One of America’s most respected and best-known travel advisers comes to Tallahassee this week. Tom Flanigan reports Rick Steves will be sharing his tips on how to see Europe like a native at Ruby Diamond Auditorium this Thursday evening…
Steves, whose travel show airs on public TV and radio stations across the country, says he is no “Ricky Come Lately” to European exploration:
“I’ve been just enjoying traveling in Europe ever since I was dragged there as a kid when my mom and dad used to import pianos from Germany. And I got over there with them, saw the piano factories, went up to see relatives in Norway and I remember on the second trip like that it occurred to me, ‘I don’t need my mom and dad; I can do this on my own. Europe can be my playground.’ And I’ve spent four months a year for the past thirty years enjoying Europe. For the first few years it was just for kicks and then I was learning from my mistakes and I thought, ‘Boy, if I could package these lessons into a talk or a book or something, other people could learn from my mistakes rather than their own and have a better trip and I’d have a good excuse to go back to Europe every year and update my material.’”
Steves says that constant contact with the destination is what sets his guidebooks and broadcast travel shows apart from so many others….
“We have this passion for going over there and physically visiting every place in every book every year as best as we can. That doesn’t necessarily monetize very well, but I just thinks that gives you the best quality guidebook. It really works for people and travelers who connect with us, I think they appreciate the fact that, ‘Wow, they were just there it seems like yesterday and they’ve got all this information designed very carefully.”
Still, European package tours remain a popular way to go. Much of that popularity is driven by price. But Steves has a word of caution, especially when it comes to bus tours…
“The problem is the price is so cheap to get people on board that they actually don’t even pay the tour guide. They pay him a token wage. And then the tour guide has to make his real living by taking you shopping and getting kickbacks and selling sightseeing options and angling for tips. And for me that’s just such an unfortunate way to do business. I think people should pay up-front and then have a very good guide on their side in Europe, rather than not pay up front and get in cheaper than it should be and then have the guide who’s really not on your side but whose agenda is to keep you in the dark and sell you things. That just changes your whole experience and when all the dust settles it’s not cheaper; it’s just that you’re at odds with your guide instead of having a guide who’s your teacher and friend.”
Of course, given the present weakness of the dollar and international turmoil, is this a good time to be going overseas?
“You know I’ve been at this for thirty years. There’s been bombs and terrorists and volcanoes and mad cow and all sorts of weird things with the dollar and you know if I worried about all that stuff I would just stay home. I think the media tends to exaggerate things and sensationalize things because a lot of commercial news is really entertainment in disguise and they have to pump it up so people will watch and they can charge more for their ads. I think that’s entertaining. I like to watch that, but I don’t let it get in the way of my travel dreams. I was just in Greece. They’ve got difficult economic struggles but that doesn’t mean you can’t go there and have a good time.”
Rick Steves will bring his many years of experience and good travel advice to Florida State University’s Ruby Diamond Auditorium this Thursday evening starting at seven….
“I’m going to talk about all the nitty-gritty stuff; how to plan a smart itinerary, should you take a car or do you take the train, what are the alternatives to hotels where you can enjoy double the culture and intimacy for half the price. How do you find a good restaurant? How do you pack light? What’s the importance of packing light? And then some more fundamental things about how are you going to travel in a way where you are going what I call ‘through the back door’. Going to places that don’t have promotional budgets. Going to places where you become part of the party rather than part of the economy.”
Tickets for Thursday evening’s “Europe Through the Back Door” with Rick Steves are available at: tickets.fsu.edu