Barb Bumgardner enjoyed her work as a classroom teacher and school library media specialist in the Shoreline School District in Seattle, Washington, for many years. She is now excited to be working as a digital photo project consultant, inspiring adults to use their own photos to create cards, books, calendars, DVDs, websites and other creative projects. She loves to travel, and has presented educational technology seminars in cities all over the United States, as well as several international schools in Europe. Barb enjoys nature — whether it is the flowers in her own yard, or bicycling or volksmarching on a scenic trail along the Rhine River in Germany. She has a list of countries yet to explore around the world, and enjoys taking photos for her Creative Photo Fun website!
Mary Ann Cameron
Since her first visit to Europe years ago, Mary Ann Cameron has developed an avid interest in traveling and the people of the world. She's been associated with RSE since its early days in a variety of capacities, and currently focuses her attention on projects associated with RSE's marketing initiatives. Mary Ann has been a Rick Steves tour guide since 1998, and has accompanied travelers to many countries, especially Turkey, as well as the places covered by Britain, Eastern Europe, Europe, Ireland, and Spain/Portugal tours. She has presented travel-related classes at RSE and other places as well. Mary Ann and her travel partner/husband, Cliff, are proud parents of Ben, another Rick Steves' guide, who spends a good portion of his year leading happy travelers throughout Europe.
Reid Coen is a seasoned tour guide for Rick Steves. He has a background in history and education, having earned a BA and MA in history and a Washington state teaching certificate. His enthusiasm for travel was kindled by a year of study in Germany at age twenty. Since then he has traveled extensively in Europe as well as Africa, Asia, and Central America. Reid considers travel to be much more than a recreational pursuit, but rather a life-changing experience. Travel has provided him a new and ever expanding frame of reference for understanding both foreign and American cultures and also for gauging his own values. The opportunity to impart his passions to others through guiding and speaking provides a great deal of personal fulfillment and pleasure. In recent years, travel adventures have been shared with his wife, Julie, and their young daughter, Maia.
Ben Curtis considers himself a consummate cosmopolitan polyglot: drop him into any country in the world, and he'll order dessert in one of his fourteen languages. He acquired this proficiency, and this sweet tooth, from his years living in various European countries, among them Germany, Hungary, Norway and Spain. These days, he hangs his baseball cap in Seattle, where he spends half the year as a professor at Seattle University. He teaches European history and politics, and writes on the same subject: his most recent book is A Traveller's History of Croatia. His home away from home is Central and Eastern Europe, where every year he leads Rick Steves tours anywhere from Prague to Helsinki. Whether ordering delicious Kaiserschmarrn in Austria or scrumptious štruklji in Slovenia, Ben is happy that being both a professor and a tour guide-and sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm about this part of Europe-allows him to have his cake and eat it too.
Debbie Dubrow writes the popular blog DeliciousBaby — Making Travel With Kids Fun, where she shares her travel experiences and best travel advice. She has two children and has traveled with them throughout Europe and countless US cities. Prior to having children, Debbie traveled extensively through Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Since his first 3-month backpacking trip through Europe in 1998, Rich has kept right on traveling. He returns to Europe each summer, updating Rick's guidebooks, working as an assistant tour guide, and exploring on his own, adding to his ever expanding travel resume. Since his initial trip, he has traveled extensively throughout Europe and Latin America. He has lived and studied in both Costa Rica and Ecuador, and has degrees in both Spanish and Latin American Studies. When he's not traveling, Rich works in both the Rail and Consulting Departments at Europe Through the Back Door, helping travelers sort through the myriad of railpass options and helping them plan their own trips.
The aptly named Lisa Friend first traveled to Europe to visit with friends in a small town in Northern Germany. Diving right into the culture with home-stays and visiting real "Back Door" towns, Lisa fell in love with the rhythm of European life: shopping in outdoor markets, talking about current events in cafés, and celebrating the seasons with spring and harvest festivals. Lisa spends several months every year in Europe both traveling solo and guiding our Best of Europe tours. Traveling to Europe almost annually for the last ten years, Lisa enjoys sharing her love of Europe and the Rick Steves' philosophy of traveling as a "temporary European" with both tour members and the independent travelers who take her popular "Women Traveling Solo" class.
