, fat, dumb, etc, etc.
If everybody at home you know is that way, you need to get out more.
As much as I like Rick's books and even agree with lots of his philosophical principles, I find he falls victim to this plague also. One example - the comment about "how much in taxes would you pay to live in a world with no homelessness... unemployment... hunger... etc?" (referring to Switzerland)
To be sure, Switzerland has amazing social programs for its citizens. And yes, homelessness is nearly non-existent among those citizens. Ever seen what it takes to become one of those citizens? Not a lot of people who qualify are in danger of poverty or homelessness. Getting permanent resident status (a prerequisite) is pretty expensive, and if you were to go homeless during that time, you wouldn't be assisted except to the border.
Riots in Paris tonight - ugly Americans to blame?
10% unemployment in Germany (double that of the US) - our fault for not buying more Mercedes?
Overseas... again Sat 11/05/2005
I've been traveling since I wes seven, when my parents took me and my sister to Greece and France for the first time. Since then traveling has opened the door to many ideas and some of our closest friends we met in Germany. Travel has taught me and now my wife, how to simplify our lives, value what we have and how fortunate we are to live where we do. It has also fueled my desire to learn different languages.
I've seen the best of many cultures including Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Greece and Mexico because of traveling, and I always look forward to the next trip. Whether it's a Greek or Mexican village or a big city, I'll always find a way to travel the world.
Chicago, IL USA Wed 11/02/2005
When I first went to Europe I was so happy and couldn't help thinking why I waste so much time being unhappy and dwelling on all the small and seemingly insignificant details when I'm at home. But since I've been home I can see that I've become the same person again and I hate that. I think we all just get caught up in our own little worlds, and the only escape for me is travel. I guess it's easy to be philosophical whilst standing beneath the Eiffel Tower or drinking beer in Munich.
Wollongong, NSW Australia Tue 10/25/2005
I am a different person
I can not even begin to explain how Europe has changed me....I came home with a new outlook on my life. I am still putting it all together and digesting everything I did, all I saw and everything I felt.
One thing I realized while over ther is how the Europeans really value what they have regardless ofhow simple. they take time out for the things that are important. Quality of life is more important that Quantity.
I feel like such a diffrent person and even people have been telling me that I seem different but they can not put their finger on what it is. That feels good to know that it is showing to the outside world as well.
I am already planning my next trip.
vancouver, canada Tue 10/25/2005
Travel... my answer to divorce
After 17 years of being a hard working devoted husband and father I was handed divorce papers losing my son's college fund, my business and investments in divorce court. Instead of turning to depression, drugs or drinking I spent my rebuilding years going to the free "public" library checking out language tapes and travel books and videos. Travel was always a dream of mine and for those of you reading this who also love travel be sure to marry a person with the same dream. I spent 3 years recovering financially, reading books about travel, European history, praticed my languages, and watching Rick Steves each Saturday on Wisconsin Public TV. Rick's show was an inspiration to me and it kept my dream alive.
Now 8 years later I have been to Europe 11 times (taking my son 6 times), motorcycled Ontariao and Quebec, travel from Vancouver to New Foundland and later married a woman from China traveled to China with her 2 times and just recently went to France with my wife. We now go to China once a year, Canada once a year and Europe once a year. We are both 50 and will retire and spend more time overseas. I now buy the Rick Steves books instead of checking them out from the library. I feel the need to support his wonderful project because it has opened up a brand new way of life for me.
To this day I get a warm feeling when I see his 30 minute programs about Europe not only because I see places I have visited but also because I still clearly remember the days when I sat alone with little money watching the shows and dreaming of the day when I could travel the World.
Bridgewater, NJ USA Mon 10/24/2005
I would say yes. I just spent 2 weeks travelling parts of the west of Ireland (Dingle, Galway, Ennis) and I found the Irish to be cordial and very friendly. It made me realize how much the world has to offer and how much Americans take for granted.
East Islip, NY USA Sun 10/23/2005
When I entered my last year of my bachelors degree, I realized that I was graduating college and hadn't been ANYWHERE! So I decided to take some friends up on their offer to visit them in England and Scotland. So in November, I flew by myself and made my way to their Uni on my own. It was so wonderful. I traveled around England and Scotland visiting numerous friends. I had such a wonderful time, that I traveled with a friend back to the UK in March. (I relied on Rick Steves travel books btw) This summer, as a gift to myself for graduating with my Masters, I will be traveling much of Europe this summer. If I hadn't gone in November, I wouldn't have the love of travel that I do now!!
Long Island, New York USA Sun 10/23/2005
Weary of Travel Oneupmanship
Change, if or when it happens, evidently isn't always for the better. What profiteth it a traveller to come home full of self-congratulation for having insights and revelations, if these consist, in the main, of contempt for one's fellow citizens, or even fellow travellers? "Fat and ugly" - whatever happened to viewing the beauty within? And what about a more balanced response to Noel's tale - which, I note, includes a second (and happily more successful) attempt at an experience she evidently found very difficult the first time?
NS Canada Fri 10/21/2005
Traveling abroad in Europe and Asia made me realize how fat, ugly, and uneducated we are as Americans.
USA Thu 10/20/2005
Noel, you did go with your " family" to europe. YOUR HUSBAND. You must have been very young and hadn't adjusted to being aways from your mom and dad, did you go away to school before this? I am glad you finally adjusted, but, really, I can't understand going home or lieing in bed crying for two days while in France. Your husband is a saint. My hubby would never have let me waste thousands of dollars like that.
Your experience does show that alot of the info on these boards is very valid, but , I do agree that in the end everyone has to decide what is best for them and I do think one should expect to learn a few words of the langauge of the country they plan to visit. You should have learned : "please, thank you, how much, and where is the toilet", LOL.
Canada Sat 10/15/2005
Ireland and Scotland
I went to Ireland and Scotland by myself for 5 weeks in the Fall of 2004. I was 18 and turned 19 in Dublin. I bought a couple of Rick's books and they did come in handy. I planned the whole trip and most everything that went into my trip with the info I got from these books. Because of Rick's information I was able to live over there for under $3,500 and that included airfare! I now appreciate some things I have here in the States but I've also come to resent my country for other things (big and small).
Though the Irish are nice, I didn't dig the humor of the men. Too dry.. I wasn't sure whether to take something they said seriously or not. Also, if an Irishman ever gives you the distance to where you're headed always add half the time onto the original time :) A walk to the beach that was supposed to be only a mile or so turned out to be at least 2 miles.
Scotland was wonderful! Oh, Edinburgh rocks! If you ever get the chance to take a trip that way, go!
I long to go back. It was a great experience.
St. Louis, MO USA Sat 10/15/2005
Life will never be the same...
A year ago last May, my boyfriend and I set off for Europe. Through a program called Bunac, we worked and lived in gorgeous Dingle, Ireland, for 3 months. Afterwards, we backpacked through W. Europe for 2 months. To be honest, I don't even remember what I believed or who I was before those 5 months. I am completely changed--fortuneately and unfortuneately. I no longer dwell on bad service at restaurants, I order dishes as they are (no substitutions, no add ons), I don't watch as much tv, I drink espresso, a meal of wine, cheese, and bread is now a feast, and I try to focus on the small, simple details of life. However, I am also disillusioned with life in America. Our government's foreign policy, the censorship of our media, the fact that "news" in the US only covers what goes on within our own borders or the countries we invade, the mass consumerism, the live-to-work attitude, etc etc. Since coming back, I feel very disconnected with Americans and our culture; I feel very much a foreigner in this country. I can no longer feel content with staying in America all my life. We went back to Ireland again within 10 months of arriving back in the US--it was only for 10 days, but it was enough to keep us feeling connected. Because of travel, I cannot let myself be stagnant and not learn or experience new things. It completely and totally changed my life, and I'll never be the same person I was before I left. Thank God!
Austin, Texas USA Thu 10/13/2005
My first experience in Europe was one you might call "live and learn" :) It was the first vacation away from my family, (whom I love dearly and have always travelled with) and was taken with my new husband. We were already adjusting to married life and thought this would be the perfect trip. I planned extensively, but didn't heed ETBD traveller's advice on many issues, because I thought, "Well, I know what I want to do so thanks anyways."
When we arrived in London, I was in heaven. I walked the neighborhood streets, away from the crowds, and longed to someday live there. I felt like I blended in completely, and was just another Londoner. I learned how to walk like a Londoner (fast, and pushing people if you have to!) and go to places Londoners went. This went on for 5 days until we had to leave and go to Paris.
Our first stop was in Disneyland Paris, because my parents have Disney timeshare and gave us a few nights at a Disney hotel as a gift. If anyone has ever visited there, it was the first moment I had huge culture shock. Everyone around me spoke another language that I couldn't understand, and everyone else was with their families. I longed to be with my family amidst this, and searched the crowds for any English I could hear. I SO wanted to approach someone who spoke English and just tell them I was lonely, but I couldn't muster the courage. That's when the homesickness set in.
My husband was extremely supportive, but I was SO homesick that when I called my parents that night, I just started crying. I don't know what came over me, but being in a place where everyone was with their families and I wasn't, but was completely across the world from mine, I just lost it. I could barely get out of bed for two days because I was so homesick.
After that, we headed into Paris with the fate of our trip up in the air. We still had 20 more days to go, with train tickets, etc... that were already purchased. I remember walking around Paris, feeling so inadequte, and being completely unaware of what a beautiful city I was in. I couldn't read the menu and no one would stop to help us, so we ate baguettes and croissants and water all day because that is all we could recognize and speak.
Instead of continuing all around Europe like we had planned, and taking grueling 14 hour train rides, we decided to just go home. I remember feeling so relieved when I was on the plane but also so regretful that I had gotten ourselves into this mess. It didn't matter to me that I had spent $1,000 on train tickets. All that mattered was that I had 3 more weeks off from work that I could spend with my husband and my family.
But, I was not content. I realized that people gave me good advice for a reason. "Don't book your train tickets ahead of time," "Don't book your hotel rooms ahead of time..." I ignored this advice because I thought I knew better, but if I had listened to it, it would have saved me an incredible amount of money.
Realizing that although we had one bad experience didn't mean that we would have any more, we decided to go back the next year with full force, and truly experience Europe from a different perspective.
It was amazing is all I can say. The simplicity of life that exists over there, and the fact that they are real people, just like me, is very humbling. Everyone has their own lives, their own families that they love, just like I do.
Europeans are content with what they have, even if it's a small house or in a crowded area. Family is the resonating value that I think really caused my deep homesickness. I wanted to be a part of the European family, but I didn't *allow* myself to be. When I went back, I just sat back and observed life and how we were all very similar in what we held dear, and I took the oppotunity to meet people and actually become part of their family.
Family is such a strong value, that doesn't exist only in America.
Columbia, SC USA Sat 10/01/2005
1st trip is a Gateway
My first trip was almost 5 years ago, now being 28 I have visited quit a few countries. I wonder why I hadn't went overseas earlier in my life. The first trip was with a couple co-workers to Italy and turned out wonderful. Everything went fairly smoothe. It was the "Gateway."
I believe once one has been overseas they will be back. There is a whole world out there for the taking as long as your respectful and appreciative of other poeples and governments.
It lifts your spirit and you are in Awe most of the time. Confidence grows within yourself. Yes, it is a small world, no matter where you are. Touching someone elses spirit is a high and seeing, feeling, learning experiencing all these things that traveling envelopes is a simple awe, with a smile and deep breath -almost theraputic in a sense. Anything is possible -you just have to make up your mind and DO it.
Hudson, WI USA Tue 09/27/2005
A Million Thanks
Dear Rick: Until my wife and I started watching your programs and reading your books, we had never given travel abroad much thought. Until you came along with your "back door" ideas we always thought that travel overseas was just cost prohibitive. We were so wrong!! My wife and I have traveled to Europe every year for the past twelve years sometimes twice a year and have enjoyed every time even more than the first time. We have invited family and friends to go with us but the only rule we had was to have them read your books depending on our destination, they did and gave us "book reports: as to information gleaned and then we would all sit down and plan our trips together. My wife and I never thought we could afford Europe until you came along. Along our many trips we would spot other travelers with your books and all share a kind word or a beer with them. Rick, my wife and I are cherish our time overseas using your books and equipment (we would not even think of traveling without our trusty "hidden wallets". Again a million thanks for your advice, humour,patience, and guidance. Oh and by the way we never miss your PBS programs on Saturday here in Georgia-It is still fun to see the places we have been and the places we will go next time. Warmest Regards, Edd and Linda Bell, Talking Rock, Georgia. firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Edd and Linda Bell
Talking Rock, Georgia USA Mon 09/26/2005
It was in Vernazza, Italy one beautiful April that I fell in love. Not with a woman, although that would have cemented the deal, but with the Cinque Terre. I remember my arrival vividly, as I walked along the path from Monterosso southwards. I believe that the guidebook I carried said that the walk would be about two hours long, but as I recall, it was much longer; no matter, the views were spectacular. When I came around a bend in the path and saw Vernazza for the first time, I stopped in my tracks and said to myself "I could live here." Excitedly, I hurried down towards the village, and spent a wonderful time there. I left to go to Greece, and returned a month later expecting the same alluring place. Instead, I saw hundreds of people carrying Rick Steves' ETBD books. I was mortified. My picturesque little village had been discovered. While I found out later that I shared Rick's passion for travel and views on the world, I still long for the days when this back door was not yet open!
Langley, WA USA Sat 09/24/2005
Yeah. Wiser, but less happy.
Well, ETBD really got me stoked to travel when it first came out in the 1980s--the 'back door' approach excited my imagination, and I've used Rick's techniques with great success. Travel has deeply changed me, but not travel to Europe, particularly (and I say that after travelling through 21 European countries and living in Budapest for six months).
My best travel experiences have been in what used to be called "the 3rd world": Mexico, Polynesia and Micronesia, asiatic Turkey. I spent a day at a "cultural village" on Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands, and it absolutely blasted me wide open. Similarly, I was in central Turkey in June 2003, just a few hundred miles away from the Iraqi border, yet I was treated as an honored guest. The "back door" approach is useful, I suppose, in Europe, but it really shines where people see few westerners.
