Travel as a Political Act Forum: 2009
In his newest book, Travel as a Political Act, Rick Steves reveals how a life devoted to travel has profoundly shaped his personal view of the world...and his politics. It's also a guide to how thoughtful travel can broaden every person's perspectives, challenge outdated assumptions, and create a force for peace in the world.
How has travel shaped your own world outlook? Do you agree or disagree with Rick's opinions? Please share your thoughts in this special forum.
Just finished the book and loved it. I could imagine steam eminating from some right wingers ears as they read the observations that are reported. I agree that fear and force are not wise foreign policy choices. Keep up the good work!
Las Vegas, NV USA Sun 12/20/2009
safety and lookism
Dear Rick, I hope you realise how lucky you are to have been born white, so that you can travel freely without being troubled or targeted by racism and prejudice. Some of us aren't so lucky as to always not be in fear of violence.
USA Tue 12/15/2009
the only way
Traveling with this mindset absolutely changes everything. My wife and I are on country #53 and everywhere we go, we end up traveling as a political act. From Ethiopia to Syria to Pakistan to Nicaragua...there is no other way to be.
Austin, TX USA Sat 12/12/2009
Danes are different!
I spent a month in Copenhagen back in the late 70's. I stayed in Christiana and really appreciated the family atmosphere! Children were looked after by everyone and patiently helped me learn some basic Danish. Soon I saw that this was the same all over Copenhagen. Very young children traveled all over the city by bus without adult accompaniment. Bus drivers and passengers looked after these children even though they did not have any family or neighborhood ties! It was clear that the city was extraordinarily safe for everyone. It was also noted that I did not see extremes of wealth or poverty (except for the gypsies who are itinerant farm help...). This was during the Iranian Revolution and their tv news coverage was very different from that back in the States.
Groton, VT USA Wed 11/04/2009
?Tours to 3rd world locations
I liked the sections on El Salvador, Turkey and the Balkans particularly.
El Salvador because it displayed an ethical passion.
The Balkans because this is an area I don't know about and he detailed his solitary adventures in areas of ethnic strife.
Turkey because we visited in 2006 and found it a fascinating nation very different ffrom most of our previous experiences.
I came away from the book with a renewed desire to do something useful for the less favored peoples of the world and to visit such areas (particularly in Africa and in Asia).
However, when I look for trips to such areas on this website, there are none.
What a pity.
I would like "reality tours" such as Global Exchange offers, but my wife might be more interested in one sponsored by Rick Steves.
Arden, NC USA Sat 10/17/2009
I read c friends copy of Rick's new book and found that his conclusions and comments mirror his biases written about the United States and many of countries that he traveled.
What surprises me most is the positive comments from most of the readers. Are they reading through their own liberal prism or am I rqading it thru my owm believes? In any case, count me as one of the few readers who was not impressed with his views.
A. Dean Lynn
Tarzana, CA USA Mon 10/05/2009
Can't quit thinking of Beatriz
Rick, I haven't finished the book yet, but already plan to send my daughter a copy. I am a poor/rich American:) Been to France 5 times but not since I started my life over on my own 6 years ago. Recently cut back at work to only 1 day a week. Getting by with the help of my two online French postcard businesses. So many times of late, tired of the financial struggle, I've said to myself, "Is making another buck God's purpose for me? It seems there must be more to life than always wondering where my next dollar is coming from?" THEN, you introduced me to Beatriz. Now when I take a hot shower, I think of her and her daughter toting water for miles and earning $1 A DAY. Reading your book has helped me shift my perspective and reaffirmed many things I've long been passionate about. I'm inspired that you practice what you preach.
Hood River, OR USA Sat 10/03/2009
Read Rick's book and enjoyed it very much. I have lived most of my life as an ExPat....and find I dont have to forego my love of other countries in order to love my own. We should all have a world embracing vision..this is'nt liberal or conservative..its friendly and rational. Keep it up Rick.
Honolulu, HI USA Mon 09/28/2009
I think Rick is a marvel! An American who is not xenophobic; an American who can visit other cultures and LEARN something and then bring it home to us. Book was great....I wish all our politicians had to read it before opening their collective mouths. Even better, I wish our politicians would travel to places like Iran, El Salvador, Turkey, etc. with Rick as a group leader. Thank you, Rick, for being a level-headed and conscientious American who loves to go to strange and wonderful places and encourages us all to do the same.
Buckeye, AZ USA Sun 09/27/2009
Thanks for the book
Just finished the book and plan to use some of the Iran material to teach Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel _Persepolis_ in a few weeks. Great work, Rick! Looking at the comments, I do wonder how many times Rick would have to mention his love for American values, freedom, efficiency, etc. for people not to accuse him of USA-bashing. He only mentioned how happy he is to return home to Seattle, how much he loves free enterprise, and so on at least three or four times a chapter.
San Francisco, CA USA Sun 09/20/2009
Travel IS a political act
It seems that a number of posters are upset that RS rerers to travel as being political. Think about it. It is political. From how much you pay for your plane ticket, to how your treated by airport security (yes, you are profiled), to how you're treated at your destination. Why not take Rick's advice and open your eyes to what it really is. You'll discover that you've gained a lot more from your trip than just a nice time.
Oklahoma City, OK USA Wed 09/16/2009
An Army Guy Agrees with Rick
Rick & friends, my name is Patrick and just finished your book. I am a US Army Res Civil Affairs officer whose service in the Balkans and Afghanistan as well as lived in Europe. My day-2-day job in during those tours was working with the local Kosovo or Afghan governments and civilian population. Sort of the rare bird in the fact I am a progressive in the service. I really enjoyed Travel as a Political Act. I was curious whether you'd talk to topics such as the resistance of assimilation of ethnic groups in Europe but you hit it right on the head. I was impressed that you talked to the Catholic Liberation movement in Latin America and rights of the poor. Very compelling. No one wants to talk about that anymore. I also appreciated how you stood but your belief that (over last 8yrs) you could be a proud American and still disagree. I don't think Middle America gets the fact that the America Brand has been so diminished globally (as well as our "moral highground and leverage..."). My thought is that global stability is only going to happen when individuals and people start sitting down and talking and getting to know one another. We have to get past bigotry, ethnocentrism, and fear. I think you understand that as well as anyone. My wife, daughter, son and I are enjoying your travel guides and Europe. Thank you!
Stuttgart, USA Mon 09/14/2009
Travel As A Political Act
I just finished Travel As A Political Act,already passed on to my wife who had to put up with frequent " listen to this..". I am a conservative by nature and politically as well. If anyone could convert me to a more liberal posture, Rick could.While I didn't agree with all of his positions regarding the U.S.of A.and our policies, neither did I reject the premise behind his statements. I have much to think about and can't wait to travel again and talk to people in a more direct way. Rick, you should consider running for the U.S. Senate. Our country needs thinkers like you, not the typical self interested types we seem to have. I would vote for you ! Wonderful book.
Dr. Ell Lee
De Pere, Wi USA Mon 09/14/2009
Travel as a Political Act
I've just read the book. I bought it to gain insight about the countries I have visited, the friends I made there and most importantly, the international students I tutor in English at a local community college. Rick's observations and the book's historical facts opened my eyes in ways I did not expect. I found myself troubled about my country and how it's perceived abroad. As a result I've vowed to inspect my own life and how its contributions add or detract from that perception, then change the impressions I make on others. That comment may sound "corny", but I've always believed that each person has a voice and should use it to make the world a better place. Rick's book empowered me.
Fallbrook, CA USA Mon 09/07/2009
Loving this book
Last night I picked up a copy of Travel as a Political Act and then stayed up until midnight reading. I was waiting for this book to come out, after I saw Rick's show about Iran on PBS some time ago. I loved the way he approached his trip and separated the people from the politics, reminding us that governments (even our own) do not always represent the true values and desires of the individuals living under their jurisdiction. And even when they do, and we still disagree with the government and the people, by getting to know individuals we can gain empathy and understanding. We can agree to disagree. We can be friends with people who hold differing views and opinions. We can embrace diversity. (We Americans sometimes seem to forget that the original motto of our nation was E pluribus unum, Latin for "Out of Many, One." The Many is at least as important as the One.) I'd forgotten to keep an eye out for this book, and was pleasantly surprised to discover it as one of the featured books in the travel book section at our local Borders store.
I love the idea of travel as a political act. I hate politics but I don't want to because political action and involvement is so important. For the past several years I've been searching for ways to be more political without getting pissed off or hating what I'm spending my time doing. This book has some wonderful ideas that I will be exploring further. As is my usual habit with certain types of nonfiction books, I read the introduction and the conclusion first. I was very happy to find some real, practical suggestions for how each of us can act politically through and because of our travels. I am often disappointed in books about political topics that have no real suggestions for action. This book did not disappoint me. I looking forward to reading the rest, and re-reading it, soon.