Sureyya Gokeri is from Turkey close to the Syrian border on the coast. She has teaching in her blood and a degree that she's kept in her closet for decades. She works for interfaith organizations, community support groups, and world peace. She believes that in today's global work environment, we need to build cross-cultural communication skills and see diversity as a strength in our community. She loves to talk about cultural differences and the needs of minorities which are very important in understanding each other. What can be more fun and fulfilling than teaching Islamic culture as well as Turkish culture, language and cooking? As a retail business owner (Istanbul Imports in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle) for 18 years, her heart finally found a new passion. She will be teaching her native language to travelers venturing to Turkey and introducing them to Turkish culture at Rick Steves Europe Through the Back Door. She is delighted to be part of the Rick Steves team.
Andy Goulding draws as he travels, to capture, understand and recall picturesque images. An architect and Signage Consultant, Andy and his wife Barbara love traveling by bicycle, stopping often to draw and record their experiences.
On recent trips to Scotland and France, Andy drew quick, realistic sketches, committing scenes to long term memories and stories.
Growing up and raising his family in Seattle, he loves simple, urban landmarks, boats, buildings, mountains and seascapes. "Drawing is an international language and simple communication tool."
Andy's favorite Travel Drawing experience: Struggling to draw Notre Dame in Paris, a group of French school kids came and sat near me. A girl came to look over my shoulder, and said "Cool!" I used my best Rick Steves' French and she used her functional English to have a lovely conversation. I sketched her soft features and gave her the drawing."
He works with small classes to get people drawing right away, looking carefully at objects, building confidence, framing views, following edges, understanding depth and layers, and learning from the drawing master, Vincent Van Gogh.
John Greengo is a life-long resident of Seattle and, not surprisingly, a typical Northwest outdoor adventure lover. He picked up his first camera at the age of 10, and has since traveled to all seven continents, capturing it with his unique vision.
Starting with a college degree in photography, John then mixed his love of photography with his enthusiasm for travel and adventure. From biking and hiking, to canoeing and kayaking, he's undertaking a variety of journeys that has led him to the far reaches of the planet. Many of those travels came while working with world famous photographer Art Wolfe as his assistant and technical guru.
Margaret enjoys having a foothold on two continents, Europe and North America. A veteran lead guide of many Rick Steves' tours in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, she continues to travel throughout Europe playing "history detective" in regions both familiar and new to her. Lately, she has been diving into her family's past in Slovenia. Margaret lived and worked in Germany when the Berlin Wall fell and has witnessed the social and political changes in Central Europe especially since that time. These experiences motivate her teaching. On the fun side, she loves music, great food and wine and spontaneous encounters with European locals. In the past, she earned a doctorate in music, ran a foreign language department and sang for a living. At present, when not guiding, Margaret continues her musical activities in Seattle and savors time with friends and family on both sides of the ocean.
Cameron Hewitt grew up listening to the Polish nursery rhymes of his grandfather, Jan Pawel Dabrowski. Twenty years later, he took a trip to Eastern Europe — and he was hooked. Today Cameron is the co-author of three Rick Steves guidebooks (Eastern Europe, Croatia & Slovenia, and Budapest), and has researched and written about dozens of other European destinations. He has also led Rick Steves tours to the Best of Eastern Europe and the Best of the Adriatic. When he's not traveling, Cameron is a writer and lead editor at Rick Steves' home office in Edmonds, Washington.
Dave Hoerlein's user-friendly maps in Rick Steves' guidebooks have led hundreds of thousands of travelers through Europe's most popular destinations. He spent many years in the Consulting Department at Rick Steves' Europe, teaching thousands of customers how to save time and money on their trips to Europe. He is one of Europe Through the Back Door's most seasoned tour guides, with 20 years of experience leading tours through virtually every country in Europe. When he's not mapping or guiding, he loves to explore Europe with his Danish wife, Jane, a former Rick Steves tour guide. Dave teaches European travel classes at Rick Steves' Travel Center and throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Michaelanne Jerome has lived and studied in Provence and Brittany, and now manages operations for Rick Steves' Best of Paris and Provence, Heart of France, Best of London and Paris and Paris city tours. She also works as a Rick Steves tour guide, spending two months a year in France, falling in love all over again with the French language and lifestyle...the formality, the food, and the savor-the-moment pace of life.
Silvie Opatrná Johanson
Silvie Opatrná Johanson is a native Czech speaker. She was born in Prague and lived in the Czech Republic until the age of 18. She has been teaching Czech since 1999. Aside from providing individual instruction to private students, she teaches at the University of Washington Experimental College and Seattle Central Community College. She offers Beginning Czech for Travelers at Rick Steves Europe Through the Back Door. Teaching is her passion and she loves to share her knowledge of her first language.