San Francisco, CA USA Fri 09/23/2005
Got back from Dublin in June and I have to say that it was an eye opening experience. Rick's book was a perfect companion as well as Frommers Portable Dublin that I was able to slip into my pocket while out in the streets. It was very crowded but even so I still had a great time. I'm planning to return in March during St. Patrick's Day. I think I'm addicted to this beautiful city.
Longview, TX USA Sun 09/18/2005
I am a college student who studied abroad in Brighton, England this past summer. I had never been out of the U.S. before, and was definetely scared, but also very excited to see another country. Before I left, I checked out a multitude of books from the library, especially Rick Steve's book on England and I found it extrememly helpful. I traveled with my family the first two weeks, and my mom carried Rick Steves Great Britain 2005 guide with us everywhere we went. We always turned to it for a suggestion of where to eat, or a good time to visit a certain attraction.
Traveling and studying abroad has made me a more confident and independent person. It showed me that there is much more to the world outside of the U.S., and it opened the door for me to make other dreams to come true.
Chicago, IL USA Wed 09/07/2005
Much the Same
It was the United States Army that first took me to Europe rather than Rick Steves. In all I lived in Germany for 6 years; my wife lived there for 9 years. Living and traveling in Europe made me appreciative of both things European and American. They have better public transport but they also have less ground to cover. Germans complain about their health care system, but would not trade it for ours, and I agree. Their politics is as varied as ours. They have the Green Party and a few Germans who still think that Hitler was not so bad. I have heard an American say the same. In fact I found the Germans to be much the same as us. I have less experience with the Scandanavians, the French, the Austrians and the Italians, but the experience that I had was mainly friendly and warm. First, the army showed me that there were good Ameicans from all corners of the country. Then it showed me that there were good human beings from all corners of world. Travel is great.
Salt Lake City, UT USA Tue 09/06/2005
Every American should leave the country at least once...
You don't realize how high stung and fast paced our lives are in the US untill you leave it. My boyfriend and i traveled to Amsterdam last month. He has trouble sitting in one place and relaxing for too long. Though we had things to do every day we left enough time to stop at the cafes for a drink and sit down to dinner. It took him some getting used to, I had to tell him the first few days relax what else do we have to do we can order another drink, and he said to me the other day "When we go back to Europe I'm going to make it a point to slow things down even more" You really don't realize how much of the little things you miss while rushing around with life. Our country is just as beautiful and has lots of culture that we take for granted b/c we don't slow sown to enjoy it. It was so great to see how other cultures do thing, things we see as taboo are normal to them, it was great to get to experience that, I can't wait to travel more. Italy is next, so I'm going to start reading up now! Rick Steve's book definately helped, in fact it was the only book we took. I felt prepared as we got on the plane and hope his book on Italy will be as good.
NJ USA Wed 08/31/2005
Bugeting and Planning
I went to local library and I notice Rick Steves travel skills video. I check the VHS tape out. I was shout about staying at hotel for twenty-five dollars a night. If you go off season and using the public transportation. Does not have to cost you a fortune. So, me and my teenage daugther decide to go to Europe next year. We save for a year. I dream came true March of 2005. Me and her had a wonderful Paris and Munich time. I decide when I was on the airplane coming back from Europe. I will visit one country every year.
Mr. Rick Steves
Nashville, TN USA Mon 08/29/2005
Italy changed our life
My husband and I took our first trip "abroad" when we took small escorted tour of Tuscany and the Ligurian coast in September 2004. We read "Italy 2004" and "Europe through the back door", and were not dissapointed when it was the ONLY book we took with us. I also scoured this site for experienced traveler tips. We truly felt the every day life of the people, and took in the culture every step of the way thanks to Rick! We used the Backpacks and money belt which were perfect in every way. But most of all, I would say we truly "stepped out from behind the camera" as Rick advises. When we did that, we were never let down. We took chances on the train and city bus and really talked to the locals, the best we could anyway. We realized that laughter is really the true universal language, as well as how to really appreciate and value the history that Italy has been through. We owe so much of this to Rick. Our tour was jealous when we had free time because we always knew where to run for the "hidden secrets" of each town and city. Of course, you can't help but notice how much we take for granted in America. Every time I see a beautifull sunset, I appreciate it a little more now. I can't wait to experience more of the world. And we only wish we were so lucky to travel for a living as he does. Thanks Rick!
EUGENE, OR USA Mon 08/22/2005
In defense of Andy
I have read Andy and Alex's blog, and have to say that I do not remember ANYTHING that indicated that Andy treats women inappropriately or as "conquests." Alex (whose posts with regard to girls just pretty much sounded like your average 18 year old American male) even made the comment that Andy had a girlfriend at home, and was not out looking to meet women. Unfortunately, there will probably be people who, without reading the blog, read the message below, and assume the worst.
USA Thu 08/18/2005
What I learned from travel
I love traveling. It's great to see things outside America. Some things are good other things not so good.
What I loved about France is the general respect that is given to fellow adults. I never felt more grown up then when I was visiting Paris. The general treatment in stores, restaurants, museums, etc. is better than in the US. My decisions and requests were listened to with consideration, never questioned or ridiculed and I was never coddled like a child. I was expected to extend the same respect to other adults and to behave with the decorum expected of my age. Instead of being stifling it was liberating. A liberation from the US custom of trying to explain myself and my life like an eternal adolescent.
I wish my country would get over trying to chase eternal youth and respect age just like they do in France. After all, didn't we all long to be included in adult affairs when we were kids? It's frustrating to finally get to be in the know, only to discover life is still like being grammer school.
Brooklyn, NY USA Tue 08/16/2005
A new perspective
For the most part, I stayed in NJ most of my all life and I don't travel much. I always wanted to travel, especially in Europe, so when a chance to study in France for 6 weeks this past summer came up, I jumped at the chance. Needless to say it was the best 7 weeks of my life. I went by myself, only meeting two people from my university also doing the program right before i left. I don't speak French, so I sort of jumped in head first. I read as much as I could online and on this website but first hand experience is really the best way to learn. During my 7 week stay, I visited 9 countries and made good use of my 15 Day Railpass. A good book would've def. been helpful. I always had to go around looking for maps. But either way, this was the most fun and educational trip I ever had. It opens your eyes to so many new things you didn't think were possible. I learned a lot about myself, people, and more of the world. I came back to NJ the same person but with a whole new perspective on things. I can not wait to go back. Instead of taking classes next summer, I want to try getting and internship or something and I am highly considering moving over there for a few years and working while I am still young before eventually coming back to the US.
NJ USA Wed 08/10/2005
Response from Withheld
Thanks, Bill! Someone who has a sense of balance! I'm all for young people seeing Europe but with more sense. For all of you on the other side of the fence, I'm not a clueless arm-chair traveler. I've clocked nearly a dozen (for pleasure) trips to Paris and covered 8 other countries. Now, I currently live in Europe. I know these boys are "legal age". They can do what they want. Sure they completed their trek with no major disasters--by the grace of God!!! (*And don't be so gullible to think that they have told us EVERYthing!) Some of the stunts they pulled showed a lack of maturity and responsibility-two main factors that worry SOME good, caring parents. Andy's travel experience over the years is probably the only thing that got them through at times. I stand my ground!
USA Sun 08/07/2005
Andy Steves Blog
I am somewhat amused by the comments on Andy Steves blog. While I would never let my child take a trip unsupervised at such a young and immature age, he is legally an adult and not my child.
Andy has proven by his posts that he is a young, red-blooded American.
What does distress me is that with all of the preaching about learning from other cultures, the Steves have not taught their son to treat women appropriately and not as a conquest.
Huntersville, NC USA Sun 08/07/2005
I went to Europe for the first time when I was 15 years old. Talk about a "callow youth"! Andy and his friend are doing all right. Leave them alone. They have good parents, they are smart boys and you are only young once. And if you work it right, once is enough.
Charles M. Luther
USA Thu 08/04/2005
Alex and Andy's blog
to name withheld, You seem to be the unpopular one here, and I am going to add myself to the other people here who disagree with you. I hate to break it to you, but those "boys" are adults and High School graduates and I aplaud their parents for being open-minded enouph to support their sons in the choices that they have the right to make as adults. They are enjoying an experience that will be a life-changing experience where if nothing else they will learn about themselves and how to use their new-found independence.
Wichita, KS USA Wed 08/03/2005
Alex and Andy's Blog
Perhaps Andy and his family wish that they hadn't gone public with his blog. However, I am enjoying reading about his travels. They seem like normal "good" kids who are having a great time. I wouldn't encourage a typical 18 year old to travel independently to Europe (or anywhere) because most kids have not grown up in a family such as Andy Steves'. Thanks Andy & Alex and good luck at college.
MN USA Sun 07/31/2005
Andy and Alex's Blog
To name withheld--obviously travel hasn't changed you, nor has anything else. I've enjoyed the few sections of the guys' blog I've read. Come on, they're 18 year old guys. Have they gotten arrested yet? Gotten anyone pregnant? They're LIVING Europe, and what better way to learn about the world. You don't need to go to museums all day and be "cultural" to enjoy Europe, and be responsible adults!! Lighten up!!
USA Sat 07/30/2005
Young people traveling in Europe
To Withheld~~Andy and Alex's are only two young adults out of thousands who go. I know that my daughter and a friend from college was going to take a field study course that one of their professor's hold every summer in Scotland. They decided to go two weeks early and travel thru Europe ending their travels in Scotland when they had to met their professor. They had a fantastic time, saw and learned to much. They were in 7 or 8 counties, and at the time they were two beautiful blondes age 20.
USA Sat 07/30/2005
Andy and Alex's Blob changed my view of travel
Has travel changed me? It's certainly changed my opinion of young people getting out on their own to trapse through Europe! I was really looking forward to reading Andy and Alex's blog which, I expected to read of two well-adjusted young men, showing the world how responsible young people can be if given the chance to travel on their own. I'm afraid, the exact opposite message has been sent! The Steve's would have done better to keep their son's journal private and not expose their irresponsibility to the world! Bad call!!!! Parents who may have been swayed to let their grads travel alone, to follow in these boys footsteps, will probably reconsider now! ETBD has certainly lost MY vote! Exposure to the Euro culture and history is great--I wish every young person could come here on a field trip...... WITH the supervision of a responsible adult!
USA Fri 07/29/2005
Travel for health...one more thing
I must thank Rick for teaching us to live like locals when abroad. Eating with the locals at a small cafe can be much healthier, and more culturally satisfying than stopping by a touristy restaurant or a McDonalds or Burger King.
Also his idea of going to a market and buying a "picnic" lunch is great. It can save money and calories. Also you can dine in places where there are no restaurants. One of my most memorable meals was a picnic at the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland. Spectacular!
Reno, Nv. USA Wed 07/27/2005
Travel for health
As an overweight American, one tends not to stand out too much in the US. Not so in Europe. Europeans tend to be much slimmer than we Americans. As an overweight tourist I've noticed people can spot me as a Yank before I've said a word. I notice that I draw more attention than I would in the States.
Europeans walk a lot more than we do. Their cities were developed before the advent of the automobile, therefore they tend to rely less on the car than we do. Even taking public transportation requires walking to the nearest station.
I've also noticed they aren't bombarded by advertising for food like we are. Turn on any commercial US TV station, and you are assured to see at least one ad per break for a fast food restaurant, or some type of food product. In Europe, even on commercial TV, there is much less advertising for food.
The European meal portions tend to be smaller. Restaurants don't serve "bottomless" cups of soda like they do here.
These are all small differences, but over a lifetime they add up. Granted they have all the same kinds of unhealthy food we do. American food is after all, largely derived from European cuisine. It is there approach to food that differs. A meal is a more of a social event, not a time to stuff their face, and rush off.
That said, when I go to Europe, I tend to eat like a European. I tend to walk more a lot more. When I return to the US, I always feel really energetic, once I get over the jetlag.
After returning from my last trip, I decided that I wouldn't lose the momentum I built up. I continued to walk a lot, and eventually hike a lot. Now I'm doing a lot of kayaking and mountain biking as well. I eat a lot less. I'm not always thinking about food. I have lost 70 pounds in the last 7 months. I plan to continue this lifestyle for the rest of my life.
So has travel changed me? You bet it has! Next time I go back to Europe, I won't stand out as a "typical Yank."
Reno, Nv. USA Wed 07/27/2005
Family of Man
Maybe I don't qualify because I travelled Europe in 1962 when I was only 16, but in 2001, when I retired, my wife and I travelled to Europe with much reliance on Rick's books. We stayed in hotels and saw sights recommended by Rick. We also laughed with people carrying his books around. I have since travelled with a friend to Spain and visited my son in Budapest several times, usually once a year. Most people are so nice and eager to help, speaking several languages until we find a common one. They understand that I did not set any US military policy and we are all discovering that, regardless of our countries' politics, we are all just citizens of this planet, trying to stay safe, be comfortable, and learn something along the way. I have been helped so often in Europe that I always check out people in my home area who look like they could use some travel directions. If pride had prevented me from asking for assistance in foreign countries I would have missed out on meeting generous people who are eager to help those in need. We all originated from Africa, or Adam and Eve, or some common origin. Let's act like it!