Boulder, CO USA Wed 09/02/2009
I can't wait to read your book. If it's half as good as the blog has been, it'll be one of my faves.
You've done a great job of writing about political issues without preaching or patronizing. Those who disagree are encouraged and welcomed to do so, as long as they thoughtfully engage with the issues.
Mr. Remly, I don't think Rick's point is that travelers should think and talk about politics constantly while traveling. The point is that travel can broaden one's knowledge of the world and other cultures, which will inevitably affect one's views of culture and politics back home. It doesn't mean that everything abroad is good and everything in the US is bad. It just means that we can learn a lot from our travels -- if we travel wisely and keep our eyes and ears open.
As for the anonymous post from July 29, obviously travelers are not necessarily better or more enlightened people. The point is that more enlightened people make better travelers.
New York, NY USA Wed 09/02/2009
Respecting other cultures
Just received my copy of" Travel As A Political Act ", can't wait to start reading it. My intent is expand my awareness of the value, we as traveler's can do to impact the world's view of the USA. I have done 12 years of dental " missionary" work as an oral surgeon, in the Jamaican country side and have been mentoring people who have been willing to follow. The biggest bit of advice I always offer is, respect them and what they have and offer to you. We aren't better than they are, just different. I'm sure the book will offer more insights I haven't considered and that will be valuable to pass on. Thank you Rick Steves.
Dr. Ell Lee
De Pere, , WI USA Wed 09/02/2009
I just finished reading "Travel as a Political Act" recommended by a relative who thought it was great -- so do I. Every single political statement Rick made about a country (I've been to several and lived in Europe for 2 years)I agreed with as well as what he wrote about our dear country. Yes -- we're social activists, too, because our own Lutheran heritage has taught us to care about others even when they don't live like us or believe like us. I'm so glad he supports Jubilee USA Network as we have for years to cancel debts of the world's most impoverished countries. We've spent time in sub-Saharan Africa and Rick's political insights would be appropriate there, too. Especially I was glad to see so much on Iran and Turkey to balance the misinformation in our media. Keep up the good work, Rick! Thanks for your good advice and great books in general.
A. Jean Lesher
Berkeley, CA USA Mon 08/31/2009
AS someone who travels over seas once or twice a year, travel is very much a politcal act.
Cuyahoga Falls, Oh USA Fri 08/21/2009
Travel as a Political Act
I applaud Rick for writing another wonderful masterpiece (I very much enjoyed his Europe 101). Through his journey, we experience how travel shapes our perspective on other cultures and provides a renewed vision on our own; and the more we push ourselves to get beyond our borders and boundaries, engage other cultures, the more rewarding the travel experience. Of course speaking the local language and living abroad for an extended time provides a better education, but not everyone has the time, resources and luxury to do so and so travel is the next best thing and should not be discounted in the least. And the journey doesn't have to end when one returns home either. For me that's when the reading part begins as it all makes more sense afterwards. Travel can also be the best way we can contribute and support a poor economy. I've been to some African villages that have been lifted out of poverty and violence through tourism. So that's another way we can travel as a political act. In his novel, Rick certainly shares his opinions but rightfully so as that is part of the travel experience when we travel as a political act.
Secaucus, NJ USA Thu 08/20/2009
Politics on vacation?
Why do people travel? To experience new places, observe and partake in different cultures, and escape their daily routines. Why does Steves have to turn it into a "political act?" And more importantly, why is he compelled to share his unhappiness with America with his customers? Folks, if you want to travel to Europe - go and have fun. Most Europeans couldn't care less what your political preferences are. (And most of your friends probably don't want to hear it either.) Show them a bit of courtesy, pay your bill promptly and they'll give you a smile. Keep your politics to yourself - and everyone will have a pleasant vacation.
San Francisco, CA USA Sat 08/08/2009
A couple of comments
I'd like to reiterate what a couple of other posters have said.
1) Living in a foreign country is different from visiting it. You go through the happy tourist stage, where everything is wonderful and exotic, and then you go through the grumpy culture shock stage where you hate everything about the host country and its people. If you're lucky, you don't get stuck there (some expats do) and come out at the end with a more balanced view of both the host country and your own country.
2) Even if "everyone speaks English" in your host country, they don't speak English to one another unless you're talking about Britain or Ireland. Their news and entertainment media don't speak English either. When I lived in Japan, I learned so much about their culture and attitudes simply by watching their media (What did they think was controversial? What did they accept without batting an eye?) and chatting with ordinary people. I even learned about world news that either never made it into U.S. media or was consigned to page 31B.
Earlier in life, my knowledge of German kept me from being a bored teenager when we visited Germany, spending much of the time with relatives. I could actually understand what my older German relatives were saying when they talked about their experiences during World War II and the Occupation.
I am a firm believer in learning how to say at least a few basic phrases in the language of every country I visit. In particular, I learn how to say, "Do you speak English? German? French?" Yes, I'm a language buff, but as everyone knows, speaking multiple languages is considered an unremarkable ability in most of Europe.
c) A couple of the posters seem pretty bent out of shape by the way Rick Steves thinks the Europeans do some things better than we do. I suggest that they ask themselves why they're so defensive. I am an American and a product of American culture, but I am not AMERICA. Our nation does some things very well and other things very poorly. That's simply a fact, nothing to feel personally insulted about.
Minneapolis, MN USA Fri 07/31/2009
It seems two people - one Dan Ariely and Michael Norton of Duke and Harvard universities, respectively, have coined a term "Conceptual Consumption" - the notion that what we buy is not a good or a service but an idea embodied by the good or the service.
Mr. Steves has certainly nailed this one, by marketing not just a tour agency but a company mission statement termed a philosophy. I don't begrudge either his marketing acumen or his resultant success - I've had a lot of success with his planning and budget tips, for example. But I do wish he were just a tad more honest and a LOT more humble about it. I suppose, if one is going to be a business success, that modesty can't figure too much into the equation, as success requires self confidence.
Travel, no matter how frugal, or for that matter how enlightening, is still consumption, and in the luxury category at that.
It is not my intention to suggest it is somehow 'bad' to travel, only to balance some of the more self-serving claims of how much more superior those who travel are in respect of being enlightened, etc. etc. Not to mention that Mr. Steves sets the bar pretty low, by presenting a series of well worn cliches to debunk that no seriously thoughtful person would ever entertain in the first place.
It is heartening to read responses the likes of Mike A and Bill Kester,
USA Wed 07/29/2009
Realize the depth of your view as a traveler.
I, too, have travelled extensively and agree that I can not assume that I know what it is truly like to live in another country. Travel itself offers freedom, yet many even in the U.S. are unable to travel (unaffordable to go to Europe for example) and most certainly some of the poorer European folks will never cross their border – so in effect they are confined to the system that they live within. Such a perception and the inherent appreciation/frustration builds a perspective that can not be gained by a traveler and may not even be fully appreciated by a person expecting to live somewhere for only a few years before moving on. The basic understanding a traveler may gain, even when staying away from American style hotels is still rather superficial if you think about it. Chatting with a busy inn keeper (assumed to be at least modestly economically successful) is not the same as rubbing elbows and getting to know someone chronically unemployed, who works the second shift at an industrial factory, labors in the field, or someone who is oppressed politically. I would argue that their perspective would be rather different as would their struggles than many of people a traveler might find access to. Imagine someone visiting the States and never setting foot in the inner city or a stress filled factory. To understand the travails of a country you can't select a sample from stories from the top half of the socio economic ladder to understand taxes, healthcare, education, safety and political corruptness. To be fair I don't think Rick represents his work that way. I regard Rick's work highly, but as one Iranian caller on a radio interview recently reminded him, the struggles of a people are buried much more deeply than a traveler would hope to uncover and sometimes our naïveté can create stereotypes that overlook some of the most important political problems a country is trying to solve. Can we gain a smile and appreciation for another person through a simple meeting? Yes, thank goodness. But to think we can do significantly more than that discounts the problems a people may be struggling with. T his entry is not a condemnation so much as a cautionary message that things may or may not be as we see them through our temporary view of the country. Jackie's blog is excellent by the way!
Wauwatosa, WI USA Tue 07/28/2009
Amsterdam not corrupt anarchy
I think Rick has a great philosophy on travel, and on politics. I had to wait until I had my PhD in chemistry and a decent job before I could afford to see Europe, but now have enjoyed it many times. That includes the unusual places, as well as the more normal ones, such as Amsterdam. Ironically, the city was recently attacked by some US news commentators for being too liberal. But a resident there made a video with statistics that show Amsterdam is good. You can see it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTPsFIsxM3w and it is well worth the minute and a half. I look forward to going again.
