This year, as I enjoy this festive holiday season, I'm feeling grateful. With all the uncertainty and frustration in today's world, that may sound strange. But as a traveler, I've learned things go better when you embrace a "mindset of abundance": counting your blessings rather than fretting over what isn't going your way.
I'm feeling grateful that I enjoyed a wonderful month of travel in Europe this fall — exploring France, Italy, and Athens with good company and at a time when COVID was contained enough to make things feel surprisingly safe and normal. On those trips, I learned that nearly all the wonderful mom-and-pop guest houses, pubs, and trattorias — those labors of love that are such a fundamental part of the joy of European travel — are standing strong through the lean times of the pandemic. Visiting with them, I was reminded that a very warm and appreciative European welcome awaits us in 2022.
I'm feeling grateful to live in a time when we have effective tools to fight a deadly pandemic: a sophisticated understanding of the importance of masking and distancing, effective treatments for those who fall ill, and miraculous vaccines that make things possible we couldn't have imagined a year ago. I'm thankful, as well, that the people we attract to our tour program — both as guides and as tour members — embrace science and appreciate that we're requiring everyone on the bus to be fully vaccinated.
I'm also feeling grateful to have created, in partnership with so many smart and talented colleagues over the years, a tour company that's ethical, responsible, and compassionate in times of crisis. Thanks to our many years of success — and the wonderful community of travelers we're a part of — we have both the finances and the confidence to persevere in tough times.
I'm grateful that we're able to allay any unnecessary worry by extending our cancellation deadline for 2022 tours. We understand how uncertain, and potentially scary, travel can feel right now. But we also know that things will continue to evolve, and it's premature to make decisions now about trips many months in the future. With our new more flexible refund policy, the 29,000 travelers who are already signed up for a Rick Steves tour in 2022 don't have the anxiety of wondering if they should cancel long in advance of their departure date.
In this month's Tour News, we'll help stoke your 2022 travel dreams with a dive into a couple of my favorite treats in the East: Prague and Budapest. Tag along on a colorful, day-by-day slideshow of our Best of Prague & Budapest tour, meet Hungarian tour guide Etelka Parine Berecz, join me for a lively tour of Budapest's bustling indoor market, and take a stroll through Prague's fairytale old town.
Sure, there's a lot to be frustrated about in 2021. But there's more than there was one year ago to be happy about, too. I'm grateful that our staff and our guides are healthy. I'm grateful for all of you. And, filled with hope, I'm thankful for all the wonderful travel experiences we'll enjoy together in the not-too-distant future.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!