Bellingham, WA USA Tue 07/26/2005
This is the best subject! I was so excited when I saw this. I went to Europe for the first time last summer of 2004. It was a life dream to go to Europe. My dad served in the army during the Vietnam era. All of my life he has told me stories of the time when he lived in Europe. And so, as a little girl I dreamed of the day that I would be able to travel and see the sights that my dad would talk about. And last year, I had set a goal of going at least by the time I turned 30---AND I DID IT. I flew over to London, and Vienna, Austria by myself to meet friends. It was a great trip. A memory of my life time. I travelled through most of Austria, went to Bratislava, and to Germany. And Rick Steve's travel books saved us so much money on hostels. I couldnt believe the deals we found. On one occasion, The Rick Steve's book led us to a hostel right in the area of Munich, Germany that we wanted to be. I had the time of my life last summer travelling for the first time, seeing the beautiful sights, seeing what my father continuously talks about, and being with friends. And that trip changed me personally and my life. I feel that i came back a different person--a better person. My eyes are so open to new and better things now. And I was able to relax from the hustle and bustle of the life of an American in California. I was able to have coffee breaks with friends in the Europe cafes outside with the yummy iced cafes--my favorite coffee drink out there--ice cream and coffee and two chocolate sticks inside. And I was able to relax and be me and enjoy life. And now I am changed because I want to go again and again. I want to see other sights. And sadly enough, I want to be able to get away from the American culture of working-working-working for a little week or two vacation. When over in Europe the people I met, would cringe when I said how much I worked and went to school. They did not understand that lifestyle. Some of the Austrians that I met told me that they were only allowed to work up to 38 hours a week--at the most! And they had a 5 week holiday. It was such a beautiful country with really great food that most of the time included sausage. I really miss it there. And I will be back. Next trip to Italy, Spain and back to Austria--beautiful country.I had started planning the 2nd trip on the plane ride back last summer. :) And now, to escape and relax I love to watch the Rick Steve's videos that occasionally play on tv. Thank you Rick for sharing your knowledge.
Fresno, CA USA Fri 07/22/2005
First family trip abroad
7-20-05 Our trip-background and goals We are a middle class family of four residing in Mission Viejo, CA and recently completed a 12 day driving trip of Germany and France. Our main reason for visiting Europe was to visit our 23 yr. old son who is stationed with the Air Force in Western Germany and to get an overall view of Germany, France (Paris) with a possible side trip into Austria. We used Rick's books on 1) Germany & Austria and 2) Paris, which proved to be dead-on in many respects for facts, figures and to point us in the right direction. While my wife has traveled abroad before several times, it had been over 30 years ago. My 20 year old college daughter and I had never left the North American continent although she is going to study in Italy this fall and we thought this might be a good 'break-in' trip for her. We decided to plan the whole trip ourselves and made plane reservations and hotel reservations online for 6 out of 11 nights and decided to wing the rest. Our son made the rental car reservation, picked up and dropped off the car. Note: This feedback may be of value for those who have sons or daughters stationed in Germany. I. Basic Itinerary-12 days, 7-6 through 7-18-05 Day 1-Travel-leave LAX via British Airways, 2 hour layover in London, arrive in Frankfort, which is about an hour's drive from the Ramstein and Vogelwegh bases west of Frankfort. Comments: We stayed on the Vogelweh base (reservation by son) at a hotel for visiting military/military retired families called the Ramstein Inn, easily the cheapest accommodations of the trip at $64 per night for a 2 room/2 bed /one entrance 'family room.' Not easy to get these rooms, though, we have heard. Tip: Have your military son/daughter buy gas/diesel coupons on base at half the cost of fuel off base, good only in Germany & Netherlands. Day 2-Travel to Rothenberg, medieval city, stay one night (no reservations) Comments: 2.5 hours on the Autobahn from Vogelweh. Wonderful venue, great ambiance. Don't miss the medieval museum on torture and punishment. Lot of activity in main town square; farmer's market in the AM, visiting US high school bands performing in the PM. Walked from the main town square toward the clock tower, past the tourist center one block to the Hotel Reichs-Kuchenmeister, found a small apartment; 2 rooms with small kitchen 2 singles and a double (2 singles pushed together) for 130 euro per night including parking and breakfast for 4. Not bad for a walk-in but would reserve next time. This hotel has a web site by the same name. Day 3&4-travel to Munich via Romantic Road, see Dachau and beer gardens (2 nights reservations Kings Center Hotel-a Rick recommendation) Comments: Romantic Road southbound-if you have a lot of time, fine but we ended up getting back on the Autobahn. Dachau-one of the oldest prison/concentration camps, has to be one of the most sobering places on earth but you feel like you need to see it to understand. We visited the museum, walked the grounds and saw the 22 minute movie and it was enough-you understood although not comprehend, what happened there. In Munich, we could have spent more time but we only booked 2 nights and the city was literally sold out. Better rates on weekends but lots of venues are closed on Sundays and Mondays. Toured the Alte Pinakothek museum, which was great and a value at 1 euro admission. And then ,of course-the beer gardens; Augustine Brau Munden is a short walk from the hotel, huge outdoor setting under old trees and would not miss it for the experience. The Hofbrau House is more famous, mostly indoors with the music and had better food. Would have visited more gardens if not for the rain. Day 5-Fussen and the Castles, one night(no reservations) Comments: Big mistake having no reservations. Especially in a thunderstorm which would linger in southern Germany/northern Austria for the next 4 days. Fussen seems like a nice town but is ill equipped for the crowds and traffic. Should have taken Rick's advice and booked in Reute and the rain made it miserable. Found a room late and paid the highest rate, 160 euro, outside of Paris. The castles were nice but for a very crowded hour tour each.don't know if I would do it again. Day 5, 6, 7-Change to plan B-Original plan was to hike one day in the Alps foothills, maybe do the luge, drive to Black Forest area/Fribourg on smaller roads and kind of play it by ear-no set agenda but the heavy rain and more in the forecast- changed our minds quickly. We headed northwest back to Vogelweh area to the neighboring city. of Kaiserslauten. Comments: This turned out to be a trip-saving move. K-town, as the local military personnel call it, is a city of over 100, 000 people and will be one of the main sites for the 2006 World Cup. If you are a soccer fan, Germany will be the center of the universe next year and party-central. The tourist office was the best informed we would see, bent over backwards to help us, even called several places to help us find a room. Landed a another small apartment, 2 rooms for about 95 euro/night with parking and breakfast. From here, we would access the base, go on a day trip to Trier-would recommend it, good downtown shopping and relax for a day-in sunny weather. Day 8, 9, 10-Paris, departing day 11 out of Charles de Gaulle airport Comments: It is about a 400 km, 4.5 to 5 hr. drive to Paris on their version of an Autobahn, which actually moved pretty quickly despite the 4-5 toll booths, about 25 euros (but I didn't keep track) There should be a better road map of major highways available to get into central Paris (if all roads supposedly lead into it, as we are told) A map showing the 'ports' corresponding to where your hotel is would be helpful. We were staying near the Latin Quarter, Left Bank, off St. Michel Street, near the Luxemburg Gardens and basically walked or took the Metro from there. If taking the Metro subway, buy as Rick recommends the 10 pack of tickets. We would end up taking the Metro to the airport as well, son driving the car back to K-town. We walked all over the area, took the yellow bus tour (great way to see the city if you are foot-sore and hot-we were both), visited both the Louve and the Musee D'Orsay, whose price drops to 5.5 euro if you go in the afternoon. It was unanimous-we all liked the Musee D'Orsay better. Rick's Paris book was great in pointing out the bus tours that we took advantage and the restaurant that we didn't-closed on Sundays. Our best meal-La Soufflot Café, off Soufflot Street, very courteous, professional service. Worst experience-in a noisy, busy Internet café with a local who wanted our computer when we were getting our return boarding passes. because it was the fastest one or something and so he could play an online game with his buddy. Fortunately, the matter was resolved quickly as a misunderstanding. All in all, Paris was a great city to visit. EXPENSIVE-- but a lot of fun. Estimated trip cost for 12 days/nights, roundtrip airfare(3), hotels, meals, admissions, etc--$7,500.00
We think this experience has changed us in that realizing life is short and that there is a lot more to our living than seeing our culture through the same eyes all the time.
We landed in Heathrow only 6 hours after the subway bombings and talked briefly to some commuter Brits on the airport shuttle on their way home. I would have loved to get involved in a conversation or two beyond ordering food or counting change but, maybe next time. People are busy and you have to pick your spots when they are accessible and not impose. We, as a family, would be considered left-leaning politically and generally open to making new acquaintances and living new experiences. My son appears to love travel and is excellent at figuring out ground transportation routes. He checked out the subways, riding several routes while we went to the museums. I believe my daughter has seen a lot that will help her in her upcoming fall studies in Rome.
As you gain that experience, it gives you more confidence for the next trip. Which we are already talking about.
Thanks for the great guides.
Mission Viejo, CA USA Thu 07/21/2005
Traveling in Germany
My first trip to Europe was this year. My wife and I had friends in germany. They helped with directions and train schedules. I recommend using Rick steves to help book tickets. We were worried traveling on our own but found the rail system easy to use and the Germans friendly.We used Rick Steves Guide on our whole trip and met people using it also. Dont leave home without it. We can't wait to go back!
Summerville, sc USA Mon 07/18/2005
Travel in Greece and London
My family and I spent 2 1/2 wonderful weeks in Greece prior to spending a few days in London.
We arrived the night before London learned it was awarded the 2012 Olympic bid. London was a jubiliant place to be on Wednesday, July 6th. Unfortunately, on Thursday, July 7th London was the victim of terrorist bombing attacks.
We actually felt completely safe throughout Greece (both on the Mainland and on some islands) and in London. In spite of the bombings, I would travel to London again. Be smart about how you dress (don't advertise that you are a tourist - i.e., leave the "Proud American" t-shirt at home) and be aware of your surroundings.
Being in Greece made both my husband and I re-evaluate our priorities in life. We Americans tend to rush our way through life and miss enjoying the very special moments that are part of every day. Imagine spending time talking with friends on a regular basis in a cafe, as the Greeks do; spending a long evening enjoying a meal with family and friends; taking time out to enjoy a walk together on a warm evening. While I love living in America, I do plan to incorporate some of these European traditions here at home.
San Jose, CA USA Thu 07/14/2005
Travel of a lifetime
I have always ascribed to the same "Rick Steves" philosophy. Travel is the only way to truly connect with people in other nations. Travel is for EVERYONE - don't let fears stop you. These boards are a great help to stop any fears you might have! Travel is about seeing how people in all parts of the world are basicaally the same. My family has always been travellers, we went on a driving trip from California to Costa Rica in 1974! and haven't stopped traveling since!!! Europe, now my destination of choice, is ever changing and always exciting. And in light of the the tragedy in London- I'm planning on going back sooner than expected... in solidarity, and support - not letting the 'bad guys' win!
Oregon Coast, OR USA Sat 07/09/2005
Terror and Travel
In light of the recent terrorist attacks in London, I have found that my recent travels have changed me more than I thought. Having stood in some of those very stations, rode those very trains only a few days ago, It makes world events much more "real" to me.
I geniunely feel grieved in a way I never have before over this international event. Travle has made my world become more real, more human, and, in many ways, more difficult. I now must consider the effects of what I do not on my life but on the lives of those all over the world.
Chicago, IL USA Thu 07/07/2005
Going places wakes me up.
I get trapped in routine. When I travel Europe it's like a veil is lifted from my eyes, and I feel everything differently. That is more important than buying more "stuff." I want to feel alive, and know I've done some real things in life.
Travel is miracle I can easily experience.
Toronto, CAN USA Wed 07/06/2005
For reasons I still don't understand, we used to think that traveling abroad was something "other people" did. We were, sadly, content to be armchair travelers. Thankfully, however, my husband and I discovered Rick Steves' ETBD approach and realized that Europe was ours to explore and it didn't have to cost a fortune. Having used his guides almost exclusively for over 6 years, my husband and I have found some of the most quaint hotels and superb little restaurants and pubs. Traveling LIGHT, we have experienced Europe as it was meant to be...expanding our palates and minds as we went! And while we are certainly proud to be Americans, we envy the way most Europeans seem to live their lives...less hustle and bustle and more time for GREAT food and wine, afternoon naps, and summer holidays. Americans could definitely learn a few things from the "old world."
Tampa, FL USA Sat 07/02/2005
We stayed in a REAL castle in France, thank you Rick!
We went to France for the first time last summer; although we are avid divers and have been to many islands, this was our first time to Europe. We had a few days to ourselves before staying with friends in a villa in St. Remy, Provence. I used Rick Steves guidebook on France and found the most amazing 16th century castle in Burgundy,a Bed & Breakfast that Rick had recommended, Chateaux de Melin. It was so beautiful & peaceful; off the beaten track and a great experience. Madame told me that when Rick visited the castle, he was courteous and quite modest. She didn't recognize him until he told her at the end of his stay that he was writing "a little travel book." She was happy because almost all of her American guests are equally nice because they used Rick Steve's book to find the castle. This little gem was not in any other guidebooks! I was nervous planning our trip by ourselves but using his guidebook was extremely helpful. This makes traveling so much easier and you find things most other travelers don't. His advice to accept the cultural differences, not condemn them was helpful as we found the French to be very nice. Speak as much French as you can and respect their customs. Maybe because we followed Rick's advice, we had no problems! My husband and I fell so in love with France, we're planning on returning this autumn to Champagne... using Rick's guidebook, of course! Discovering Europe through the back door was one of the best vacations we've ever had. Can't wait to see the rest of Europe now!!!
Doylestown, PA USA Mon 06/27/2005
Changed Me and My Body
I'm always a different person for the better when I return from overseas. It seems to be strong for several weeks and then declines but still I have been changed. Another thing I noticed was my body changed. I actually got slimmer and better looking. It's true. I have a couple of theories. One is that when you're around people you become like them, even in body shape. In northern Europe most people are thin and many are good looking. Well, I don't know how but it rubs off! Does anyone else buy this theory?