Tempe, AZ USA Tue 07/28/2009
An Expatriate's Perspective
I think there is no question that the experiences gained by travelling enrich the traveller and give him/her a different perspective on their world and on his/her own nationality. This is a valuable component of anyone's education and first step in being part of the global community.
As much as Rick Steves has travelled, however, his own experiences have been limited by a couple of facts. One obvious one is that he doesn't speak any other languages. If your access to a culture is only in what is translated for you, your grasp of that culture is automatically more distant as you are accessing it always through an intermiediary.
A second rather interesting fact is that Rick travels abroad but he does not reside abroad. I have lived in three different countries and I have travelled a great deal. There is a big difference in travelling in a country and living there. When you are travelling in a country, you see it on a superficial level and often in flattering terms. I lived in Japan for 3 1/2 years and loved it but I would see many other Americans come to Japan and initially be charmed by the experience but after a few months, the charm would fade for some of them and they would find that things were not exactly as they had appeared on the surface.
And in living outside of the United States, while you may come to appreciate and admire other ways of doing things, you will also recognize wonderful things about the United States that you would never have noticed otherwise. One thing I noticed after living abroad was how everything in the US WORKS. If the trash is supposed to be picked up on Wednesday morning, it IS....every single Wednesday morning. Another thing I noticed is how incredibly efficient the US is. I lived in the Middle East for seven years and loved it. But when I came home, it amazed me how much I could get done running errands, for example, in a few hours in the States. Also in many older and traditional societies, tribal and ethnic divisions remain entrenched and the societies have a hard time progressing beyond them. The US society while not perfect has made amazing progress even in our lifetimes in the area of racial equity, for example. We are able to change dynamics that other societies can't seem to.
And in travelling and meeting people from other cultures, you learn that we are more alike than different and that things are often very different when you are there than they are portrayed from afar.
Cary, NC USA Tue 07/21/2009
Travel as a Political Act
I too am an ELCA Lutheran who has traveled fairly extensively ... and this book nails it. The chapter on El Salvador described experiences I had in El Salvador last fall with a group of 8 people guided by International Partners in Mission. In addition to the many sites recommended by Steves, you should go there to see El Mozote where 140 children were slaughtered, the slums in Zaragosa where a young man from Belgium (but Salvadoran born) has single-handedly started a K-12 school, the reolutionary museum in Perkin Lemka territory, and many more.
Peoria, IL USA Mon 07/20/2009
Travel as a Political Act
If our illustrious elected officials would travel extensively first they might then take on a different view of cultures. Most have not traveled and only pander to jingoistic fervor. Traveling mkes us all better world citizens.
La Crescenta, CA USA Sun 07/19/2009
Travel As A Political Act
I just finished reading Steves' new book and reviewed it in the context of a reply to his daughter's travel diary called Jackie's Blog. In a nutshell, it was entertaining and a fast read. The content correlates well with what acquaintances living or working in those regions he writes about have told me. The amount of time RS spends traveling do give him insights to other cultures. His comments on U.S. social issues reflect valid comparisons between how various peoples live. Capitalism is about self-interest and that ugly word "greed." But, for better or worse, self-interest is THE huge motivator for many individuals and it does provide funding to do lots of social good. Buy the book for about $17 or order it from the library. It has a legitimate point of view and might provoke challenging questions by students to their civics class teachers.
pendleton, SC USA Sun 07/12/2009
Comments on the Book
This is what I wrote on Live Journal:
I am ranking this book as among the best I've ever read. It is a real eye-opener, and there are millions of people who could benefit from the insights it gives.
Don't think that this is 'just another travel book' because that's what Rick Steves normally writes. This is an in-depth look at the art of traveling to gain knowledge and insight about places and people you might never consider visiting.
Travel as a Political Act is highly readable. I can't recommend it enough.
Ansonia, CT USA Thu 07/02/2009
Wearing Obama T-shirt in Cairo
After having a great time with the Rick Steves "Heart of Italy" tour this June, I went to visit a friend in Cairo. My first day there I wore my Obama t-shirt. This was not long after Obama gave his speech in Cairo. Everyone was yelling at me, "Obama, Obama, Obama #1 president!" and so on as we walked up and down the lanes of the Khan el Khalili souk. Same thing on the dirt streets in the building her apartment was in. It was very heartwarming. Also rather overwhelming, so I only wore the t-shirt that one day.
Another political experience I had was in Siena, Italy. A couple made room for me at their table at a sidewalk cafe; turned out I was talking to the next British attache in Italy (highest British military position in Italy). I had such an interesting conversation with him and his wife!
Apache Jct., AZ USA Tue 06/30/2009
Living abroad vs.
I just finished reading Rick's book and in general I agree with the philosophy he proposes people take as it relates to broadening one's horizons (and that of their community) through travel. I do find one of his comments in the book curious though. In a few places he reiterates that his favourite place of all is home in the US (understandable, given his family and business roots being there), but also that he would never *want* to live in a foreign country. I used to live in China and I felt that to really get through "the back door" requires more than just a couple weeks' travel. To live there for at least several months is a completely different travel experience that forces you to embrace your surroundings (and let it embrace you in return). I found it to be a life-changing experience that fundamentally changed my perspective on life, people, and values...which I think is a true reflection of what Rick's book argues people need to do more of. Interested in anyone else's thoughts on this and how actually living in a foreign country has changed them. I'm sure Rick wouldn't disagree with me on this....but I was just surprised to read that he wouldn't even consider living abroad.
Edmonton, AB Canada Sun 06/28/2009
Appreciation for Rick's insights in
I certainly do share Rick's opinions that he shared in his new book, "Travel as a Political Act". I acquired this new book as my first Kindle purchase and regret that I cannot share this very valuable book with friends and family. Charlotte H. Coffelt http://www.roadwomen.com/volunteers.htm#Charlotte%20Coffelt Houston, Texas
Charlotte H. Coffelt
Houston, Texas USA Fri 06/26/2009
tavis smiley interview
It is sad to see tavis smiley brush over the subject of open discussion on drug law reform. Mr. Smiley shut down rick as soon as the conversation moved into how open laws change peoples opinions.I feel that pbs is not near as open to new views as they try to appear to be. No pbs shows on poor drug law results to society, economy or public view of unworkable laws. It was against the law to teach africans to read, and that was wrong. Gays were discriminated against legally, and that was wrong. Jews were legally imprisioned. Bad laws are bad laws. Only when the discussions are real will the laws change. Rick, please ask your fellow pbs hosts to address this like true open thinkers, not people afraid of the law.
brandon, fla USA Tue 06/23/2009
Travel can open our eyes if we let it
We just returned from 5 weeks in Europe. Last year's trip was peppered with "who do you think will win the election". This year we often heard the positive response to a new direction with the election of new president. Europe watches what's happening in the USA. I could only wish that America would care about what's happening in the rest of the world. Travel opens our eyes, if we let it. Rick has put into words what we have felt for years - travel is a valuable way to a bit more of a world view.
Colorado Springs, CO USA Mon 06/22/2009
Is this some sort of ideology, let alone a threatening one?
Travel without fear. Travel without preconceptions about what you'll discover. Travel with a sense that the people you see and meet will have experiences borne of a different historical background than your own. Travel with the knowledge that the world does not revolve around you, and being in a different culture will present a mental challenge that you might as well learn to enjoy.
Costa Mesa, CA USA Sat 06/20/2009
The idea of travel as a political act isn't pro or anti-American; it's global. It isn't about thinking America should be like Europe or "USA! USA!" It's about understanding the nuances of global and local societies and using this knowledge to not just to be entertained, but to learn, to develop and challenge pre-existing beliefs.
For a short time, I lived in San Jose, Costa Rica with a host family that only spoke Spanish. San Jose is in a bustling developing world city far from the pretty beaches and rainforests. One thing that struck me was the amount American chain restaurants – not just Mickey D's but Quiznos and TJI Fridays. I asked my host mother what she thought about globalization, and she shrugged and said that while she wasn't thrilled about it, it was good they brought jobs. A few weeks later, I saw the largest protest that I ever saw against the impending Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Most of the participants were workers of every trade – most memorable were the garbage men who rolled through on trucks emblazoned with protest slogans.
This made me rethink my pre-existing notions on the notion of globalization in ways that cannot be grasped in a classroom or through a book. I can relate countless other experiences where I have learned from travel in ways that challenged the way I think and changed me for the better. I would rather travel once and had one mind-working, soul-searching experience than to have traveled a hundred times and not be changed at all.
FL USA Fri 06/19/2009
Leaving expectations behind
I have most enjoyed countries when I have a lowered or neutral expectation of them. People are prideful of their home and want to share it with others if they're receptive to it. The worst interaction is scorn of another's country on their own turf.
New York, NY USA Sat 06/06/2009
It's a Very Small World
I haven't read the new book yet, so perhaps I'm missing something.
