A Letter from a Reader
Dear Mr. Steves,
This is a thank you letter. Europe Through the Back Door 2004 states that your mission is "to help make European travel accessible and meaningful for Americans." For me, you did more than that. You made it possible.
Over the years, I had collected an absurdly large library of annual editions of ETBDs, along with assorted specific country Rick Steves guides. I wanted to be up-to-date, just on the off chance that this might be the year I scraped together enough courage to travel internationally.
I watched a very dear friend, who should have been one of the healthiest people on the planet, suffer with an unthinkable diagnosis of cancer at age 47. This prompted some changes for me: I quit a stressful job, and moved to a cabin in Montana, unburdened with electric, water, sewer, or telephone bills. I thumbed through my latest edition of ETBD and fantasized about traveling. In June, a week after my friend died, I picked myself up by the ear, marched myself over to a telephone, called a travel agent and bought an open-jawed ticket to London, returning from Edinburgh. It was time to live, not just fantasize. I was giddy for about three hours. Then the nausea and cold sweats set in — I had committed myself for a two-and-a-half month trip by myself. I tried to comfort myself that the British Isles were hardly an exotic dangerous location, but it didn't work.
The days until I left passed in a fear-filled fog. Although I ripped up a couple other guidebooks, I couldn't bring myself to rip up the Rick Steves' Great Britain 2004 or the Rick Steves' Ireland 2004; they were my security blanket, a step-by-step manual holding my hand. I referred to them continuously during my travels, mumbled ETBD phrases under my breath when things weren't necessarily just peachy (my favorites: "be fanatically positive and militantly optimistic, if something's not to your liking, change your liking; assume you will return; travel is intensified living; mild and lazy or wild and crazy.") These concepts made a huge difference in my trip by jolting me, comforting me, and helping me ride the waves.
So I want to say, thank you. Thank you for all the work you put into your books. Thank you for writing more than just a guidebook and including your travel philosophy. Thank you for writing in a way that a novice traveler believed she could possibly travel internationally and by herself; I wouldn't have done it without your help.
Donna F. McBride