Boston, MA USA Thu 06/23/2005
Summer Solstice in the Vienna Woods
With my wife and children back in the States since school ended, I made the impromptu decision to go for a walk in the woods after work. It was a beautiful cloudless evening with temps in the 70s and the setting sun painted the forest and vineyards beautiful shades of gold. It was only as I was walking on a path through the trees that I suddenly realized that my walk was taking place on the longest day of the year: The "mid-summer night" of yore (called mid-summer night because it marks the midpoint of the European growing season). Although I didn't see any witches dancing in the woods or any farmers lighting bon fires, I did see 2 deer and a bounding jack rabbit. I also enjoyed some stunning vistas of vineyards and forests and the Neustift valley. At 8:45 in the evening, a tractor was still active among the vines. Sunset was not till 9:00pm and it didn't get dark until 9:30. In the gathering gloom, I stopped at a wine-garden and had a glass of "Heurig" (the most recent vintage) while sitting under a trellis of grape vines. All-in-all, a great way to mark a minor milestone, the passing of another Spring. I think I will make this walk a yearly tradition. From this day forward, the days will again begin to get shorter until the sun sets at 4pm on 21 December. I've already put a note in my e-calendar for that day to remind me of my walk in the vineyards on mid-summer's night. Carpe diem!
Vienna, Austria, Wed 06/22/2005
I have traveled extensively in the US and parts of Canada, but I'd never been "overseas" until 2000. We read Europe Through the Back Door before we left even though we were taking a tour. The information we gained enabled us to save $$ on meals and be more independent then most of the folks on our tour. Embolded by our success we went back to Eurpope in 2002 and spent a week in London & Paris...using Rick Steve's guide books of course. No tour this time! Even further encouraged we spent a month in Itlay in 2003 (we even drove!)and love it. We're converts now although we stil have a bit to learn about packing light. When Rick says you'll carry your luggage more than you think....believe him!
Seattle, WA USA Sun 06/19/2005
How travel changed me
Standing in front of one of the world's great monuments, I was awed by what people can accomplish when they work together. Instead of saying something can't be done, I now look for ways it could be done. Imagine what things we could accomplish now if only people would work together.
Vancouver, Canada Thu 06/16/2005
Wonderful trip thanks to your expert advice
Just wanted to thank you for helping make possible an amazing trip to London, Germany and Austria. I was only out of the country once before on a tour of Italy and while it was beautiful, it could not compare with traveling as a "temporary european" I have to admit I was a little nervous but we were fine with your book in hand. When we got off the train, we followed directions in the book that told us to go out of station, make left and catch #201 bus to town, and there it was. We met an amazing 79 year old German woman on the train from Salzburg to Munich, who recounted her memories of the war and the bombing of Nurenburg and recalled Hitler and his parades of troups through her town. Living history and a memorable moment we would not have had on a tour. Or the young man whose father spent 30 yrs working in the salt mines in Austria. We also met fellow travelers with your book in hand and shared experiences with them. Thanks again for making such a wonderful trip possible!!!!!!!!!!!! Travel surely broadens your perspective of the world. I embraced the likeness and differences between us and learned our way is not the only way and there are things we can learn about priorities in living. Thanks again for making possible an amazing experience that would not have been possible without your help and expert advice! I'm back to work saving and planning for another deam vacation abroad!
East Rutherford, NJ USA Wed 06/15/2005
I have the Bug
I was in graduate school many years ago and decided to take my last class abroad since my school had a actual college(not another study abroad school)in Greece. Out of all my education it was by far the best and well worth the money.
I met exciting people that i am still friends with today and had a chance to live the culture.
When ever possible I took off for a weekend to another country. Since I was already in Europe it was much cheaper to fly whereever I wanted.
I never had the culture shock you sometimes hear about going over but I did coming back. I cried for about a month or two and hated being back home.
Now I travel twice a year overseas. Usually to parts or Europe and Asia. I have been very blessed to not have a job that says no you can not go on vacation. Whenever I am on a special project I usually ask for comp-time vs. a bonus and use that toward planning my trips. It is way better than the money.
I sometimes wonder why I never became a flight attendant with an airline that travels to several different conutries, but I like love the career field I am in.
Traveling opens your eyes to everything some good and some bad. It also gives you a new perspective on things and people. It is a learning experience far byond what any book can teach you. It is like reading about scuba diving and actually doing it. Then once you have that experience you want to sucba dive in different areas of the world because you have come to know that there is an entire world just under the surface to the water.
Newport Beach, Ca USA Wed 06/15/2005
Dear Rick Steves and Friends,
I want to thank you for making my 3 week trip to France in May 2003, a fabulous, once in a life time trip.
I found and bought two cheap roundtrip airfare tickets from Salt Lake City to Paris on hotwire.com at the end of 2002. My daughter and I were going to spend about 5 days in Paris (A life long dream of mine) and then spend 2 to 3 weeks touring the Brittish Isles (her life long dream). About a month before we left, she found she could not go, so I decided I wouldn't go either, as I didn't want to travel alone.
The day before we were suppose to leave, I up and decided to use my unfundable ticket and go to Paris alone anyway. I went to Barnes and Noble that night and bought Rick's book on France. I read it on the airplane and my first two days in Paris. On day 2 in Paris I made the decision to spend all 3 weeks touring France. All my pre-trip research and itinerary had been for the BI.
I studied and followed Rick's suggestions of the best to see in France in 3 weeks. I was saavy, smart, knew how to get from the airport to the hotel by subway, how to buy a one week subway pass that saved me money, knew how and where to buy a phone card and make accomodation reservations one or two days in advance, I knew what to see and how to see it. I traveled like a pro and saw much more than I could have ever seen with Rick's wonderful book!!! It was like having my own personal travel guide.
My route was Paris to Loire to Dordogne, Provence and the French Riviera. I stayed only at those places recommeded by Rick and I told each of them "Rick Steves" sent me. They treated me like first class! I took Rick's recommended mini van tours in the Loire Valley and Dordogne River Valley (views to die for!).
In the Loire I stayed at the perfectly quaint and inexpensive Cafe des Arts (page 206) and it was perfect for a single lady, age 50. My absolute favorite place to stay was at the Sicards (page 233) in Sarlat, in the Dordogne.
I simply followed Rick's recommedations for walking and mini-bus tours, all the sights and small towns on the way, ate at all his recommended restaurants, and, in short, found my way in France perfectly with his book in hand.
I cannot thank you enough for making this a trip of a life time. It was my gift to myself for my 50th birthday. Thank you! Thank you!
Your fellow traveler,
salt lake city, ut USA Fri 06/10/2005
EU - France/Netherlands
The French and Dutch no votes were very different. In the case of France it was an unholy alliance between the anti-EU/anti-immigrant right wing, and the anti-"Anglo-Saxon" left wing. Both groups seem to live in a fantasy world without globalization and eastward EU expansion. They likely did all their causes a disservice. It was stereotypical Old Europe, demonstrating that Europeans aren't inherently more enlightened than Americans.
I see this discussion going somewhat off the topic per the title. Nevertheless, this is an interesting discussion that seems to be attracting a following from posters around the world May I suggest to the webmaster that a replacement thread be established?
London, UK Wed 06/08/2005
KPO, you got it right, France or Dutch citizens didn't vote against United Europe, they voted against the threat of loosing a lot of their social advantages and rights in a system they see too much of a free market, too similar to the system you have in the USA. They are afraid this is not going to be the United Europe of the europeans people, but more the United Europe of the big multinationals capitalism where the needs and will of the european's people won't really count anything.
Rome, ITALY Wed 06/08/2005
could it be that the europeans see the EU moving more towards a more North American system, more of a free market system. Netherlands afraid it will lose thier liberal rights. France afraid it will lose their individuality...
USA Tue 06/07/2005
Charles M. Luther
I don't read this web site for the politics or the history and I dearly wish this discussion would concentrate on How Has Travel Changed You? Especially since so few of the posters here seem to have any real knowledge of history or the psychology of nations. Other countries have had leaders whom I did not care for and their people at times were less than happy with America but it didn't stop me from going to their countries and enjoying it and them. We have had presidents who I thought little better than common criminals or idiots but I still came home from those trips.
USA Mon 06/06/2005
travel to Europe! and Turkey
2001&04 we backpacked in Europe/turkey.Read Rick's book "by back door".Our lives will never be dull again. Wonderful!We didn't carry more than 20 lbs,rolled all our clothes and wore 2 pr of socks at all times. We saw Rick on Turkey, can't thank him enough.We spent 1 mon there in 04.People great! Made many friends in 01, saw many again last year. Can hardly wait to go back. Took over500 pics each year, wrote a Journal that friends are still reading. Had my 71st birthday in Assisi in 01.We hope to stay longer next year. Sorry Rick we will always travel on our own .It's just so restful and we came home with our heads full of people, not things.We love the Greek Is-we love everywhere--&everything.Tesekkur,Efcharisto, We love your travel shows Rick--Thanks!!I must tell you we have always been quite active, but when we decided to go we bought our packs in Jan o1 and excerised everyday until fall 01. I lifted weights as well.We walked miles and never had a sore muscle. Preparation is everthing!!!
Westbank, BC canada Sun 06/05/2005
Just a gentle correction, Faith. It was Canadians that liberated Holland not the U.S.
a Vet's dughter
AB Canada Sat 06/04/2005
Recent trip to Italy
A couple of weeks ago I spent 10 very interesting days in Italy, mainly in Rome but also in parts of southern Italy.
I found Italy to be VERY expensive and tried to save money as much as possible. I was able to stay with my husband's aunt in the Nomentana section of Rome, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to afford staying in Rome as many days as I did.
I found McDonald's to be one of the cheaper places to eat and drink in and they are everywhere. The Italians appear to love McDonald's as much as Americans do.
I found the people very friendly and helpful. Bus 64 to the Vatican was just as awlful as Rick Steves claimed it to be. I didn't bother taking it again. The other buses were fine however. The graffiti on the walls in most of Rome is quite sinister looking and appear to be written by far right or left wing political groups.
I visited 6 or 7 museums while in Italy. I found the National Museum, the Vatican Museum and the Museum in Napoli to be the very best. The Vatican Museum line is a nightmare inside and out.I enjoyed Ostia Antiqa and Erclano and I heartily recommend both. I spent 4 hours in Ostia and didn't see half of it.
It seems to me that the Euro has had quite a detrimental effect on the economy in Italy. My aunt told me that the value of her government pension had fallen by nearly a third since it was introduced and this has become quite a hardship for her since she rents her apartment.
I thought the transportation situation was good although trains are a bit expensive. It appears that no one in Rome bothers to punch their their bus or subway tickets except on Sundays on the way to church!
Rick Steves' book (Rome 2005) was very helpful. Too bad about his political agenda working its way into his professional role as a travel advisor. I had only one discussion about politics in Italy. This was at the beautiful (and very clean) youth hostel in Pompeii. There I met a Dutch fellow who is writing a novel on Pompeii. He tried to convince me that the US can be compared to ancient Roman, imperial ambitions, ect. I quite disagreed with him and reminded him that the US traditionally prefers to stay out of foreign conflicts but that WWII had traumatized our country after losing so many lives in order to liberate Europe from the Nazis.
I imagine that Europe and especially places like Holland and Italy would be very different places today if the people of the United States of America had not acted as they did!
I would like to travel more in Italy. There is so much to see there. I also recommend traveling with Rick Steves' books since they are quite accurate and up to date. I only found 2 instances of mistakes (minor ones). I felt well prepared and it paid off in every way.
USA - Israel Sat 06/04/2005
How did I end up here?
I don?t know how I ended up on this site but I have read some comments, and I would like to present some sources that shed a little light on recently mentioned competitivness and freedom of the press:
Freedom of the press here:
EU Fri 06/03/2005
How France Changed my Homme
I have been abroad before, however, it was o'er thirty years ago. My new husband (60y/o) went with me on a Rick Steve's Tour. During the whole trip he looked, longingly, for McDonald's... though the bus (thankfully) never stopped. Now, on our first morning back in the states...he wandered around in a jet-lagged haze and said, "Where are my croissants?". So there might be hope for me to find a little stone cottage in the Loire to call home. PS: A thought to all you political junkies: As a Libertarian, I find politics to be interesting...yet, insignificant. No matter which country you live in, you are either in the ruling class or the peasant class. If you find a way to make it to the ruling class, I hope you are a young male around 25 who is looking to marry a gorgeous 22y/o spoiled girl (brunette), who lives for clothes...especially cavali and DG. She works hard, but she would make an excellent mistress of a chateau, as long as it has a cute gate-keeper's cottage for her mother.
Redmond, wa USA Thu 06/02/2005
Europe as the Europeans See It
Want to know what Europeans think of Europe? Just look at the polls. With the French and now the Dutch both overwhelmingly rejecting the EU constitution, it appears that Europeans are increasingly wary of the growing European bureaucracy. On a related note, I can't tell you how many "Schengen Nein!" signs I saw on the sides of the roads in Switzerland (opposing extension of the 12-nation "free travel" zone to non-EU Switzerland). It's far more illuminating to come here with these in mind.
London, UK Wed 06/01/2005
We've been traveling to Europe twice a year (for 3 to 4 weeks at a time) for several years. We love the European lifestyle and fortunately we don't have to pay for it. Taxation in Europe is out of sight, government bog-down is unbelievable, transportation and the "free press" are heavily paid for by the government and let's face it, you can't be competative in the global economy with 6 weeks of vacation and short work weeks. On the plus side, they've got a great lifestyle especially if you have Blue Cross Insurance (as I have cause to know). Don't get me wrong - I really really do love Europe or I wouldn't be going there so much. Just take off the blinders - they're not perfect and neighter are we!
San Diego, CA USA Wed 06/01/2005
It is rather interesting how different people see the same thing so differently. Travel to Europe has been a wonderful experience for me. I have made about 20 trips and always see something new and often wonderful. However, I am not blind to the down side. The previous writer noted that European cars get higher gas mileage -and did not mention that that is because they have much less effective pollution control devices and are smaller (and hence more dangerous). Holland is probably going to go to a very stiff mileage charge (on top of a $6 or so price of gas) to retard driving, which indicates how the Dutch, like the Anmericans, find cars so efficient and helpful. That in a country in which public transportation is a dream by any standards. In Europe, we are told, they take long vacations. That is true in some, but not all, countries of Europe. However, in Germany, for instance, you are not allowed to take a part-time job during your vacation ("Take that vacation or we throw you in jail, Mein Herr!) The need for such a regulation says quite a lot. Europe is ruled by elites (as has always been the case), which means Europeans are much less free than Americans are. If you actually could be transformed into a European (not an American living in Europe) you would find it stultifying. As Rick Steves says he does, make Europe your playground.