Travel, when you actually "experience" a new place rather just going to "see" it, makes the world smaller and opens your eyes to different ways of living. It also shows you a different viewpoint on things. Too often we take for granted what the media reports and fail to remember that there are different opinions. (e.g. I saw a commercial for the Ethiopian Tourism Board when I was in England. Far different look than we ever see here in the U.S.)
Watch the news when you go to a new country, talk to people you encounter about their life. There are also travelers from even more countries in the country you're visiting (e.g. I met and had a lovely conversation with a gentleman from Ireland while in Scotland, and German lady in Italy, etc...)
Only someone who is close-minded wouldn't get something out of a trip to another country and should stay home anyway, you won't like it. And yes, there are times when I come home far more appreciative of Home.
Denver, CO USA Mon 06/01/2009
Having recently returned from Europe I was interested to read Mr Steves' most recent book... I find his television show, podcasts, and travel books invaluable. However, his "world view" is rather naive. Perhaps as an admitted member of NORML he can be 'excused' for perhaps smoking too many 'doobies' but that would be rather pejorative and away from the point: he aims to have "us" (meaning US travelers) to be "open minded" in unfailing acceptance of other world views and cultures when clearly such 'acceptance' is hardly reciprocated. And no it's not like I'm a die hard 'believer' in the thought of "my country right or wrong/ my country" it's just that as Mr. Steves admits he spends 4 months out of the year abroad perhaps he has lost touch in terms of what it means to be an American and perhaps he does need "a real vacation" and a trip to a nice sandy beach resort (such as he decries repeatedly in his book) is perhaps not such a bad idea after all.
Detroit , MI USA Thu 05/28/2009
Rick, thanks for writing this book. I have found it invaluable for putting words to my own travel experiences. I have suggested to my colleagues at university that this should become required reading for students before entering our "study abroad" programs. The thing I appreciate most is that you take care to be sympathetic to all points of view. Your desire to understand and communicate the ways Europeans do things differently should make your readers want to do the same. Especially enlightening is the way you compared the Rousseauean European way to the Lockean American way (117-118) -- brilliant! And my favorite line in the book is, "...no society should fear another society simply because their leaders and media say they should" (147) -- inspired! We must all commit to understanding our neighbors, and your book provides helpful insights into both the ways that our neighbors understand us and ways we can interact with other cultures in a meaningful way. I will keep suggesting this book to people for a long time. This is a wonderful book, and again, thank you for taking time to commit these words to paper.
Nashville, TN USA Tue 05/26/2009
In America, excepting family emergencies and health issues, we DON'T HAVE PROBLEMS. We only have things that are inconvenient. As a traveler, I know there are people in the world who don't have an education, don't have clean water, don't have health care or safe houses. By traveling, we bring dollars to these people and gain insight into how blessed we are. Keep sharing America!
Haleiwa, HI USA Mon 05/25/2009
Travel As A Political Act
I was thinking about my son as I read Rick's comments (and my own and the valued comments from others.) My son always tells me: "Dad, it may be old news to you, but it is new and important to people of my generation. You cannot assume that everybody is a student of history and the school of hard knocks." As I think about it, RS is trying to communicate with an entirely younger generation. Thanks, Rick. Bill
pendleton, SC USA Mon 05/25/2009
Travel is singular only if you never talk to anyone else about it. If you're one of those people who only talks about the last Packer game or how the Cubs are doing then yes, your travel is not a political act. But if you meet with friends as I did last night and share experience and talk about what you learned then your experience is doubled, or tripled. And then those friends talk to their friends. Individuals talking with other individuals was a strong part of getting Obama elected. It's one step at a time. Rick has never said that he expects world peace to result from his visits to Iran. He does hope / expect that some people will now have a better understanding about Iran and share that understanding with others. And what is wrong with that? Also, I don't think he's saying that you have to do one or the other. You can learn about another culture and have fun at the same time. Why would they necessarily be mutually exclusive?
Madison , WI USA Fri 05/22/2009
Travel as a Selfish Act
Travel does broaden an individual's perspective, but isn't that a singular, individual result? The root of travel couldn't be more of a selfish act. To travel is to decide and plan were I want to go, how much money I can spend, the pictures/video I take, the memories and experiences I get to keep. How many times was "I" mentioned? It seems that placing a social-political spin on travel is more of a way to deflect the self-serving nature of travel into a more altruistic one so as to avoid feelings of guilt for enjoying this pleasure (and its success, for some). It is a little presumptuous to think that travel can lead to world peace. After all how many countries view our American travelers as "rude", "arrogant", etc.? Maybe Rick's thesis is not travel per say, but a certain type of travel where you are not there to watch your kids enjoy themselves (selfish), but to learn from other cultures and take that home, as if to say any other culture is better than America's (political). I still enjoy Rick's travel shows and books VERY much, though!
Los Angeles, CA USA Thu 05/21/2009
Travel Opens Minds
Are the people posting being purposefully obtuse? Travel as a political act is not a complex idea and it really isn't a controversial one. Unless of course, you think that the United States is perfect. Democracy depends on a knowledgeable citizenry. When you travel with an open mind you learn things. They may not be things that you want to pick wholesale and plop into US culture, but it might give you perspective. It might you think of some other way to adapt the US system that solve a problem in a uniquely American way. It seems to me that really all Rick is saying is when you go overseas, enjoy yourself, but open yourself up to new ideas. Then when you come back to the US you'll have a better understanding of others perspectives and you can share your experience and ideas with friends and colleagues. Our recent elections show that individuals count in terms of their votes and their ideas and is that not the essences of politics?
Madison, WI USA Thu 05/21/2009
Travel as a Political Act
This is not a comment on "Travel as a Political Act" per se, but rather one on some of the other comments. I note that several of you state that Rick should not profess liberal political ideas admixed with his business ideas, but I see conservative business people who mix their political creed with their business. Do you all object to that? What's good for the goose is good for the gander.
Denver, CO USA Wed 05/20/2009
Rick Steves As Commentator
I said it before. I'll say it again. I like Rick Steves. But one doubt lingers. Is Rick a product of his vendors? Do marketing gurus tell him: RS, you really need to write a book about your political views - 'cuz it will help sell your "brand" to your core customers?
I hope RS has the guts to do the right thing for his customers, his prospective customers, his employees, and society. I just hope you are not another empty suit.
Rick, is there anything you can say or do to convince readers you are the real McCoy??
I thought your comments about the Catholic church were legitimate and balanced. You will never convince everybody.
But, respectfully, can't you somehow expunge the tinge of arrogance permeating some of your blogs? Are you bored? Are you supercilious? Is it time to turn over the travel comments to the less biased?
I do like you, your product, your employees, your views and even much of your philosophy. But please be sensitive to your audience. Thanks.
Bill Kester SC
pendleton, sc USA Wed 05/20/2009
I am not sure I understand this whole concept. While I do travel extensively and am always amazed at the graciousness of others I meet from a variety of cultures, I've never had this near obsession to prostrate myself in deference. I respect and enjoy the differances, but I certainly suffer no delusions that any other culture is somehow more illuminated or better in anyway than the USA, liberals notwithstanding. I find those who do lack a profound sense of who they are and seem to need a never ending rotation of worldly things to semi-worship. On the plus side, history has taught us that spanking the odd tyrant is good for everyone.
Incidently, I really enjoy his travel shows.
Dallas, TX USA Mon 05/18/2009
Keep on Traveling, leave the politics alone...unless you are considering running for office.
I agree with many on this forum. Rick Steves is a wonderful travel writer, advisor and has great tours. I have used his books for 12 years and been on two of his tours. His advise is almost always to the point, correct and just like the information you would get from a friend who had stayed at a hotel or been to a town or restaurant. Please try to separate your political opinions from your travel business. When I was young, there was a saying: "never argue religion or politics", which I would appreciate Rick doing that. I will continue to use your books and perhaps go on your tours, but I am not interested in your political opinions, so please tone it down and leave those for another business or line of work.
Houston, TX USA Mon 05/18/2009
The Politics Within
I like Rick Steves!!! Not because I have ever met him. Not because I agree with everything he writes. But because I traveled with his company once and met one of his guides - for whom he probably set an example. It was said of her in April 2009, "Helen has a big heart." I believe top/down leadership is good but values also bubble up from the rank and file. And it's the owner, manager, stakeholder and customers who benefit from the talents of their employees. Bill Kester, South Carolina
pendleton, SC USA Fri 05/15/2009
Intelligent Observation is Political
I remember undergrad days at the University of Washington when I co-founded its Disabled Students Commission and a less famous Rick was our budget travel guru for Europe. Even if Iran had never been on his itinerary he would have my respect for the political insight that recognizes the existence of disability culture. Simply observing and communicating those details about a destination that are relevant to our community he makes a political intervention. We appreciate the chance to build on the foundation he lays whenever he highlights examples of social inclusion available to travelers with disabilities.