Silvie's enthusiasm for travel has taken her to most European countries and the Middle East. She lived in London for 12 months and in Israel for 15 months. Living in Israel and traveling in the Middle East provided her with the most enriching and eye opening experiences. She has resided in Seattle since 1999. She holds a BA degree in finance from the University of Washington. Silvie enjoys the arts, literature, classical music, opera, hiking, and exercising.
Joyce Major is a global volunteer and the award-winning author of Smiling at the World: A Woman's Yearlong Quest for Adventure and Love, which won top honors in travel by USA Book News. Her second book, On the Road to Volunteering, is in CD format and contains hundreds of various projects from around the globe that accept volunteers. Joyce has volunteered with lions, kangaroos, baboons, monkeys and elephants. She has taught English in China, Ukraine, Guatemala and Spain and volunteered on archeology, restoration, sustainability and conservation projects around the world. When she's not out volunteering, she teaches classes on Inexpensive Global Volunteering at Rick Steves Travel Classes, the University of Washington Experimental College and Bellevue, Seattle and North Seattle Community Colleges. She loves inspiring people to go out and see the world as a voluntourist!
Sarah began her life-long love of travel in Europe at 10-years-old while visiting family in England and Ireland. Since then, she has avidly studied history, art and architecture, which includes studying in Rome while in college. Trained as an architect, she abandoned her drafting board in 2000 and began working for Rick Steves guiding tours and researching guidebooks. She currently spends two months a year leading Best of Europe and Italy tours. Usually, she tries to squeeze in a stop-over in Great Britain for some quality (tea) time in her father's homeland. When Sarah isn't painting, savoring wine and giving tours of great architecture, she lives in Seattle with her husband and two sons.
Colleen Murphy set off on her first big travel adventure in 1984, studying in Barcelona and backpacking through Western Europe. The following year, she journeyed through Mexico by bus and train, attempting to improve her Spanish while exploring small villages, ancient ruins and modern Mexican cities. Returning home three months later with a dusty backpack and plenty of happy memories, Colleen decided to make travel a top priority in her life. So she went to work for Rick Steves as a guide, travel advisor and Production Manager of the Marketing and Publications department. Now a well-seasoned guide, Colleen has taken hundreds of travelers to her favorite European destinations since 1992. Her passion for exploring new places has led her to adventures in more than 25 countries in Europe, Central America, South America, Africa and Asia. Colleen can be found leading tours through Greece, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands and doing a bit of globetrotting for 140 days each year. What gets Colleen jazzed about guiding? "Watching travelers stretch their comfort zones and open up to new places and ideas. Part of the fun of travel is experiencing how things are done differently in other cultures. It's the differences that make travel— and life — so fascinating." When she's not on the road, Colleen teaches travel and does consulting in the Seattle area, enjoys outdoor sports, live music, getting together with friends, people watching and taking long walks in the park with her dog, Darby.
Ann Neel constantly looks for ways to pack as simply and light-weight as possible. She has learned to carry less 'stuff' with every passing trip and shares those tips at our Packing Light & Right classes. While she has visited much of the United States, Ann didn't begin traveling internationally until her sons were grown. Ann joined RSE as a Travel Advisor about eight years ago and has participated on 10 different Rick Steves tours. She continues to make up for lost travel-time with explorations throughout Western & Eastern Europe, Asia, Central & South America and Africa. 29 countries and counting! When she isn't traveling or working, Ann can be found 'rearranging' her half-acre garden, enjoying the grandchildren or dabbling in photography.
Pat O'Connor took his first trip to Europe in 1981 using Rick Steves' first edition of Europe Through the Back Door. He's been hooked on travel ever since. After several return trips studying and backpacking in Europe, Pat joined the Rick Steves staff in 1997. He leads tours annually in Germany/Austria/Switzerland as well as in Ireland, where he teams up each year with Rick Steves to co-author the "Rick Steves' Ireland" guidebook. When not on the road, Pat can usually be found assisting travel dreamers at Rick Steves' European Travel Center in Edmonds, Washington.