New York City, USA Wed 06/01/2005
My wife and I have gone to europe every year for the last ten years, and it is always great. True, we do not go to the rough outskirts of Paris. But I don't go to Harlem when I am in New York either. Each society has flaws. But, when in europe you cannot help but notice the different and better solutions to problems such as public transportation, homelessness or soft drug.I have noticed the friendliness in every country we have visited, even in recent years!I am sure that europe right now is less fun for any Bush supporter than for any democrat. Travel is said to be fatal to prejudice, and I wish some of the anti-europe crowd could go over and see it. But they would need a change in attitude before they left. By itself europe can't open a closed mind.
columbus, OH USA Wed 06/01/2005
Transportation--Two Different Paths
In my journeys to Europe I have been very impressed with the wisdom of their approach to issues of transportation. It really opened my eyes and led me to read more on the subject when I got home. While we "went down the road" almost exclusively with the automobile (low miles per gallon average in the national fleet), Europe has invested in trains, subways, infrastructure, and high miles per gallon automobiles. It is so smooth and easy (and fun) to get around the entire continent. I also like that when you get into a train or bus in Europe you face the people in the next seat, making it much easier to connect and converse. In the U.S. we all stare forward in solitude. I was stunned to learn that if America's cars were as fuel efficient (34 mpg average) as Europe's we would not need to import any Middle Eastern Oil. On top of that if we had a public transportation system similar to what they have built we would be totally energy self sufficient! I was surprised to learn that decades ago, we allowed a consortium of tire, auto, and oil companies to purchase the public transportation system of Los Angeles and demolish it. Too many of our transportation decisions have been made by corporations following their own self interest and profit margins and too little with long term national interests in mind. We are now dependent on sources beyond our control that threaten our economy and makes life precarious for us. We spend a fortune on our military (and lives of our sons and daughters) to protect the oil life line that sustains us and keeps our SUV's running. We drill in our last pristine wilderness areas to keep us fuelishly driving down the highway, usually one person to a vehicle. Too bad we didn't follow the intelligent, farsighted, visionary path of Europe that would have led us to energy independence and increased national security.
Virginia Beach, VA USA Tue 05/31/2005
EU vs. USA: Rick Steves
Of course travel has changed me--if any experience has not changed me, I would not be a human being! -- Having returned from Paris, TONIGHT, I am convinced that Rick's opinion that the French and other Europeans have 'it' all in the balance is wrong.
CNN and the BBC, and the protests in the street (which I witnessed this past week), all seem to proclaim that France will reject the European Union Constitution on May 29. They are not happy with Chirac--his approval rating is 39%! France has 10% unemployment! After the May 22 elections in Germany, Schroeder had to move up the general elections! The socialist countries have to reconsider liberal (i.e. Free Market Capitalist) structures for success! Riding the RER daily from the suburbs revealed to me how many Parisians' lives occur FAR, FAR from Rue Cler, that beaux idee of Parisian living! Too many beggars, too many homeless, too many waiting to scavenge what others may leave behind between Les Halles and CDG! Europe-- the EU-- has no more solved the problem of capitalism vs. socialism vs. consumerism than the United States has!
FYI: We were a little amused how many people were carrying around, and referring to, their Rick Stevs' books on Rue Cler! Our rule of thumb by now for any European visit is to keep ANY guidebook or map out of sight!
Wichita, ks USA Fri 05/27/2005
Re: KPO'M Grass is greener
Thanks KPO'M for your feedback. Its good to have a perspective from a person actually living in Europe. I have been looking seriously at the living situation/education outlook in Czech Rep, Germany, & UK, where we have friends & family, to decide what college my daughter may transfer for a year from her USA college. Its all about educating ourselves with real numbers/information, without the hype, to weigh what's better/worse than right here in the USA, before making the commitment. Things like "can she get a job to support her extra expenses?" are just as big issue as the education standard. All three of these countries have a higher rate of unemployment than the USA. Its easy to think somewhere outside of the USA is a better place to live when seeing all the beautiful places & people for a few days or weeks, but its different when these same people actually need to make the commitment using hard facts. Don't get me wrong...I love Europe & looking to buy a second home there myself for vacation & not to live there until after I retire with my USA made pension/401K.
CA USA Thu 05/26/2005
It has been said many times that you don't know your own country until you travel to other countries. That is very true, but getting more than a tourists view of other societies is not all that easy. That is particularly true of Europe where the long and interesting history (and associated architecture) does tend to dazzle.
As far as Rick Steves' politics being laughable -of course they are. He is now just another stooge of Public Television (and radio). Read the reviews of his Europe 101 at Amazon.com and get a bit of a shock.
USA Thu 05/26/2005
Just got back from Europe
My 12 year old daughter and I just got back from Europe (Paris, Switzerland (Nyon / Geneva) and Venice. This was our first trip abroad. It was a wonderful experience. Rick's books were everywhere!! We had ours and it was right on! We met great folks from the USA. I really felt so proud to be an American-a Black American! I had to throw out all my generalities about race, people and cultures right out the window! I will say that Rick made it possible for us to even consider going to Europe. His books and shows take the fear of the unknown away and really gives you an easy to understand vision of Europe! We can't wait to go back!!!
Cockesyville, MD USA Wed 05/25/2005
Re: the Grass is Greener
You're right about education in the UK "CA." In the council just north of where I live, over 200 students (about age 13) don't have ANYWHERE to go to school next fall. Furthermore, there is a real concern that universities (even Cambridge/Oxford) are falling behind, due to lack of funding. This is something you find out from living here. Travelers should also seriously consider listening to the local talk radio (it isn't all right-wing here) or reading the local papers. Naturally, that's possible only in a few countries (unless you are multilingual), but it provides a good insight into what the citizens are thinking.
London, UK Mon 05/23/2005
There's nothing laughable about Rick's politics. You don't have to travel very long in Europe before starting to see the various ways in which their social organization is better than ours. (There are other ways in which it is worse, but that is not my point). His politics reflect his experience and the experience of travel. If Americans understood Europe better they would understand we have more choices than we think about ways to improve our society.
USA Mon 05/23/2005
The grass is greener
Prolonged travel visiting family over the years has shown me that while conditions in places may seem very different to a 1 to 7 day visitor, some issues are similar no matter where you live. The old saying of the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence comes to my mind. For example: London is experiencing crisis with their education system. English is the second language for a good portion of the students attending primary & secondary school there. Also London housing is so expensive in comparision to the school budget for teachers' wages, and they're having a hard time keeping or filling positions - even with offering teachers an extremely low percentage loan(I think its something like 3%) for buying a home. In addition, the parents are limited to sending their children to a particular school in their district. The situation in California is pretty much the same. We might be from different parts of the world but, parental concern for children's education is one of those things making us all the same inside.
CA USA Fri 05/20/2005
NYC - Paris - London and Beyond
I've had to completely change the way I look at big cities -- I went to NYC from Denver this past summer, and my Mom was recently there with my aunt visiting my brother who recently moved to Manhattan. All of us were impressed with the feeling of safety we had in NY, and the willingness of New Yorkers to help us with directions, and just talk with us in general. I felt the same in London and Paris when we were there in 2003. Rome was rougher to me -- perhaps because it was so crowded and I found it a bit less friendly, but as my husband and I continued on to Athens and Istanbul, we got a renewed feeling of safety and friendliness of the people. I think some of it is attitude, smart travelling, and the rest is just the fact that most places are generally safe. In reality, we're all basically the same, and don't live all that differently. I bet I'd feel safe in Bangkok or Bombay too, it's just a matter of how smart you travel and how you look at the world around you. Sure, I wouldn't be hanging around the streets too far uptown in Harlem at 3 in the morning like I would down in the Village, but I wouldn't do it in certain parts of Denver either.
Denver, CO USA Wed 05/18/2005
I live in NYC and feel completely safe. I ride the subway and walk the street very late at night and I have never had any trouble in the ten years that I lived here. From the news that I see on the BBC website crime in Europe is on the rise and is no better than in the US.
New York, NY USA Mon 05/16/2005
Rich~~I completely agree with you. I feel alot safer in Europe then I do here in my home town. When we are in London its so peaceful at night, we always take the tube and walk to the hotel from the station after being at the theater. Like you said, Europe has their problems, but it is safer over there. Every morning on the news we here about shootings and killings the day before in Dayton, Ohio which we live 20 miles from. There isn't a day that goes pass without a shoting there. How sad!!
USA Mon 05/16/2005
European lifestyle envy
The cleanliness and almost-litter-free countryside of Germany have made me, too, embarrassed by the layer of trash covering much of our own beautiful state of California. Granted, we're too stony-broke to pay people to clean up after us, but why must we be such slobs in the first place? Once-elegant San Francisco is covered with trash, much of it dropped by school children who seem to have been raised by no-one at all. Why can't we have pride in the beauty of our land, as the Germans obviously do in theirs?
What impresses me even more about Germany--not generally known as a country of laid-back fun-lovers--is that instead of working overtime every day as so many of us do, they keep the whole evening, "Feierabend," ("party evening") for family and friends. At first I used to wonder why obviously German families were hanging around the pedestrian zones in German cities at 5:30 in the evening. It struck me as an unnatural sight--a sad commentary on American sensibilities. Then, abashed, I realized that the working day was over and they were simply spending pleasant, low-key time together (not "quality time" necessarily, just normal time) and enjoying each other's company. What a concept! From other postings, I've learned that this is also common behavior in other European countries. I know that many of us must work almost 24/7 to make ends meet; why don't Europeans?
We are the richest country in the world--despite our current financial mess--and yet we can't afford to indulge in the simplest and cheapest of pleasures: being with the people we love best. I think it IS "can't," too, not "won't," except for the very creative and/or fortunate types who are able to change their way of life drastically in order to put family ahead of work. And, of course, we need the equivalent of the pedestrian zone in which to gather with neighbors. How soon would such a place be vandalized out of recognition, the hang-out of gang members? Lest some person of a different political persuasion suggest that if I don't love my country, I should leave it, I hasten to say that I do indeed love California, of which I'm a fourth-generation native. I wonder, though, if it will ever be possible to live as pleasantly here as people do in Europe.
San Francisco, CA USA Mon 05/16/2005
My husband and I just returned from a trip to Germany and Austria. After seeing the cleanliness of the countryside and along the highways, compared to CA, I was almost embarassed to say I am from the USA. The CA roads are horribly littered and we are a nation of wasteful people. Espeically when I saw the people, young and old, carrying their own baskets to the grocery stores and markets, as not to waste bags.
The big eye opener, however, was at a couple of town festivals that we attended. There were no paper plates, paper cups, or plastic utensils. Everything was glass and regular eating utensils. When people were done eating, the dishes and utensils were returned to the booths where they had purchased their food and beverage. There was no litter. Even the day after the festivals, you wouldn't know anything had taken place. Everything was immaculate. Some of us Americans can certainly learn a lesson or two from the German and Austrian people.
San Jose, CA USA Mon 05/16/2005
London, UK Fri 05/13/2005
Reflections From My Travels
I came late in life to world travel, but now am hooked! One of the big things that struck me in my travels in Europe is the contrast with American cities. Even in my fairly small northern town we have a significant homeless/transient, sometimes violent population, that has greatly impacted the safety and quality of life for the citizens. This is a growing issue and is being felt throughout our country. Our society is increasingly creating more "losers"--people that have fallen through the cracks of the safety net due to mental illness, drug abuse, joblessness, etc and wind up on the streets of our towns. I expected to see the same in Europe. I was stunned that in months of traveling throughout Europe and walking the biggest cities late into the night, that it was so much safer. The quality of the urban experience is so much higher. Their cultures, obviously, create fewer "have nots" and the ones who need help are, by and large, getting it. It is so refreshing to not see so many wasted lives--lost souls who end up impacting everybody. A kinder, gentler, more caring society is what I found in Europe. America has become more and more a place of "every man for himself"--lonely people driving in solitude, vacant faces in the malls, dysfunctional families. We are birthing a mutant culture, cut of from each other and the world. In Europe the human spirit is alive. Cities are vibrant and theirs is a social contract of interconnection and caring. Our country has taken personal independence (I'm in it for ME) to a dead end. Europe has adopted interdependence and is thriving culturally. Yes, I know they have their issues, problems, and challenges, too, but there is something very special in Europe that they have held on to that we have not.
Fairhaven, WA USA Wed 05/11/2005
A Better World
If you travel with an open heart and mind, you will come to the same conclusions as Rick. Traveling the ETBD made me confront my own limiting attitudes and beliefs. You can grow beyond seeing the world through the narrow lens of national self(ish) interest and see that we are all the same and in this together. Travel is a great opportunity to build bridges between people and cultures, and to build a new world of peace and understanding. Rick helped me to see that how we travel and how we act out there on the road are important in the grand scheme of things. Each of us, through our actions, can create a better world. I am returning to Europe this summer for my fourth extended trip in the last four years--enjoying the sights and people and also doing my small part. Thanks Rick!
Missoula, Montana USA Wed 05/11/2005
Politics and Rick
Rick's politics are Rick's but they do come from years of travelling in Europe, and expresses what I would consider the European point of view. Us Americans can't seem to have a political conversation or express ourselves without "offending" people. It's why we only have two parties and some other countries have 26. It's called tolerance of hearing another perspective, getting over it, and voting (or ignoring) whatever you please. If you don't like Rick's books sprinkled with a little well-thought-out opinion, just try to get the same info out of Fodor's or god forbid, Frommer's. Good luck to you. And as Rick says, "Happy Travelling!"
P.S. Maybe if you actually spent some time out of the country seeing ETBD you'd get what he's talking about.