San Jose, CA USA Wed 05/13/2009
Attitudes toward Americans
As an experienced traveler, I appreciate the ongoing suggestions of thoughtfully approaching different cultures through travel. During the Bush years, the conventional wisdom was that American's were hated abroad and that we needed to correct that image because it was hurting us as a nation. I vehemently disagree with that notion. At no time whatsoever during literally dozens of trips overseas during the Bush years did I encounter hostility because I was American. Quite the contrary. Yes, people were disillusioned with Bush and Iraq, no doubt. But they remained open to sharing their thoughts with Americans and continued to hold enthusiasm and curiousity for American culture and the American character. None of that enthusiasm or respect was missing during the Bush years.
Berkeley, CA USA Wed 05/13/2009
I don't think Rick should clam up. In fact I think he should test some of the things he's reported about Iran. Rick reported that "Death to America" isn't meant to be taken seriously, it's just a rhetorical complaint like "Death to Traffic".
I've got the perfect way to test that concept. Next trip, why not wear a "Death to Ahmadinejad" t-shirt? You will be able to test first hand whether Iranians take these things seriously or rhetorically.
You can even write a new series "Persia through Prison". I'm sure it will be a fun romp through a land loaded with culture and history.
gainesville, VA USA Tue 05/12/2009
Saying no to purchasing this book
I doubt I will purchase this book. Seems to me that every celeb has to have a "cause" and this is Rick Steves cause.
I can do without another celeb "telling me what to do and how to think". When I travel I have always respected the culture of the country I am visiting- but I'll be damned if I'll spend my time and money in a place where Death to America" is as common a phrase as "good day".
Rick- stick to reporting the facts. If you wanted to stir up some controversy with your political opinions, then I guess this book is a good start.
El Cajon, CA USA Tue 05/12/2009
Thank you for answering the question on my mind since seeing you in Cambridge, MA: when is Rick Steves going to write about all this he's now talking about! This is a radical and timely book, just what we need now. More comments here at my blog www.whytravel.typepad.com
Boston, MA USA Tue 05/12/2009
I lived and worked 8 years in Germany. during this time and now i have learned how complicated cultural interpretations can be, even when one, like Rick Steves speaks with natives. The problem is that Rick is limited to his own language, and therefore can never really understand another culture. Also, one must actually live and work within a culture to begin to understand it - even then one must be cautious of statements about "culture". I recommend that Rick keep doing what he does best: being a tour guide, pointing out sights, etc. Stay away from the rest!!!
Seattle, WA USA Tue 05/12/2009
One thing I realize in my travels, as a guest in a country, there is no need to demand preferential treatment. I am in a foreign land to enjoy what it has to offer in the way of customs, traditions and sights.
Too many times, we have run across the "Ugly Tourist" - a rude, self-centered, pompous loudmouth who demands only the "best" of everything. Little does that person realize that they are getting what they deserve!
"Friends" had warned us of the horrible smells in Venice, the negativity in Paris and of the dirty city of Rome. With an open mind, spirit of adventure, positive attitude and respect for our fellow man, we have experienced wonderful, friendly people who are more than happy to give a warm welcome to the traveller!
Rick, thank you for your tours (through the years) which have given us treasured friendships here and abroad.
Keep up the good work.
Littleton, CO USA Mon 05/11/2009
America compared to Nazis
While in Prague, my tour guide referred to America's freeing of Iraq from Saddam Hussain as an occupying country like Hitler and the Nazi's and Communist Russia of the Czech Republic. If they can put America in with the Nazi's and Communist, they must not have a free press that tells them the truth, but they get anti-American propaganda on the News. I didn't say anything, I was just there to enjoy the country but it saddens me that they have the wrong information.
Whitewater, KS USA Mon 05/11/2009
coal mine reclamation - Czech
I haven'y had the opportunity to read your book yet. My most memorable trip was a month in Ostrava working for the World Bank on a coal mine reclamation project (I am a city planner by training). It changed me (for the better)
kelowna , britis Canada Sun 05/10/2009
I just want to say that I read your book over the weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed it! My wife and I completely share your philosophy on travel and we constantly find ourselves having to explain why traveling is so much more than just sitting on a cruise ship stuffing your gob at the midnight buffet. I will definitely be recommending this book to others. Maybe I'll even bring it to Mongolia -- my wife and I are leaving in June for a two-year stint in the Peace Corps. Have any travel tips?
Keep up the good work!
Orange County, CA USA Sun 05/10/2009
Others whose travel is also a political statement: Matt Harding recorded his "This I Believe" essay for NPR, and it was featured Sunday, March 29, 2009 on NPR as part of the "On the Media" show. It immediately reminded me of Rick's philosophy on the transformative power of getting to know others around the world. Matt's 'viral' video on You Tube (he is 'dancing badly' with people all over the globe) has become a phenomenon. His "This I Believe" essay is very powerful and moving. At the same time it is plain talk about how we are as human beings - the conflict between the instinct for tribal safety and the reality of global citizenship. Well said. Thought y'all would be interested in this radio show and Matt's video if you were not already aware.
Sue Anderson Austin, TX PS - Rick - you were terrific at Book People in Austin - and thanks a million for the Iran PBS special.
Link to NPR, Matt's TIB essay:
Austin, TX USA Sun 05/10/2009
Three points. First, Denmark's taxes paid by the poorest 30% are significantly higher than those paid by the poorest 30% in the U. S.; the poor are contributing in Denmark, compared to the U. S. where they contribute only their share of social security taxes. So, it's important to recognize that, in Denmark, the poorest are contributing for the services they receive from government.
Second, I chose to not retain my parent's home in an "over 55" community after they died. Living in such a community seems similar to living in Denmark. Individual liberties are monitored by neighbors very closely and deviations from the expected norm are reported for discipline. What impressed me most about the folks living there is that, during a period of life when they are closing on death, so many choose to spend so much time monitoring and correcting the way other people live instead of truly enjoying their life and fully accepting the idiosynchrosies of others, while being free to enjoy their own idiosynchrosies. I'd rather live in a less structured community during my own retirement.
Third, Rick's mixing of his left wing political ideologies with his travel wisdom on the same forum is not good business practice in a politically charged world. I'm sad that he's chosen to mix the two; it makes me less inclined to buy his products than I have been; and I've been an enthusiastic supporter until recently. But, I'm not one to object to anyone wishing to commit commercial suicide.
Centennial, CO USA Sat 05/09/2009
Superiority complexes work both ways
Adagio writes: "Do not assume that it is inferior because it isn't American." Nor should one assume that something is superior because it is European. Unfortunately, many Europeans AND many Americans (including some of the posters on this board) do exactly that. Isn't that a superior complex? And they even become critical, condescending (like Rick), or even insulting (like J. Schau) towards travelers who dare question the "Europe is better" creed. That's not being open-minded; it's exactly the opposite.
Austin, TX USA Sat 05/09/2009
A Liberal in Travel Clothes
Steves is now just another one. He got his money via capitalism's strengths and now he becomes a preacher to others on the way they should think. He should sell the travel business and show us how he plans to fix the problems where he professes to know the answers. Do something, then preach!! But that is not the way of the liberal.
Louisville , KY USA Sat 05/09/2009
Support of Rick's Travel Philosophy
As a person who lived in Europe (for 8 years in the 70's) and has travelled there extensively during the past 40 years, I totally endorse Rick's philosophy of travel and understand that if you visit other countries with an open mind you can't help but be changed. My wife and I had the extreme good fortune to live in Copenhagen many years ago. We had young children at the time and the Dane's support of young families was amazing. We enjoyed the best child care and the best health care we have ever had. We experienced everything Rick describes. It was one of the happiest times of our lives. Two years ago we visited friends there and once again were treated with so much love and respect. We saw how the Danes truly care for everyone in their country. We had long discussions on various topics including the "New Danes", the name the Danes have for their new immigrant population. The focus was on how to include these new citizens in all aspects of Danish life- a true testimonial to the Danish character. We have spent time in every European country during these past four decades and still visit there yearly. We are always impressed with the people we meet and have never felt anything but an open, welcoming attitude. We love the US but also understand that there are many other wonderful places to live in the world. Acknowledging the positive attributes and life advantages of living in other countries does not indicate a lack of respect and love for the US but is merely the result of seeing other places with open eyes and an attitude of acceptance and respect.
Portland , Oregon USA Sat 05/09/2009
LOVE the idea of Thoughtful Traveling
I love traveling and KNOW that the US would be a happier place w/more equality of the masses: i.e. health care & education being The BIGGIES!
