I’ve found a not-so-new travel inspiration. He’s not jumping out of planes like Jay Alvarez, or being lead through the world with his model girlfriend like Murad Assman, but he’s his own kind of bada$$.
I got to visit the Travel and Adventure Show at the Philadelphia Convention Center yesterday. As if rows upon rows of travel inspo booths wasn’t enough, Rick Steves was a featured speaker. Considered “America’s leading authority on European travel,” he hosts a TV show, authors tons of travel books and guides, organizes tours, creates custom travel gear, and tons more. I’ve read through a lot of his various material online, since it tends to show up regularly in google searches (it’s been on the internet for well over a decade now, so plenty of time to rack up good traffic and ratings..)
As a young female traveler, I never really found his brand connected with me… and that’s my own fault – because after hearing him speak I’ve realized two profound things:
- Rick Steves is basically the Michael Jordan of experiential travel in Europe
- He’s extremely personable AND credible to me, even though we don’t exactly share the same demographic (read: he’s middle-aged and male)
I remember browsing through some RSteves web pages a few years ago, and they seemed straight out of the AOL dial up era… monochromatic and basic, with a couple of digital camera photos featuring smiling tourists decked out in Sears sportswear surrounded by decent but fuzzy scenery.
*shudders, cringes, immediately clicks X*
*returns to Pinterest*
Sorry Rick, not interested in taking modern travel advice from someone who seems to be stuck in the 90’s. Let’s upgrade those rimless glasses and throw the New Balance sneakers in the garbage where they belong.
Luckily he’s updated the website and made it much more modern and user-friendly. I guess he and his web design team took a break from drinking beers in Germany and hiking through the Alps to make some updates to their interface.
When I arrived at his stage,the audience was packed, standing room only. He’s a popular guy with a huge following. I was surprised at how engaging he was, but I suppose he’s not a rookie at talks like that. The message was a condensed version of his longer lectures, discussing things like packing, itineraries, accommodation, communication, spending and currency management, and general travel ethics or goals. He advised on getting the most cultural experience and avoiding tourist traps, as well as common mistakes and easy fixes for those WTF moments.
I found Rick to be effortlessly authentic, informative and enthusiastic without being boastful or tacky. He had a few sarcastic one-liners, which I always appreciate. He came across like the cool college professor who makes attending class worth your time, and it wouldn’t be weird if you saw him out at a bar on a Thursday night.
Some of my favorite quotes from his talk at T&A show Philadelphia:
“There are two types of tourists in Europe: the ones that pack light and the ones that wish they packed light”
“People used to say ‘Bon Voyage,’ now they say ‘Have a safe trip’ – I respond with ‘Have a safe stay here.'”
“When we travel it makes it tougher for [other countries’] propaganda to misrepresent us, and it makes it tougher for our propaganda demonize them”
Rick speaks at events all over the world, but thankfully he has caught up with the decade and has made many of them available on Youtube. Check out one of my favorites, Travel as a Political Act if you’re interested in global citizenship and broadened perspectives. At almost 90 minutes, yes I know it’s long AF but maybe instead of boiling your brain in Family Guy tonight, watch this eye opener instead.
He’s published tons of books, with annual updates as he finds new and interesting spots that he visits IN PERSON. I follow a lot of young adult travel bloggers, and Rick has probably out-traveled them all combined, seeing as he has a few years head start. The material is literally an endless no-frills encyclopedia.
I’m really excited to try his “Audio Europe” app for smartphones on my upcoming Eurotrip. The audio tour app is like having Rick in your ear guiding you through some of the biggest sights in Europe. You’ll save on paying for an individual, personal tour and the best part is that the app runs off-line, so you don’t have to worry about wasting precious cellular data.
The Rick Steves travel conglomerate also includes organized, guided tours for those looking to experience the real Europe. He admits the promo and marketing materials intentionally try to scare away the high maintenance tourist, and aims to inspire the open-minded and enthusiastic traveler.
For example, the tours have luggage size restrictions and the chosen accommodations are intentionally NOT American style.
For those who absolutely neeeeed to pack a different pair of shoes for every day of the week or must stay in 5 star accommodations, sorry, you’re not invited.
Basically, what I want to say is Rick Steves is the man. He doesn’t sugar coat things, he’s not super sales-y, but he makes tons of money doing what he loves and helping other people see the world. And I kinda want to be him when I grow up.
*photo copywrite infringement not intended. I do not have any affiliation with RickSteves.com.