Denver, CO USA Tue 05/10/2005
To KPO'M - I assume you are living in UK? Anyway, to compare US Arabs and French Arabs is apples/oranges. Americans in General are wealthier, monetarily speaking. And I feel that the more apt comparrison would be to compare French Arabs to Mexican Americans (and I am not being racist, but trying to make a comparison.) To get to the US from the middle east does cost. I have discovered after being in Paris for a year now the one thing that makes me consistently insane about France is the burocracy here. Just trying to buy a bed felt like a day at the DMV. But all that said, I would not trade this experience of living here for anything. KPO'M and I are both lucky in that we can absorb all the positive, take with us the fabulous aspects of living in our temporary countries, and then upon returning to the US, assimilate only the good. As someone once said, travel completes the education.
Paris through 2007, USA Tue 05/10/2005
About Rick's Politics
Since I agree with Rick's politics, I do not find his politicizing offensive. And given the fact that Europe is often described as the biggest blue state in the world, I think it is relevant; his politicizing, I feel, more expresses the European point of view. If I didn't agree with him politically, I might agree with you. Hard to say.
Madison, WI USA Tue 05/10/2005
Travel Guides - Political Guides?
Travel does broaden one's horizons. I've used Rick's travel books since my first trip to Europe in 1987. I've bought his travel products and enjoy his shows. I value his travel advice and experience. It's a shame he is politicizing his web site and newsletter. Left or right, I don't come to Rick for politics. Stick to your excellent travel knowledge Rick. Your sometimes shrill polemics risk turning people off
Lakeland, FL USA Mon 05/09/2005
Travel in Italy and Finding the Kindest People in Paris!
In 1998 I traveled to Italy for the first time. RS's books on Italy, Florence & Rome were one of my first investments. I had been referred to them by a friend - had never heard of Rick Steve's before. What a great resource. Determined to return, I went again for Natale 1999-NY 2000. Once again, your books were the mainstay of my travel research. I booked the hotel RS suggested in Venice (Da Bruno) from the hotel in Florence with minimal difficulty (it was all but impossible to get hotel rooms at that time). And I was not disappointed. I returned to Venice just last summer and booked into Da Bruno again!
The philosophy about back-door travel permeated my approach to travel. I found that as a result it was easier to meet people, easier to negotiate tickets, hotels, restaurants - and more enjoyable.
I've heard horror stories from people traveling in Europe, but I haven't experienced any of that myself. Perhaps I'm just lucky, but I have always felt welcomed and safe - not too safe for an adventure, though!
This travel definitely changed my life. My family nodded wisely when I first went, "A TRIP of a LIFETIME!" Then I went the next year and then 6 months later, and then again in another 6 months...and on and on.
I wish I had started sooner, younger. But, my interactions with people, the places I have seen, the joy and perspective, are all irreplaceable.
My first time actually STAYING in Paris: (I always fly through on Air France, but have only had opportunity to remain for any time one wet and cold January.)I had my Rick Steves Paris book and a small phrasebook from Lonely Plant (very helpful - gives the phonetics - clear organization). I was on a mission to walk from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower as I only had an afternoon in town. I knew exactly where I was and wanted to stay off the main street which runs along the Seine, choosing instead to parallel the route on a series of smaller, more commodius streets. I stopped for a moment to look up at a wonderful piece of architecture and check my progress on my map. A smallish, impeccably dressed Parisian matron approached. She was wearing a lovely wool coat with a sumptuous fur collar and matching fur hat. Her handbag and shoes also matched perfectly and she appeared, frankly, as you would expect any female citizen of that fashion capital to appear. She smiled at me and offered, "Are you lost?" At least I assume that was what she was saying as she said it completely in French. I'd been struggling on the plane before we landed to review my pitiful vocabulary in that language: "Frere Jacques, Frere Jacques, dorme vous. Dorme vous? Bon appetit, merci, oui..." That's about it. Nevertheless, I thought (back-door like), "She's being kind enough to offer me assistance and even though I'm not lost, I will not be rude and wave her off." I nodded my head affirmatively, uttering what I assume to be a passable, "Oui. Ou est Eiffel Tower?" She took the map from my hands and busily explained (again all in French) where I should go, along with great comments about what I would see along the way (I believe that was it). All the while I nodded happily, "Oui, oui, oui." She smiled and graciously handed me back my map and I said "Au revoir." She said something appropriate to departrue and then continued on her way.
Now that was PRICELESS! How kind people in Paris were to me, but she took the cake!
Oakland, CA USA Mon 05/09/2005
Go Rick! I love your insightful analysis and wisdom regarding world politics. Hearing you speak as a visionary Citizen of the World (with great humor) while others are blinded by fear and nationalism (see below) is truly refreshing.
Mesa, Arizona USA Sat 05/07/2005
Rick is a tour guide; he is not a serious student of economics and politics. That his political views are mostly laughable has been noted many times before. I say, forget it, and listen to his advice on getting around, etc. Tune out when he gets to the nonsense -which admittedly does happen a lot.
USA Sat 05/07/2005
Rick: I love your show, I buy your books and have often wished I had your life -- I, like you, love traveling in Europe. But I have to say that your recent propensity to insert politics into your travelogues is getting annoying and is bordering on the offensive. People don't want to be lectured to by you or anyone else on political matters. That's not why you enjoy the success you've achieved -- and you risk losing that success if you alienate your readers and viewers. In your rosy "European Dream" piece, you neglect to mention the EU's chronic unemployment (8.9% -- 10% in Germany and France) and its moribund, overregulated economy. You say they're considering abolishing their armies while the warmonger U.S. continues to build its military. Exactly who in the world do you expect will deal with an increasingly hostile Iran, North Korea and China, among many others? Don't forget that the EU stood by helplessly while the slaughter was raging in Kosovo -- only after the U.S. intervened did the carnage end. Do you seriously believe that the EU's "go along to get along" approach in international affairs is the best way to deal with these real challenges that lie ahead?
Los Angeles, CA USA Sat 05/07/2005
To Donna Knight who loves Italy and nowhere else: PLEASE travel to other counties! That will enhance your experiences in Italy - It won't make you love Italy less, and you may love it more. But there are so many other wonderful places waiting for you to explore - try Greece, or Nice and Monaco. You can also try Mexico - if what you want is a culture with more "life" to it and a great enjoyment of family and food. Not to mean that other countries don't have that! You all know what I mean.
FL USA Sat 05/07/2005
Europe & Beyond
Even though Rick doesn't have a book (or at least not back in 2003) on Turkey and Istanbul, he did talk about it in his ETBD book. I had never been to Europe before, and my husband and I traveled from London to Paris, Venice, Florence, Rome, Athens, and then to Izmir, Turkey and our last stop was in Istanbul.
In Izmir, I saw for the first time how a people who can be so poor economically can be so rich in culture and tradition, not to mention friendliness. Their cultural personality was just as Rick had described -- rougher around the edges, but if you can get past their lack of refinement, they are jewels to know.
I was stared at like I was Julia Roberts in Izmir, and we were treated like royalty at a restaurant near the water that night. They were absolutely delighted by our attempts to speak Turkish out of our phrasebook. When the waiter who served us only knew the foreign word "Auf Wiedersehen", said it each time he brought us each course.
I heard the Call to Prayer several times a day, and we partied among the Turks in Istanbul during Ramadan. A woman in Sultanamet came out of her restaurant to ask if we were Americans, and THANKED us for coming to Istanbul.
I got to see how Muslims really are. Diverse in opinions and depth of religion and spirituality, just like us.
Rick, we bought all of your books for each city you had published in. By the time we got to Athens and were stuck with the Fodor's book, we realized how valuable your books are. Thank you.
This fall, we're taking our parents and my aunt to Paris. Everyone's bought your book, and I sent my Aunt a copy of ETBD since she's never travelled overseas. She already says it's a fun read and it's taking the fear out of "dealing with the French", who anyone who has travelled there knows they are much kinder than their reputation. I can't wait for her to experience the real Paris -- through the back door too. Thanks again.
Denver, CO USA Sat 05/07/2005
I love the heart and souls of fellow travelers! I didn't start traveling until my mid-forties. I regret not starting earlier and spending my money on "stuff" I'm currently trying to get rid of. My husband and I have also opted for older cars and a smaller home. I too think "do I want to spend this money now on this, or later in Europe?" I wish the US was filled with travelers.
Portland, OR USA Fri 05/06/2005
Traveling Italy With An Open Mind!
I thik that travel has changed me and made me a better person,to think out of the box and our small minds here in America!I am 45 and have been to Europe 5 times,and of those trips I have been to Italy 3 times,and I will be going back in three years.My goal is to move to Italy,when I retire.I like the way the Italians think of life,and I have made some wonderful friendships along the way.I get a sense off peace every time I return to Rome and Italy.The people of Italy are so gracious and kind,they know how to enjoy life.My Mom and I have used your books on Italy and find them very informative,they tell you some awesome short cuts.I have meet some great people in Italy,they enjoy it when you try to emerse yourself in their culture and not to bring yours there.When I go to Italy I spend the time before learning the language,and reading up on things about Italy.They get such a thrill that I'm even trying.I look forward to my next trip with my Mom,exploring Italy.
Karen V Filos
Luling, La USA Fri 05/06/2005
Travel totally changed me!
Definitely!!I spend more time on traveling than working.Traveling is essential, it's a shortcut to better life!
taipei, Taiwan Thu 05/05/2005
Travel vs Home Improvements
Totally agree! We have no kids (just didn't happen), 2 of our vehicles are over 10 years old, and we have very little furniture - most secondhand. We bought a lot less house than we could afford (mortgage is less than $400 a month). But we do have a healthy nest egg and still manage to travel 4 times a year. Traveling is our passion, therefore our priority. Our house may suffer a bit, and our friends all think we're competely out of our minds, but they all have lots of stuff, fancy tech toys, huge debt, and no fun. They're scared to get just there and bored with their lives...too bad for them!
FL USA Thu 05/05/2005
Living Overseas - Assessing the European Dream
Once again, I feel the need to reiterate that before you accept the European Myth, try living overseas, as I have done for the past 2 years. It will change you far more than any number of 2-week trips can.
Before you wax poetic about how the European Dream has eclipsed the American Dream, consider the following.
Arab Americans are on average wealthier than the average American. Arab Europeans are on average far poorer than the average European. Now whose culture is "anti-Arab"? While the Brits criticize us for "closing our borders" their main parties shamelessly exploit fears of immigration in their campaigns (despite waves of evidence to the contrary). If the EU is so great, why is everyone worried that the French (traditionally the most EU-enthusiastic) will reject the new constitution? While on the subject of France, please note that the "35-hour" workweek has more holes than Swiss cheese, and many French want to get rid of it anyway.
Rick seems a lot more enthusiastic about the rising Euro than most European politicians (who'd just as soon return to the days of not so long ago when the euro was about $0.89 instead of $1.29). He also seems to glaze over some real issues facing Europe. Our budget deficit is enormous, but it pales in comparison to the pension crisis awaiting the EU, which has a declining birthrate ("family-friendly" policies notwithstanding) and an aging population. German unemployment is over 10% and rising, and about 20% in the former East Germany (where many citizens wish East Germany weren't so "former").
Don't get me wrong. I love certain things here and will miss a few things when I return home (such as the selection in the grocery stores and the comparatively good transportation systems), but please be aware that travel can just as easily shatter our myths that the grass is greener on the other side of the Atlantic.
London, UK Wed 05/04/2005
Travel with your teen
I had traveled pretty extensively as a military wife stationed in Germany in the late 70's, but a short while ago, I was privileged to take my 16 yr old son over for 2 months of backpack traveling. He had never been to Europe, and it was a wonderful experience for him. He has always been a courageous, adventurous young man, but this was a wonderful "finishing" for him. He learned a lot about other people, a lot about himself, and a WHOLE lot about budgeting, common sense and mass transit systems. He has sought fellowships every summer since, and has now spent summers in St. Petersberg and Italy as a dancer. He's not afraid to go anywhere, walks with confidence and travels with good sense and caution, but without fear. Thanks, Rick. I may teach school, but you're an educator of the first degree!
Katy, TX USA Tue 05/03/2005
Travel vs Home Improvements
My wife and I decided after a trip to Paris two years ago that it is more important for us to travel to Paris again this November than to replace our privacy fence over the summer. I would have never thought it possible for us to ever make that type of choice, but international travel can become habit-forming and I will continue to hold up the fence in any way I can to be able to do this next trip.
Madison, WI USA Mon 05/02/2005
Friendly clarification: Scandinavians are Europeans.
USA Thu 04/28/2005
Hey everyone! I can see that some writers have explored countries other than Europe. I encourage everyone to do so because you get a different view from all the other (non-European) countries on our planet. Each one is truly unique and should be valued and explored as such. Scandinavians are different from Europeans who are different from Laotians...and Mexicans and Pakistanis......and so it goes. And yes - our own counrty has a vast variety of cultures as well. Just get out there and absorb our world - before we destroy it!
FL USA Tue 04/26/2005
Traveling makes me happy!
I saved up all year to go on a trip to Spain with my boyfriend and best friend. Madrid was were we flew in and was the highlight of our trip. It's such an interesting city. I would wake up at 7:00 am (I'm not a morning person!), get a cafe con leche and wander around for a few hours. I would observe the cars, buildings and the people. This made me feel alive and excited to explore new places. It was so refreshing to challenge myself and break free from the day to day routine. I met so many kind hearted people that are from all over the world. One of them traveled with us to our next stop, Barcelona. I am addicted to traveling now. I am saving up to go on a 3 to 4 month trip all over Europe. It will be worth the wait!