Leawood, KS USA Sat 05/09/2009
Just wathced your work on Iran. How true, and now I have finally explored your web and learned about your book "Travel as a Political Act" I will order it today! I have flown hot air balloons all over the world and found the Muslim culture and it's peolpe to be the friendlist and most loving of any culture. When asked by other people about our travels and where we would return to our answer is always met with shock and disbelief! Turkey! We watch lots of Iranian films and find them to be the most beautiful in message and content. Thanks Rick for one traveling to Iran and sharing your concerns and awarness!
Thomas W Gough
Bliss, Idaho USA Sat 05/09/2009
An expat agrees with Steve!
As an expat that has lived overseas for nine years now, first in Scotland and now in The Hague I am in total agreement with Rick and look forward to reading his book. I am thankful Rick is bring this information into he light. We Americans are on the cusp of deciding if the greed, me,me,me values we have been sold by big business are working for us. I recently had three of my husband's cousins visiting us here in the Netherlands. I got the feeling they were not in favor of anyone having a free ride. But by the end of their travels here I believe they saw that reasoned social programs can mean a huge increase in the quality of life for everyone. Generally people are less stressed out over here. They have more time for family and leisure activities. Seeing is believing!
The Hague, NL Fri 05/08/2009
Travel helps both sides
Clay wrote: "I'll never understand why some Americans are so afraid to admit that we might not have the answers to everything and might actually learn something beneficial from Europe." Conversely, I'll enver understand why many Europeans are afraid to admit that they might not have the answers to everything and might actually learn something beneficial from America. Travel is a way to help them do so.
Palo Alto, CA USA Fri 05/08/2009
Rick's idea that travel can influence political outlook is right-on. Before I started traveling extensively, I shared with many of my friends a fuzzy belief in socialism and the goodness of government. Travel has shattered that naive outlook. I have seen first-hand the contemporary and historical evidence of the misery that governments can inflict on people, and of how willingly people can be talked into accepting it. Travel has instilled in me a passionate commitment to liberty, and a keen awareness of the need to limit governments and other institutions that can get in the way of it. But the learning has not only been on my part. Many people I have met in other countries have gained a greater appreciation for what liberty means. To be an unofficial ambassador of liberty is the most humbling, and rewarding, part of it.
Austin, TX USA Fri 05/08/2009
Time for US isolationism to call it a day!
Growing up in the American south in a middle class family whose travel included going to a beach and Disneyworld resort could barely have prepared me to live in today's world! It was not until I traveled overseas that I began to truly "mature" in my views of the world's people and cultures. A "life lesson" came along as I prepared to travel to France in 1994 for an International Music Workshop. Many friends and colleagues warned me to be wary of the French and their rudeness, hinting that they were "out to rip off Americans" (!) I did listen with some skepticism, especially on learning that they had not personally traveled to France! When I arrived in Paris I found a delightful, open, gracious and courteous people, willing to assist me get around and enjoy the city they were immensely proud of. I relaxed and basked in the lovely "city of light" and didn't look back! I've been back to Paris, Biarritz, Lyon and Nice many, many times and continue to find the French people outstanding hosts- even during the unfortunate "French Fry" era! The lesson here is this (and I am an educator by profession!): Parents- Take your children outside the USA for a REAL education that will prepare them for today's world! Help them to meet and experience people and cultures outside our own. This is the one way to dispel the hate and fear of anything different from our own American life. I love my country, and through travel I've learned to appreciate it even more, but, I also l find that my travels have made me more aware of the world's beautiful lands, peoples and cultures. It's also helped my to be a kinder and gentler human being. and for ambassadors like Rick Steves I am grateful.
Atlanta, GA USA Fri 05/08/2009
stay out of it!!!
rick...i've said this to you before...when you suggested your readers/viewers visit a hyper-political website...one that has the sponsorship of a man who is no friend of america... stay out of politics!!! stick to your strength...shining the light on the road ahead for all of us...and don't get entangled in a subject where so many will always have intense differences. you've always appealed to everyone, across the political spectrum, why not keep it that way.
pompano beach, , florid USA Fri 05/08/2009
Haven't read your book and don't intend to. I became interested in your travels for just that "travels" not your political views. I witnessed those on your Dallas tour. Very disappointing to listen to your political views of our country and its policies. America isn't perfect, but immigrants are still coming. My family and I use your programs and books so "we" can learn on our own.
Dallas, Tx USA Fri 05/08/2009
I'm with Rick
I believe in what Rick is saying -- we need more travel experts like him who do more in their public presentations, DVDs and guidebooks than just grouse about where to see the best luau, where to sample the best wine and where to get good deals on Venetian glass. He says at the beginning of this book that he's not expecting everyone to agree with his statements.
I believe that in today's America we've become too politically correct for our own good. We're too afraid of saying what's wrong in our society. Families think they're "poor" if they can no longer afford a second car. In Europe and other countries, people get along fine without one. Our news media get all excited about Americans winning medals in the Olympics and if we don't win enough, then it's big tragedy. What's wrong with other countries winning medals?
From my perspective, a major problem we have in this country is that not enough Americans travel outside our borders to experience the world around them. It's all about HDTVs, $30K weddings and huge McMansions with so much space you're out at the mall every weekend buying things to fill it up. The "debt crisis" we're in right now is because of that kind of behavior.
If more people spent their money to travel abroad, we'd have a more enriched America with an eye on the things in life that really matter.
Rick, I hear you.
Palatine, IL USA Fri 05/08/2009
I've lived abroad and traveled to 49 countries. I'm always grateful to get back to the USA. I've been offended by Rick's political views before and won't read his book. I don't buy his products any more either. It's distressing that someone who has made such a good living from mainly US citizens is so hateful towards his own country. I won't support him with my USD.
Cincinnati, OH USA Fri 05/08/2009
Travel as a political act
It is obvious there that you travel to 49 countries and take your America is always better attitude with you. Why do you travel if you think the US is always so great and you are so glad to be home. I travel for the culture and to visit friends and make new ones. I do not agree always with Rick;s guides but he has been instrumental in showing people whom may otherwise have just gone on a guided tour, how to go it alone in a foreign country. I always see many tourists in my adopted city of Paris clutching their Blue covered guide books and usually talk to them and they are glad to meet another American and I steer them to places only a person living in Paris would know about. I think travel is not really political, but is just traveling but I will defend forever Rick;s right to write this book
Paris, France Fri 05/08/2009
Excessive patriotism can be blinding
Some seem to suggest that anyone who dares criticize the United States, and points out positive aspects of other countries, is "hateful" of United States? Please, I'd hope that we can try to be more open minded than that.
For example: We happen to enjoy France and many aspects of its culture (and our blog celebrates that part of France: (http://parisandbeyondinfrance.blogspot.com) But there are some aspects of France's social culture that we criticize. Can one appreciate and criticize at the same time? Yes -- but only if one is open minded, and not blinded by excessive patriotism.
San Anselmo, CA USA Fri 05/08/2009
Rick: I haven't read your book, but now intend to. I consider myself patriotic to the U.S.A., but have also had my mind opened since my first University of Copenhagen semester spent in 1975 as an exchange student; along with several subsequent business trips to Europe and Asia Pacific, including my 1989 honeymoon in Europe. It was originally hard for me to accept that any country outside the U.S.A. could possibly treat its citizens "socially" better then we do. However, just as my travels overseas have broadend my outlook, so has the privilege for me to be fortunate enough to live/work in several different places stateside. The U.S.A. is a wonderful country and in my opinion will always be a dominant global force. However, if we are to remain and/or retain global respectability we must leave ourselves open to the comparative debate that we may be able to learn by others examples. Rick, whether or not I end up agreeing with you "politically" on everything in your book I do salute you for having the courage to risk your status in the travel industry. I'm sure your comments will have some repercussions; however, your freedom and mine to speak about our lifes' experience and learned lessons remains truly empowering here in the U.S.A. While I have no qualms with any diverse opinions reflected in this forum it is my hope that most views reflected are based on actual worldwide travel experiences...and not just limited to a one sided opinion of what may exist outside the U.S. Thanks Steve.
Ocean Pines, MD USA Fri 05/08/2009
We have traveled as a political act. Early in this century we planned to visit family in France and had time and money to travel to another country. We could have gone many places but chose Great Britain because of Tony Blair's government's immediate support of the US after 9/11.
So. Cal, CA USA Fri 05/08/2009
Travel as a world view shaper
Rick gets that America is a great country but we need not stand alone and gloat. As I have traveled (and I started late as a nervous American) I realized that there are many varied opinions out there and it is my choice to agree with them or not. That doesn't necessarily make them bad opinions, just different.
The one thing I wish all my fellow countrymen would understand is that debating opinions, political or not, doesn't need to be a personal attack. Rick and Europeans understand this and that's okay!