Gene Openshaw is an author, composer, tour guide, and lecturer on art and history. His infamous travels through Europe with Rick Steves, both before and after graduating from Stanford University, are documented in Rick's memoir Postcards from Europe. Gene went on to co-author several books with Rick, including Mona Winks: Self-Guided Tours of Europe's Top Museums and Europe 101: History and Art for the Traveler, both of which make Europe's cultural sights fun and easy to understand. Gene is also co-author of Rick Steves' city guidebooks on London, Paris, Amsterdam, Venice, Florence, and Rome. His passion for Europe and his ability to bring art and history alive are well known by those who have used his books or attended his lectures.
Graziella Palumbo Perry
Graziella Palumbo Perry, born and raised in Italy, came to the USA in 1977. She is the mom and step mom of 6 grown children and 4 grandchildren. She has taught Italian classes for over 10 years; travels extensively within North America, Italy and other European countries. She also volunteers at music competitions for young people and enjoys her 4 dogs.
Joan Robinson's popular 'Packing Light & Right' class always packs 'em in. She teaches from experience, personally testing the best ways to look sharp and feel light on her feet from here to Europe and back again — all while living out of a single carry-on bag! Take Joan's class and you'll come away a believer. She has also designed travel clothing, guided tours in Italy, and lived for a while in France. When her bag is unpacked, Joan helps handle Human Resources for Rick Steves...and cooks up a mean Shrimp Creole.
As a young girl growing up in Germany and Switzerland, it never occcured to me even try to find my way into the kitchen. To me "cook -ing" sounded more like a city in China. I was much more interested in books. Though I held many interesting jobs, such as an executive secretary, a retail store manager and even a teacher, cooking became my favorite.
What enticed me into the wonderful world of cooking? Marrying a man with always hungry boys! As I tried to put food together in tempting ways for my family, I was hooked and found that cooking is the most wonderful experience.
Later, traveling the world with my husband and living in France near the Italian border, I became intrigued by the many and varied foods availble at local European Markets and what could be done with them. Now, cooking is my passion and I try to improve it every single day.
Steve Smith is best known as Rick Steves' France tour guide in several episodes of Travels in Europe on public television, and as the co-author of Rick's France and Paris guidebooks. His love for the farmhouse he and his wife renovated in Burgundy-where he lived for several years-is rivaled only by his passion for Volkswagen Westphalia campers. Steve spends his summers leading tours and researching guidebooks for Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door. When he's in the US, Steve heads up Rick's Tour Operations department, sending thousands of happy travelers to Europe each year.
Gretchen Strauch didn't ease into travel — her first overseas trip was a year long, spent studying philosophy in St. Andrews, Scotland and taking in as much of Europe as she could. It wasn't enough — a few years later she moved to southern Germany, where she stayed for three years. So far, she's traveled to 22 European countries, mostly on her own, by train, bus, and boat. She now works as a Rick Steves guidebook editor and travels to Europe each year, updating guidebooks, helping out on tours, and doing her part for the European gelato industry.
In Laura Terrenzio's solo travels, she has ridden the rails and buses of 19 countries and has driven 23,000 kilometers across 13 countries, amassing an impressive collection of ticket stubs and gasoline receipts. Laura manages the busiest rail department in the USA and is an assistant guide for Rick Steves tours. Each winter she sorts through a mountain of railpass options to ensure that Rick Steves' Guide to European Railpasses remains the indispensable planning tool that travelers have come to rely on. Laura always enjoys visiting new places and fondly remembers her six months living in Fes, Morocco.
Heidi Van Sewell
Heidi Sewell guides the Best of Italy, Village Italy and Italian city tours, is an ace guidebook researcher, and during the off season, works in the Tour department at Europe Through the Back Door. Heidi lived in Italy for two years, attending local schools in both Siena and a village near Milan. During school breaks there, Heidi traveled extensively throughout the country, learning first-hand the travel skills and money saving tips that she now shares with her fellow travelers. She speaks fluent Italian, can roll her own pasta and drives like a native Italian.
Inspired by his remarkable High School German Teacher, Kevin caught the travel bug, saved his money, and left for Europe 3 days after graduation. Kevin's European adventures led to a year of studies in England and more European exploration. After his university graduation he was inspired to expand his travel lust to China where he moved to teach English as a second language for two years in Nanjing. Kevin has traveled much of the world since including Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Egypt, and Australia although he always returns to Europe as well. He has slept in all kinds of accommodations ranging from a five-star hotel to a tiny European couch. These days he enjoys his work as a travel advisor, guidebook researcher, tour assistant, and hopes to inspire people to travel.