Seattle, Wa USA Wed 04/13/2005
first european adventure
A couple of weeks ago ireturned from my first trip to Europe with my school. I didn't realise it was going to be such an eyeopening experience. Honestly by the time we left i thought i had reacherched italy and greece as far as i could've and i felt nothing was going to be unexpected because i knew so much. I couldn't of been more wrong, there is so much more to the cultures you encounter than the stuff you find in books. it opened my eyes to such an amazing and different way of life, i couldn't absorb enough of it. unfortunately for my parents bank accounts and my own im never going to be able to stop travelling now. It was such an addicting experience. Everything is so different give me the option and rome or athens would be my new home. Fortunately for me im off to Scotland and ireland and England in the summer and germany for three months next year, so i'm setfor a bit i guess. Thanks Rick for all the advice that was provided and ive now go tmy whole household reading your books in preperation for our trip this summer.thanks
pg, bc Canada Fri 04/08/2005
Our European experience
My 19 year old son and I travelled to 5 European cities in three countries in February and Thanks to Rick's guidebooks, we had a wonderful and inspiring tour. The precise information and focus on the details enabled us to plan our days for maximum efficiency! Including down time!! I was not familiar with Rick's series until I started researching for this trip back in October, but I plan on maximizing this invaluable resource for the next trip to Europe. (It was a lifetime dream for me, never thought it would happen but all the circumstances came together and WOW!!) I cannot recommend these resources highly enough!!! Our world view has most definitely been impacted as we listened to people speak about America, her President, and her people. A train ride from Paris to Rome was a wonderful opportunity when we were couchetted with a gentleman from India...we both got to ask lots of questions about each other's homes and lives. Dump your Ipods and walkman's and learn to reach out to those around you for more magic and insight than you can believe!! Thanks Rick. Keep up the great work...
Escondido, CA USA Fri 04/08/2005
First Time Abroad
I have enjoyed watching Rick Steves television programs for years. I love the idea of traveling abroad, but never thought that would be part of my life. Last year a friend moved to Spain and invited us to visit. After we bought passports and airline tickets our friend had to come home. We were a little scared about traveling on our own, but decided to go ahead. We poured over Rick Steves Spain book, packed light and decided to enjoy. My husband and I recently returned from a week in Barcelona, Spain. It has changed us because we now know Europe is not some far off destination for only a few. It is possible for us. We had a fabulous time. We enjoyed trying out our limited Spanish and appreciated that people spoke English. We loved the food, the architecture and especially the people. One comment I read on the grffiti wall is that the life style is slower in Europe than in the States. That is true, but it isn't just that. The Europeans we met seemed to take the time to appreciate life a little more than we do. That is the biggest change. I'm going to appreciate my life in the US and all it offers me. I'm also going to look forward to my next trip because there definitely will be one. Hopefully a Rick Steves tour to Italy!
Grand Rapids, MI USA Fri 04/08/2005
Lots of world to see one place at a time...
I've traveled to Europe a few times, and I think that most of us are much the same, although I value the way other's value life over work over there in a few places I've been. In a recent trip to Italy, the place left me with a feeling of longing to live a bit slower. We didn't get to all the museums, see the "in spots"... just roamed, got lost, lived life through the "back door" and made friends with people that I'll never forget. It has changed me for the better coming back home. I don't take life as seriously and find myself exploring my own neighborhood off the beaten path just a little bit more. Rick's got a great way of writing his books, easy to understand and right to the point. The PBS shows make me want to go online and buy another ticket that day. Keep up the good work for those of us who don't want to just see it all to check it off our list, but want to experience "real" people in different places.
Washington, DC USA Fri 04/08/2005
Aren't we all so lucky...
I feel so lucky that I have been to Europe, that I could go again if I wanted to, that I can read the writing on this Graffiti wall and that I can take the advice of all the people who write in. We are truly lucky people, those of us who subscribe to this wall.
Canada Fri 04/08/2005
Not everyone wants to live in the US
One thing I have noticed in my travels to Europe is the way the Europeans value travel differently than we do here in the states. I think as Americans we are brought up to be proud of our country (as we should be) but to an extent of becoming very self righteous. It was absolutely wonderful and eye-opening to me to see the British, Romans, Germans and Czechs just as proud of their country and history as we are in the states. Most people in these countries have no desire to live in the states, though they may be curious and fascinated by our culture. Not everyone wants to be an American. I find that fact liberating and it helps me in relating to the natives in the countries where I am lucky enough to visit.
Dallas, TX USA Wed 04/06/2005
Europe Has Heart, and Opened Mine
I had no desire to go to Europe, and had no idea what I would find if I went. So, totally out of the blue, came an offer from a friend to go. That was in the fall of 2002. We bought some Rick Steves guidebooks and landed in Amsterdam to begin a month of incredible experiences and, surprisingly, great personal growth. I love my country, with it's many facets--from our humanitarian ideals to the wonderful natural beauty found almost everywhere. But what I saw and felt in Europe was life being lived at a different pace than our own driven, worrisome, stress filled lifestyle. Yes, they have their challenges, but in the marketplaces, squares, sidewalk cafes, and towns of Europe you feel a different rhythm--more in alignment with a peaceful, harmonious speed of life. You see it in the faces and in the interactions between them--less worry, more laughter, and more in tune with each moment that they inhabit. I felt myself slipping into that amazing place and finding it so refreshing and healthy. I found authenticity and people living a life full of Heart!
Even though modern industrial life is pushing them, too, they have kept something very precious in their cultures--something that we have allowed to slip away. I will return this year for a fourth extended journey to Europe. I go to see the sights, but more deeply, to feel the gentle magic of humanity pulsing through the villages, cities, and celebrations of life in Europe. And, yes, I am very changed from having been touched by the people and the experience of Europe. As our country becomes ever more disconnected from the rest of the world and each other, I return to Europe to reconnect with humanity, and more importantly, to myself.
Sedro Woolley, WA USA Tue 03/29/2005
Life's not living if you don't get out there!
I was born in one country speaking one language, raised in the US and learned English, then lived & worked a while in the country of my birth, ending up in the US again. I traveled across the Atlantic for the first time in my mid-20's - my Mom pushed me to take advantage of a great discount at my job to travel to the UK for a summer of study. Even being bilingual and bicultural, and being around Europeans at work who spoke at least 3 languages, I was still entranced with experiencing a third culture. To say I was hooked is a total understatement.
I am now 52, no kids, 5 pets, married to a wonderfully outgoing man with a similar background in 2 countries, and we live and work to travel. Our travels together enhance our life together and push us to be more self-reliant, yet more trusting of each other.
Yes, it would be great to live and work abroad, but we like the contrast of being "home" and then traveling. Living and working abroad we've both done. I would urge anyone to travel to a totally foreign country at a young age, one that doesn't have English as its language.
Don?t wait to do it, don't say "I need a longer vacation before I can enjoy a trip to Europe," don't buy a new car instead. Do you really care that your furniture is old, that your PC is not top-of-the-line, that you don't have the "intergalactic" mobile phone plan with 100,000 minutes a month, or that your children will be getting only a giant box of photos and tons of memories but very little cash when you die? Get out of yourself and your country and really LIVE. (And I'm not talking only about people in the US.)
Tallahassee, FL USA Fri 03/25/2005
My long-awaited first trip to Europe
I just returned from my very first trip to France. It was also my very first trip outside the U.S. I was fully prepared for all the differences I would find: the language, the food, the cars, etc. I think you focus on that as you prepare to travel. What surprised me was just how similar we all are. I saw families playing in the parks. I saw women shopping for the evening meals. I saw people on their way to work. I saw friends laughing in cafes. The differences lie in the fine-tuning, but generally we are very much alike. This trip opened my eyes to many new and exciting things, and I owe that to the great "back-door" travel philosophy. I am a customer for life!
El Segundo, CA USA Thu 03/24/2005
I just wish the Americans on here would stop sneaking their political views in and just answer the question about how travel has changed you? Travel has definitely changed me. It has opened up my mind and life to different cultures and different ways of doing things. I love eating different kinds of food and meeting people from all over the world. If you people want to talk politics, go to a political forum please.
Aurora, IL USA Wed 03/23/2005
I'm so sick of the AMERICANS on here who claim that Americans are ignorant of Europe. A lot of people on this forum can't seem to get past their own political views and see reality. My comments have nothing to do with my political views, just from what I and others have experienced. I can tell you from first hand experience that some Europeans as well as people from other parts of the world get a lot of their views of the USA from Hollywood and their biased medias. So do many Americans. Yes, the American media can be biased but so can theirs. Being from Texas, I can't tell you the number of times I've run into people in Europe who have the stereotypical "Hollywood" view of Texas. I wasn't offended however, I just thought it was funny. These Europeans were nice and meant no offence and none was taken. The truth is some Europeans are very knowledgeable about the USA and some aren't, just like some Americans are knowledgeable about Europe and some aren't.
Dallas, TX USA Wed 03/23/2005
european perceptions of USA
I find it funny to read of complaints by americans about the europeans attitudes about the USA. In my travels I do not get into discussions about the US with the people over there. But there is a huge ignorance about europe here at home. Of course there are unreasonable people on both sides of the atlantic. But to the people on this site who complain about the anti US slant in the european media I say look at our media, and judge the fairness issue from that perspective. If you support Bush, then a huge majority of europe and the rest of the world is most likely unreasonable to you. For those of us who think the US is now headed in the wrong direction, environmentally, economically and in our war mongering, the europeans are right. But some conservatives act like other countries don't have the right to disagree. The United States was founded on the right of dissent. Lets allow europeans that same right.
Columbus, Oh USA Wed 03/23/2005
I meant NOT to blindly agree. thanks
USA Mon 03/21/2005
Traveling on a budget
I never traveled overseas until I was 50 years old. That was five years ago and I have now been to Europe several times, China, Thailand and Egypt. I am still working. One of the points Rick Steves made, which influenced me was that he talked about making travel a priority even if you live on a budget. I am much less likely to spend money on unnecessary items now because I think, "I could spend a week in Paris for that amount." I think traveling has enriched my life and makes me more focused at work because I come back recharged and looking forward to planning the next trip. Shortly after the 2004 election some school children asked to interview us in Thailand and wanted to know how we felt about our country. Boy, that was a challenge but it also helped me focus on what the things I felt good about in our country.
Louisville, KY USA Sun 03/20/2005
Trip to Europe
During the Summer of 2004, I traveled to Ireland(Dublin,Wicklow)England(Essex County, Dover, London) France(Normandy Beaches, Point Du Hoc,Calais,Caen)and Scotland(Edinburgh, Stirling)I went with my Boy Scout Troop to the Jamboree in Essex where there were 7,500 other scouts from all over the world. It was agreat experience. I hope to go to the next jamboree in 2008. I believe that because of the Jamboree, that people can come together to have Global Peace.P.S. I would recommend the town of Stirling with it's castle and chippies. Also, I would recommend going to Southeast England and Normandy. I had the time of my life and hope to go back soon. I am planning a trip to Europe in 2007 with my dad who has never been. We are planning to go to Germany, Russia, Norway, Spain, Portugal,Romania,England,Scotland,Ireland,Denmark,Iceland,Italy,Netherlands,Wales,Finland. I think it will be an awesome trip.
Chicago, Il UsA Sat 03/12/2005
I've learned everywhere has its' good points and has something to offer.
USA Wed 03/09/2005
I haven't had any major change in my views on America and I do know that people's views on government's role varies from place to place ie.Europe, China, USA etc., so people could argue all day about that, but I do find some small changes in my views. I find the slower pace of life and the slower enjoyment of good food and drink in parts of southern Europe to be a big plus. I would like to see more of that here. I'd also like to see more mass transportation here even though I realize that it's harder because North America is so spread out. I'd also like to see Americans get a little more vacation time as we work too hard.
Trenton, NJ USA Wed 03/09/2005
Traveling abroad has given me the opportunity to view different cultures and ways of doing things. While it has broadened my horizons, it hasn't made me change my views on America at all as the USA and Europe have very differing circumstances and situations. I accept the fact that we all do things differently. While I do find that Europeans have a deep understanding of their OWN politics, I find them very lacking in an understanding of American politics or any politics that don't lean towards socialism. I also find that Americans most enamored of the European way of life tend to be the ones that have idealized notions of socialism. All in all though, Europe is a nice place with a lot of history and culture and is every bit worth the trip.
CA USA Tue 03/08/2005
Has Travel Changed Me?
I love traveling to Europe and find something new everytime I go. I agree that Europeans have a much better quaility of life and have a very deep understanding of politics. I try not to be the "ugly American" and be more open to their culture. By living that way it has taught me so much about myself and what I need to help change as an American.
Brooklyn, NY USA Tue 03/08/2005
How Europe Changed the Direction of my Life
After Reading Rick Steve's book, which was given to me by a friend as a gift of inspiration, I had to book a trip to Europe in November of this year. I was going through a tough time in my life and needed a change of scenery, and I had always wanted to go to Europe. I picked up a couple more books of travel essays and devoured them as I waited for my departure day.
On my day of departure, I picked up a hardback journal to record my trip. I studied writing and have an MFA, and decided that perhaps I might get a story or two out of my trip even though my sole purpose was to just observe and experience the other side of the world.
I began in England -- traveling along the coast to Brighton (very hippy, artsy town on the coast -- loved it!) -- to London - and then, my love affair with train traveling began - to the coast of England - I visited Folkstone (rode a Victorian lift up a cliff), Dover (walked along the White Cliffs of Dover and explored the Castle) and then, a detour off the coast to Canterbury (a must after reading the Canterbury tales) and on to Whitstable, an enchanting seaside town. Then, back to Dover to take the ferry over to Calais and then, a bus to Belgium. I was there during the holiday season, so I got to experience the Belgium's Christmas spirit. In Oostende, I had chicken and bread at the oldest bar there (opened since 1975, 24 hours a day, and has never closed). After returning to Dover, I rented a car and drove up to Scotland to visit the Isle of Arran (minature Scotland -- nature! walks!). After a cold spell in Scotland, I took the train to London and then, a flight to warm, enchanting Spain. I visited Estapona (the Sunday market!), Tarifa (the windsurfers!), and Ronda (the moorish buildings) and I fell in love with the culture there and plan to return again as soon as I can. I am already studying my Spanish again, and plan to be able to communicate better this time around.