Embrace the world, eat it up and come home and be happy to have been able to enjoy it all.
Cupertino, Ca USA Fri 05/08/2009
Socialism smells like charity
Rick is suffering from easymoneyitis. This condition afflicts those that did not have to work hard for their paycheck. Those that win the lottery or inherit a fortune are easily infected. Politicians and government employees are without question carriers of this IQ reducing disease.
Midway City, CA USA Fri 05/08/2009
Understand WHAT travel teaches
Unfortunately, traveling by itself does not give you the knowledge or insight to know how to fix the monetary policies of a country. Nor how to "fix" that countries problem. Isn't the whole concept of travel to enlighten you beyond the "I have all the answers" from the experiences in my own country?
Yet some travel "stars" profess to understand how to "fix" various countries, in the same presumptuous manner that an actor claims devine social or political superiority based on their popularity. Playing a guitar, sad for some to hear, doesn't imbibe them with deeper understanding than the average person.
I always loved the theory of helping by "forgiving" third world debt. That debt was mostly accumulated by the corrupt leadership of the country who bought weapons and mercedes. Who is so niave to believe that this new found money will now be used for food? It won't. And your travels should have taught you that.
The latest series of Rick's shows end with a comment about "Justice" for people, meaning they should be given food. Let's forgot the false logic that there is a right to food, and that by not having it, you are the victim of an injustice. Let's talk practicality. The typical food issue in a nation is that the nation's leaders are causing the starvation to some social or political end. Usually genocide. How can we feed them without forcing local politics. And the only way to effectively address issues like that, well the American People find that answer unacceptable.
So better to throw money and make yourself feel good than provide any real sort of a solution.
Like giving a bunch of candy to kids without access to dental care. Sure it makes the inane feel good, but can screw the recipient big time, all for the sake of you trying to make yourself feel like some big magnamimous person.
Frankfort, IL USA Fri 05/08/2009
Questioning is not
I am saddened to read some of the comments in this forum that equate honest evaluation of the "ugly American" attitudes I have witnessed and heard about in my travels as being anti-America. Why make this a personal attack on Rick? The intolerance spilling over from our media is distressful and harmful to our collective image world-wide...and yes our image world-wide does matter. I find citizens of other countries to be, generally, like citizens in the US. Most are wonderful individuals, trying to provide the best life possible for themselves and their families. One of the biggest differences I have found is many people in other countries are more aware of the politics in the US than the majority of the people of the US is about other governments. Too often those of us who have seen other ways of governing are accused of being anti-American for pointing out the fallacies we hear on TV or radio shows. Governing a large number of people is a difficult undertaking. Observing what works and does not work in other governments should be a helpful thing to do. Why be angry when there is a healthy discussion about the different practices of other countries? I imagine the great majority of the readers of this website is thankful to be citizens of the USA. I know I am. Where else could so many people from across the socio-economic stratum be able to travel internationally? Our way of life allows more international travel than I would imagine most other people enjoy. We have freedoms most people can only dream about, but this does not mean we are somehow superior to other people. Our country is a fabulous example of what democracy can be. There are areas that could be improved. Pointing out these areas and trying to improve them are very American things to do.
College Station, TX USA Fri 05/08/2009
Travel as a Political Act
I have not yet read Rick's book, but fully intend to do so. I have traveled to eight other countries including my favorite, Italy, which I had wanted to see my entire life. I took my daughters with me on all my trips so they could have the exposure to other cultures that I never had until now. I love being in America, but recognize that it is not perfect and seek out the special and unique qualities of every other country I visit. Most countries have something wonderful to offer and some things that would be better if changed. Right now, we in America, are going through some reshaping of our own due to some of the actions of our recent past. I am hopeful that when we emerge, we will not have to go through another one of these terrible recession and job loss cycles. This is our challenge and we are working on resolving it. I feel my country coming back. However, I agree with the person who said a criticism does not mean I do not love my country and an approval of a cultural attribute in another country does not mean I love it more or want to move there! It just means I recognize it as a beautiful and special gift of that country. So, travel on and soak it up! The world is a smorgasbord of things to see and enjoy!
Alpharetta, GA USA Fri 05/08/2009
Right on, Rick!
With 2 Floridians telling you to clam up, I just have to post the opposite: Way to speak up, Rick! Right on for what you're saying.
It's so easy to condemn what you don't understand.
I found this out on my first visit to Russia. After the 3rd or 4th (or maybe 5th..) vodka toast with my Russian hosts, I drifted back to memories of high school in Florida, where a required course was titled "Americanism vs. Communism" and our president called Russia The Evil Empire. I was basically raised with a caricature of Russia in my mind, and the reality was far more complex and multifaceted and HUMAN.
Not saying Russia is a model for a country. I found many things there I did not agree with, and it made me appreciate freedoms we have in the U.S.
But we can certainly learn things from the best practices of other countries and that won't make us "commies" or "pinkos" or the other names people hurl when they want to criticize what they just don't understand.
Thanks for writing the book, Rick. Can't wait to read it.
Longwood, FL USA Fri 05/08/2009
Rick Steves is an American success story
I'm perplexed at some of the attacks on Rick Steves, as I have always considered him a quintessential American success story. This is a man who followed his dream, worked hard, and created a flourishing small business. His focus on customer satisfaction is exemplary. He has shrewdly grown his brand over the last 25 years. In the process he has taken plenty of risks, such as his early self-funded travel videos, and has been rewarded for them. Seems to me like he's living the American dream.
Seattle, WA USA Fri 05/08/2009
Healthcare in Denmark
About 20 years ago when I was in Denmark I got a serious cut as a result of an accident. I went to the hospital in Arhus (second largest city) and received incredibly good care from two physicians with no waiting. In fact within a few minutes of entering the facility I was greeted and assisted by an Orthopaedic Surgeon!
Their superior interpersonal skills were far better than anything I have experienced in the US. I was even invited to have coffee and cake in a most appealing Scandinavian dining room.
I asked where do I pay and was told no payment was necessary because I was considered a "guest" in their country. I insisted I pay but was told there was no provision for a tourist paying for healthcare as a result of an accident.
I expressed the view that I would have liked to spend my vacation in that hospital.
This experience was one of my fondest memories in over 30 years of International Travel and my introduction to how progressive a society Denmark really is.
A few days latter I met some Americans on a bus in Copenhagen who had just arrived from the airport. They asked me if I liked Denmark. Not realizing for the moment that everyone on the city bus spoke English, I said very spontaneously, "are you kidding, if there is such a thing as reincarnation I want to come back as a Dane" Everyone started smiling. I certainly meant that then and today.
Los Angeles, Ca. USA Fri 05/08/2009
travel & politics
Bravo to Rick for sharing his thoughts!! That IS the "American" way...which so many of us have forgotten. We can always agree to disagree if we so choose. I too, have gotten alot of flack over the years as I have described my views on places I've traveled to, and lived, outside of the US. While I love my country and understand fully the benefits we have here...there are other places that do some things better, and for the good of most of the people. I would also like to say that I think every American should travel outside the country...at least once to see how other's live, love, laugh. There is a philosopher who said "he who never leaves his own country is full of prejudice"...I have found truth in this, and not with just American's. To travel, is to see the world through a different set of eyes...if you allow yourself.
Cambridge, Ma USA Fri 05/08/2009
Why does everything have to be politicized? I want to travel as the act of traveling, enjoying companionship, culture, beauty, and history. I don't want to travel as a political act; I want to travel as a personal act. I've looked at this book at the store, and I certainly won't buy it or this way of traveling.
Wichita, KS USA Fri 05/08/2009
Loved the story about Denmark. Our daughter spent her semester abroad in Copenhagen. When we visited her, she warned us we would be "aggresively dinged at" by the bike riders if we walked in the bike lanes. We loved it. We live in a democracy in the US, government is supposed to be by the people, so everything we do is a political act, Stephanie, we might as well do it as best we can.
Seattle, w USA Fri 05/08/2009
politically correct travel
First I must state that I love to travel and have instilled that love of travel in my children. Since my brother works for the State Dept. and often lives abroad I have greedily taken advantage of him and sent him one , two ,or three kids who have then have the ultimate travel experiences with him. That being said I also love America and don't believe we can equate small European or for that matter any country with the US. My daughter just returned from her study abroad year at the Univ. of Aarhus in Denmark. She loved the country and the people, and was given many of the social welfare perks given to Danish citizens. However, at the end of her stay she commented to us of the hypocricy of the Danish government with regard to immigrants of a certain nationality. They are relegated to what we would call ghettos. I never hear anything about this from the "politically correct" progressives. Nothing but glowing reports about every country but the US. Just asking for a little fairness.
Oklahoma City, Ok USA Fri 05/08/2009
Love it, but don't leave it. Change it!
