Rick Steves, his co-authors, ace tour guides and staff members present weekly talks that are not just informative, but fun too! Learn more about each speaker's experience and qualifications below, or browse our class descriptions.
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 Rick Steves' Europe since its early days in a variety of capacities, and currently focuses her attention on projects associated with the company's marketing initiatives. Mary Ann has been a Rick Steves' tour guide since 1998, accompanying travelers to many countries, including Turkey, Great Britain, Eastern Europe, Ireland Spain and Portugal. 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.
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.
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.
Tom edits and researches guidebooks for Rick Steves. As a young lad, he followed the lead of one of his literary idols (James Joyce) and spent a year in Europe teaching in Berlitz Language Schools in London and Germany. Later, his wife Julie followed the lead of one of her culinary idols (Julia Child) and studied at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. Tom tagged along and was a conversation coach at an all-boys high school in Montparnasse. During his many years of travel, Tom has visited more than 15 countries in Europe (including two that don't exist anymore). He's thankful he can satisfy his travel lust with periodic guidebook research for Rick — most recently for Rick Steves' Amsterdam. Prior to joining Rick's team, Tom was a newspaper reporter, university information officer, and editor of Columns, the University of Washington alumni magazine.
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.
Heather first traveled to Europe over 20 years ago as a graduation present from her parents. While she resisted the idea at first, the trip turned into a life changing experience. She has since returned to Europe at every opportunity, including studying and living in London. Today, she works as the speakers' bureau coordinator, a graphic design production assistant and tour assistant at Rick Steves' Europe. Outside of work, Heather can be found cooking, hunting for the next great meal, playing with her iPad, or printing on a vintage letterpress in Seattle.
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!
Michelle Martin was born and raised in Lyon, France. She has enjoyed sharing her heritage by teaching French language classes for several years. Additionally, she leads a weekly French conversation class in Edmonds, Washington. Her travels have included Greece, China, Russia, Morocco and every corner of France. Her latest passion is the Edmonds Pétanque Club which she helped established in 2011.
Lauren, a map editor and guidebook researcher at Rick Steves, was an ardent Anglophile even before bringing home her English husband as a souvenir in 2000. She first visited London in 1988 and fondly remembers the days of paying £5 a night for a hostel bunk. Since then, she has been to London and other British destinations nearly every year and still has a long "bucket list," only some of which involve chocolate and secondhand bookshops. In addition to her time in Great Britain, Lauren has studied at the University of Oslo and traveled throughout Europe — mostly around the edges. When not traveling, Lauren and her husband live in north Seattle with their tortoiseshell cat Annabel.
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.
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.
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.
A childhood of experiencing the Pacific Northwest from the back of a station wagon, admiring walls dripping with exotic looking pictures (which turned out to be places like the Roman Forum and Venice), and hearing tales of belly dancers and dirt-floor huts was all it took to ignite Robyn's passion for worldwide adventures. After trips through Europe, Peru, Southern Africa and Thailand, there's one thing Robyn has learned: the best travel experiences are the ones you never plan for. Between journeys, Robyn manages several tour programs, researches the Great Britain guidebook and leads tours in Europe.
Growing up the son of travel guru, Rick Steves, Andy visited Europe every summer of his youth. In 2005, Andy went on his first independent European adventure and it opened up a whole new continent to him. Later, after a prodigious semester abroad, Andy started his own weekend tour business in Europe. He is now the Founder & Chief Backpacker at Weekend Student Adventures, a top-rated tour operator & extensive online resource for budget travelers in Europe who want real, practical information on how to travel well, affordably and efficiently throughout the continent.
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.
Tara Swenson, one of Rick's Germany, Austria & Switzerland tour guides, also has an interesting "day job" as assistant manager of Rick Steves' Tour Department. During her Senior year at the University of Wisconsin, her Sociology Professor (also head of the Semester Abroad program) prompted her to travel overseas after Tara’s response was “Why would I leave Wisconsin?” Her travel life since has been shaped by years of living in Bavaria, a love for speeding on the Autobahn, a brush with the IRA, being photographed with large portions of Black Forest cake, a great empathy for first-time travelers, and meeting her husband in Germany. In spite of all this, when not talking tours or traveling, Tara's world actually revolves around her two young daughters and shaping their path in future travels and schnitzel.
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.
Andrew has European travel at his core, though his heart belongs to France (and his wife). Two exchanges in Aix-en-Provence and Marseille weren't enough. So, he went back to live and study in Brittany. Outside of personal travel, he returns to Europe regularly as an assistant guide for Rick Steves' Best of Europe tours. For classes, he has much to share across a variety of topics to help you have a better travel experience. As for his regular occupation, you already know his work as you are looking at it right now. Andrew is the Webmaster for ricksteves.com.
Inspired by his remarkable high school German teacher, Kevin caught the travel bug, saved his money, and left for Europe three days after graduation. Kevin's European adventures led to a year of studies in England and more exploration. After his university graduation, he was inspired to expand his travel lust to China where he taught 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. 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 and tour assistant at Rick Steves' Europe, and hopes to inspire people to travel.