Did travel change me? Definitely. More than words can describe (even though I am working on a travel essay to do just that). I am 42 years old and have been practically all over the US, but I had always dreamed of going to Europe. I did not realize what a profound change it would have on my life. I always thought I was open-minded and appreciative of other cultures, but now I know that my world has been "small," and now, becuase of my 8 weeks of travel in Europe, I feel "different" and more alive than I have in years. I told my son, a college student, that I want him to go to Europe. I plan to take him to Italy and Spain with my husband next summer. I am happy that I went solo the first time around because it gave me plently of time to meditate, reflect, and write about my experiences, but now I want to be their travel guide.
What do I love about Europe -- the trains, the ease to get from one place to the next, the history (ah, the history!), the different cultures, the art, the galleries, the cafes, the siestas in Spain, the long chats over wine in late evenings, the markets, etc. I could go on forever, but it will be in the European traveling and writing I plan to do from now on.
I recently resigned from my full-time job to teach online part-time (which enables me to go anywhere and still earn my living!), and am now planning to pursue my dream of traveling and writing.
Thanks Rick for the inspiration.
Memphis, TN USA Tue 03/01/2005
Rick Steves, Traveling The High Road
I would highly recommend to those who travel around trying to convince other people that their opinions are unsubstantiated to step back a bit and rethink their behavior. This "I am right, you are wrong" game just brings more division and strife to an already stressed out world. Read "Europe Through The Back Door" by Rick Steves and you may get a nice attitude adjustment. Respect other opinions and cultures, find the common ground between people and build bridges in the personal contacts. In my travels I have found Europeans to be very tuned into current events and able to converse on any subject without heated partisanship. If you listen, instead of trying to win, there is a lot to learn. I have been greatly changed by reading and adopting Rick Steves approach to travel and then heading out to foreign lands with an open mind and heart. Being an Ambassador of Good Will. I have grown so much and truly feel that I am a citizen of this big, beautiful planet. Europe is a wonderful place--we have over 200 years of friendship and common blood running through our veins. Sometimes friends disagree. Mature people can disagree witout being disagreeable. Viva la Difference! Rick gave me the travel bug, and now I am heading back in September to Europe for my 4th trip since picking up my first ETBD guidebooks in 2002.
Bellingham, WA USA Sat 02/26/2005
Travel in europe
I always enjoy travel in europe, not the least of which is the enjoyment of correcting so many misconceptions europeans have about the U.S.. For instance, many europeans have questioned me on the plight of blacks in the U.S.. I reply that African Americans have a ppp adjusted GDP per capita of $28,000.00 per year, lower than the 38,000.00 U.S. average, but much higher than the $24,000.00 average for the U.S...It goes on and on.
The one complaint I have though, is the Americans who either through their own ignorance or desire to be lliked or both buy into this european pap as if it were fact.
new orleans, la USA Fri 02/25/2005
Has Travel Changed You?
Okay, this isn't exactly fair since I did go out of the country Rick-less once, in 2000. But that was with a tour so let's say it didn't count. Two friends and I went to Ireland last year armed with Rick's guide book and two others. We had a fantastic time. It's a glorious memory and we're planning our next trip now. We feel that we've 'caught' the travel bug and can't possibly get through a year without an overseas journey. Rick's guidebook was a complete lifesaver. The mile-by-mile tips for Dingle were especially amazing! We reached the point very quickly when making a decision about where to go next that we would say: "What does Rick think about it?" One of us would grab the book and find his comments. Ireland was more beautiful than I can describe, and I'm definately a changed person as a result of my experiences there.
Carmel, IN USA Fri 02/25/2005
italy has changed me forever
almost 10 years ago, armed with our rick steves books, my sister and i flew over the pond to italy. suffice to say, i fell in love. with italy. more to the point, with tuscany. it was immediate and total love. we returned the following year and it was then we met our first italian friends who became family. i have been to tuscany more than 10 times since and am looking forward to returning in may, 2005. the last four years, basically through word-of-mouth, i have been taking small groups of americans on tour to tuscany. because i have such wonderful friends and contacts in italy, we get to do things that no one else does. my life has been forever changed and i find myself just biding time here in the USA until i can get back to italy. i have met several people in tuscany who have not only made a dramatic impact on my life, but have helped to change my views on america. i love the USA, but through my italian friends, i have learned to look at my country with a more objective viewpoint. once again, the old adage of "we're all more alike than we're different" has proven true. if more americans went to places like italy with wide open minds and hearts, they'd soon learn that old adage. there's a big world out there and, if i ever fall out of love (which isn't likely), i may visit more of it.
davi mondt lowman
sherburn, MN USA Wed 02/23/2005
how travel changed me
getting back to the issue which ishow has travel changed me:I am a typical European brat, I didn;t get a car or cosmetic surgery upon Abitur (HS Diploma)instead I got a fistful of Schillings (now Euros)and my friends and I spent a summer traveling alone without our parents.My friends and I opted for the Greek islands and Turkey (which then as now was exotic/foreign territory) We spent an enchanted late summer in Rhodes, zipping around on WWII BMW motorcycles with sidecars, sleeping on the beach, frolicking in ancient amphitheaters. Roses in bloom, wild thyme and rosemary parfuming the island. Can you imagine that today?????We also sailed to the Turkish coast, swam naked in the many coves, and nearly made it to Algeria with a local fisherman leading the way.I was lucky to always have traveled, since conception, but this first trip without parents coddling me truly forged me.Keep traveling!
Wachau Austria, USA Thu 02/17/2005
Stick to the point, people!
Travel to Europe has changed me a great deal. And just reading through all of these he said she said sarky postings truly illustrates to me the reason I really love going to Europe. Any time I have had a political discussion with people from UK, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain during trips over the last five years, the level of discourse is not on a personal level (only my experience) and Europeans are informed in Europe, almost to a point of embarrassment since they know more about the US than I do. And if people revile Europe based on these postings, why are they looking at Rick Steves' website anyway? But let the further sarky discourse go on, he said she said. Isn't there someone on Rick's staff who combs through these irrelevant emails anyway?
Lincoln, NB USA Thu 02/17/2005
I have traveled in Europe independently for 20 years. (I know I am going to annoy alot of people!) I think most people in Europe have a higher standard of living than we do in the US. I also have see very few homeless in Western Europe(go to Santa Monica, CA to see how bad the problem really is; and I live in Colorado!)(and I have been in, the London underground, Chatelet in Paris, the Bahnhof in Munich, and the zoo in Berlin). Also Europe has universal health care which we really need in the USA--if one is on Medicare, one has to buy extra health insurance in order to travel because they do not cover any health costs except in the US. I also find people in Europe more tolerant and open minded than the people in the US. Granted I have not talked to those who follow the right wing in Europe so I am sure there are those who vehemently disagree with me in Europe; but,I wish I could retire in Europe!
Ft. Collins, Co USA Tue 02/15/2005
Travel has exposed me to different cultures and broadened my horizons but hasn't changed my core views. Everyone does things differently, different strokes for different folks I say and that's good. The world would be boring if everything were done the same.I also find that people on both sides of the Atlantic tend to accuse each other of having "biased medias" ie. Europeans accusing Americans and vice versa. Often, people who have left-wing views accuse the media of bias if it reports something unfavorable to the left and people with right-wing views also claim bias if the media reports something not favorable to the right. Europeans tend to have left or socialist views and thus will often accuse the American media of bias if it reports something not favorable to the left and those Americans who hold conservative views are the same way. The person below was correct in saying that medias are slanted everywhere so it's hypocritical for anyone to accuse any other nation of media bias when it is everywhere really. Well, I'll get off my soapbox.
Seattle, WA USA Thu 02/10/2005
One-Sided News Coverage
We traveled to the United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands. Although we enjoyed getting to know others from different cultures, we were shocked by the lack of real news they receive in those countries! Can anything be done about the lack of balance and accurate news coverage? No wonder they have such skewered opinions of our country and our great President! The level of "news" brain-washing we saw (both my wife and myself are fluent in French) was astounding.
Niceville, FL USA Thu 02/10/2005
Has Travel Changed You?
A couple of years ago I was watching Rick Steves' three part series on tips on travelling to Europe. At the time, I had come across an opportunity to live in France for a year as an English teacher. That series made me realize travelling and living in Europe can be accomplished easily, so off I went. I ended up staying just under two years,living in beautiful Rouen, in Normandy! I totally immersed myself in the culture and Rick Steves had been very influential and helpful in my attitude toward being overseas. I had a roomate my seond year who had nothing good to say about anything in France. Mont St. Michel was too dull and Dieppe too provincial!! Well, I can say I am the one better off having had the best time of my life! It has so changed my worldview that I am having difficulties re-adjusting to North American life, as I just got back a month ago. I began to appreciate quality over quantity and the French social life has left me feeling isolated in this crazy, hectic continent where no one has time for people anymore. I lived with a family who actually ate together each and every day. What a difference! I now want to live a better life where I'm not afraid to be myself!
Toronto, CAN Wed 02/09/2005
Has Travel Changed You
Last summer we took our 2 kids (12 & 10 years old) to London & Paris - their first trip out of the US. Now they get excited whenever they're watching a movie or TV and they see something from London or Paris and say "we were there!" They took an interest in learning a couple of French words, tried using them, and were so pleased when shopkeepers were very nice about their attempts. Now my 10 year old is looking forward to helping plan another trip to Europe in another year or two. It was an amazing eyeopener for both of them. They even got a kick out of how many people we saw in Paris carrying a Rick Steves Paris book!
Newport Beach, CA USA Sat 02/05/2005
As a Canadian who tries very hard not be smug and self-righteous, I'm appalled by the number of Americans who have been brainwashed into thinking they, their government or their culture is somehow worst than those of Europeans. I've travelled many times to Europe and have really appreciated the increased sensibility to differing ways of life. Mind you though, I haven't yet traded my North American identity. And last time I checked, Rick Steves hasn't either. Europe is so "visitable" largely due to historical American intervention in its affairs. Over the years, Europeans have forgotten the extreme sacrifices made by "culturally inferior" North Americans". Overly socialist and smug they have forgotten to make mention of their collective failure in the former Yugoslavia, the arms sales in Rwanda, the 15 000 dead in France from heat, etc. etc. The American goal of spreading democracy in the world is a good one. Europeans, as profiteers of this policy, should know this. So to all Americans, whether you agree with Bush or not, enjoy your travels knowing that many places in the world enjoy democracy today largely due to your foreign policy.
Toronto, CAN Tue 02/01/2005
IJust back from a trip to Spain teaching English to spaniards. As always, the europeans were pleasant but opinionated and usually very misinformed while believing themselves to be otherwise.
In any event, we all got along. The only complaint I have is about the number of Americans who go along with euro misimpressions hoping to be liked.
new orleans, LA USA Sat 01/29/2005
Tuscany-The Sweet Life
My daughter and I spent 9 days in Tuscany & Liguria and used the Rick Steves guides to Italy and Tuscany often. This was my first and my daughter's second European vacation. The greatest impression made on me by the people of Tuscany was this. Live life. Don't live to work; work to live.
Savor meals and wine and beauty. Don't let the money giants, like big corporations and government, mold your way of life. This was the goal I returned home with. Accomplishing the goal though is more difficult in the U.S. than one might think. Savoring food, for example, is more difficult because the fresh or unusual ingredients are seldom available because quality is not profitable. Instead hot house tomatoes are picked too early and shipped hundreds of miles so money can be made; as opposed to a good meal being made. I guess I'm fairly bitter about the American life environment now that I have "La Dolce Vita" to compare it too. I miss Italy so much and long to return. I believe I will find a similar quality of life in other parts of the EU as well and hope to find out personally ASAP. I could go on with more expressions on this topic, but that is the gist of it. Feel free to contact me if you wish.
Walden, NY USA Fri 01/28/2005
Our travels did not "change" us because we expected to see people living their lives, raising children,working and trying to have fun. We didn't expect that Europeans would be vastly different. They weren't. Like Americans, they are helpful and pleasant. Some, as in America, are undoubtedly bastards.The average person does not have hard-and-fast,Fox-like political views. Most really don't have time to CARE about America-- and why should they? Their major concerns are with their own country. Too many Americans confuse the policies of government with the sentiments of the people.There is seldom a correlation.Look at our own situation. Many Americans view Bush as a dimwittted puppet and his group as mercenary malfeasants-- but we LOVE America. Why should Europeans differ? Many of them care little for the policies of government and when in conflict with our policies, it needs to be considered that our perspectives are VERY different because we have different emphasis.Those who expect to find terrible things will nearly always find them.These boards are rife with "doomsayers".
Embrace life and throw off narrowness and negativity. The only path to actual enjoyment REQUIRES that. Travel brings that home to you, every time.
Paul n Sara Lucas
Newburyport, MA USA Thu 01/27/2005
Learn from Europe, the good and the bad
Like many travelers I have found visiting Europe to be not only fun, but also to have broadened my mind with ideas for culture and living that had not occured to me before.
But, I am somewhat dissappointed in those people who seem to feel it necessary to apologize for American culture in general and for today's political climate. Let us not forget that if we duplicated Europe we would also have Royal Families (do we really want a King in America?), religious intolerance (do we really want head scarves and crosses forbidden to our school children), and welfare states ( do we realy want the 10% unemployment of Germany). My point is that we must consider the ENTIRE picture not just a snapshop of what seems better.
Bothell, WA USA Wed 01/26/2005
Traveling will change your life
I recently just returned from studying abroad in Spain for 6 months, and I can honestly say that the experience has been the defining point in my life so far. I made such an effort to adapt to the culture, learn the language and befriend the locals, and I was greatly rewarded in return. Now that I'm back in the states, i find that I use the knowledge i learned abroad everyday. I know that I truely am a better person as a result of my traveling experiences. I absolutely cannot stop thinking about worldwide travel and am planning a trip back for this summer. If you EVER have the chance to go abroad, TAKE IT! You will learn so much about yourself and this world.
USA Sun 01/02/2005