Having lived over a decade in a couple of European countries as a civilian, I can only hope that America's lack of a health care system and endemic fear of anything "N.I.H." eventually gives way to a sense of societal (I'd use that "other word" but there's a knee-jerk reaction to it in any context except "social security" -- which we now thank heaven for after recent events) interdependence and trust.
But every time this topic comes up out pops that trite old bumper sticker belligerence: 'if it's so nice there, then...yada, yada'. No sensible arguments or informed discussion; just jingo-tinged bellicosity.
Well, I did try it. And there's a lot I didn't care for. But as America slides more and more into being a policed people (there are now 40 different Federal police agencies alone not counting state, county and local police -- even armed animal control officers in some areas; i.e., Big Government at its worst). With that, the resulting erosion of the vaunted but vanishing personal freedom and I have to conclude that "big government" isn't just America's problem either.
But where Europeans endure their bureaucracy they do get the advantages -- health care, vacations, and guaranteed retirement -- that bureaucracy returns. Americans just get medically induced bankruptcy, maybe two weeks respite after at least a year's employment, and a vanishing 401K without matching contributions. Oh, and the bill for "failure-immune" banks and their bogus bonuses, bankrupt automakers and a $2 Billion/month war going nowhere.
Think of all the worthwhile health care, infrastructure and peaceful good will that money could have bought both here and elsewhere.
Denver, CO USA Fri 05/08/2009
Remeber real tolerance
One reason for the criticism is that Rick actually comes across as very biased and closed-minded. His tone implies that anyone who doesn't share his political opinions is NECESSARILY un-traveled and un-informed, and that anyone who travels will inevitably agree with him. A poster on this board (Joanne on my 8) has a similar fallacy, saying that a traveler who disagrees w/Rick must necessarily "take your America is always better attitude with you." But millions of people are as smart as Rick, travel as widely, and are NOT enamored with socialism or government. The smug tone can be at odds with the tolerance he claims to espouse.
Austin, TX USA Fri 05/08/2009
Travel as transformation
I remain appalled that people can travel and come back with unmoved, politically as well as personally. If that is the case, it's not Rick Steves who is closed minded. I ended a recent article on travel tips with these observations: "Well, there it is. Not a complete list, I know, but at least a start. Quoting Rick Steves, "Travel is intensified living – maximum thrills per minute and one of the last great sources of legal adventure. Travel is freedom. It's recess, and we need it." Travel has the power to transform, broaden our understanding of how the world works (surprisingly well in most places, even though they do things appallingly differently), and make us better people. It can teach us patience, tolerance and make the term "global citizen" actually mean something.
That's why I travel, and over the years I have come to realize that all the discomfort, crises, illness, aggravation and jerks you meet along the way are a tiny price to pay for the sense of being engaged and truly alive that comes with the smells, noise and colour of the massive Kumasi market or deciding whether you really should eat that piece of grilled dog meat proudly offered you as a delicacy.
I know that my list of lessons learned will lengthen and change as I continue to explore this fascinating world we live in. But the most fundamental tenet -- understand that we are all just people sharing the same shockingly small planet -- will remain constant.
Salmon Arm, BC Canada Fri 05/08/2009
Not all are transformed the same
Don: Travel can indeed transform people; the effect on me has been powerful. The problem is that Rick seems to think it should transform all people in the same way, with the same result. That is a closed-minded view. And by the way, it shouldn't take a trip around the world to realize that we are all people sharing a small planet; most of us learned that in elementary school.
Austin, TX USA Fri 05/08/2009
Let me see if I have this right:
Americans who express a preference for European customs are: broad-minded, enlightenend, superior human beings
Americans who express a preference American customs are: trite, belligerent, narrow-bellicose jingoists
Where is the logic -- or tolerance -- in that?
Austin, TX USA Fri 05/08/2009
Prejudice works both ways
Jill wrote: "There is a philosopher who said "he who never leaves his own country is full of prejudice"..."
There are also those who leave their own country all the time, and become full of prejudice as well -- prejudice against their own country. Prejudice depends not on travel per se (or lack thereof), but more on the genuine objectivity (or lack thereof) of the traveler.
Austin, TX USA Fri 05/08/2009
I am SO happy you wrote the book "Travel as a Political Act" because when I saw your speech to this effect on your DVD, my first thought was "how do I get this message to all my friends?". Now I have the answer. Thanks.
Bremerton, WA USA Fri 05/08/2009
Discovering New Cultures thru Travel
I was originally drawn to Rick's philosophies of traveling apolitically and enlightening one's self through travel after an ex-pat assignment in Asia and a few trips to Europe. He reinforced what I had already learned and encourged me to visit new horizons. We love traveling to other cultures where their homes are ofter older than our country and there are so many different or new things to experience. I was a bit taken aback when this web site took a definite political leaning during the last election. Rick's book appears to be a good start on discovery and uderstanding of different cultures, but why does it even contain the word "political". Please, do yourselves and your families a favor. Experience the various cultures of our country first, then expand into the other North American countries, and finally discover Asia and Europe. I have to agree with Rick on the limited cultural value of cruises and highly structured tours, but remember his focus has always been on Europe which leaves out the other 80% of our world!
Vacaville, CA USA Fri 05/08/2009
Bravo for Freedom!
Bravo for Freedom exercised by all whom are responding to this forum. Rather Yea or Nay in attitude, convictions and beliefs; taking the time to add your thoughts provides a learning opportunity for all! "Travel" can be realized as a mental journey as well as a physical destination. Just keep in mind, you can only "travel" a limited distance with your "senses" closed.
Zionsville, IN USA Fri 05/08/2009
Politics is Life, Life is Politics?
Politics is the process by which groups of people make decisions. The term is generally applied to behaviour within civil governments, but politics has been observed in all human group interactions, including corporate, academic, and religious institutions. It consists of "social relations involving authority or power" and refers to the regulation of a political unit, and to the methods and tactics used to formulate and apply policy. Here's a definition from Wikipedia: "Politics" ultimately comes from the Greek word "polis" meaning state or city. "Politikos" describes anything concerning the state or city affairs. In Latin, this was "politicus" and in French "politique". Thus it became "politics" in the English language. So politics is about decisions, Politics is about government, politics is about all human interactions. To say that politics are just about elections is to miss the point. Politics affect all aspects of life and people, why should we be surprised that it is part of travel. Unless your travel is only to see inanimate objects and not consider the people living where you travel.
Madison, WI USA Fri 05/08/2009
I agree with Rick... We all become enlightened by travel.
One has to remember that Americans travelling the world with "superiority complexes" are not appreciated. Let's not forget that European cultures are thousands of years older, and are richly studded with treasures and antiquities of ancient history, literature, art, and architecture. They were the building blocks of North American culture.
Differences ought to be appreciate and accepted, because many European countries have stepped into a much higher level of care for their own citizens.... through the adoption of "social welfare nets" such as universal health care systems.
Do not assume that it is inferior because it isn't American. It can be equal and can be superior, as well as free. As a result, life expectancy is higher in Europe than the U.S., and that in itself is proof enough that it works.
Regina , SK USA Fri 05/08/2009
Note to Our Conservative Brethren:
I am reminded how Social Democracy has benefitted European families as I try to pay my Blue Cross premium every month! Rick once commented in his 'Swiss Cities' episode that sometimes he'd rather pass up reporting on a trendy new promotion, in favor of highlighting a social innovation which Americans could consider adapting to improve our own quality of life - rather than criticize such open-mindedness, Rick's attitude is genuinely patriotic.
My 2005 trip to Norway and Holland went smoother because of Rick's legwork, and I laughed in agreement when he confided recently on the air that during this summer in Europe, donning an Obama T-Shirt will probably get you free beers! I've twice donated to Public TV thanks to Rick, I appreciate his distinction between the policies of governments and the humanity of peoples (emphasized in his special on Iran), I applaud his social and civil liberties work, and I suspect his latest book will rank up there with Steve Zikman's "The Power of Travel". I also respect how Rick has helped revitalize the downtown business core of his hometown of Edmonds, Washington, and though I no longer share Rick's Lutheran membership (having embraced Asatru long ago), I still recognize a Christian Gentleman when I see one.
Now if only we can get more video of Rick playing keyboards on his sojourns...I've seen his technique; a former piano teacher, the man's no slouch.
Bend, Oregon USA Fri 05/08/2009
Another "we should understand everyone". "why are we (USA) so bad, load of crap. Just once, be proud of who you are. Don't worry we won't be strong for long.
Naples, Fl USA Thu 05/07/2009
Thanks for your observations about Denmark. I look forward to reading your book. I'll never understand why some Americans are so afraid to admit that we might not have the answers to everything and might actually learn something beneficial from Europe.
Overland Park, KS USA Thu 05/07/2009