I was surprised and delighted to see that Rick Steves was on the cover of the New York Times magazine's Voyages issue.
The article, entitled "Rick Steves Wants to Set You Free," chronicles Rick's 30+ years of writing travel books, leading tours, and creating travel TV programming that has changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people:
“You know,” the driver said finally, “you’re not very different than you are on your show.” This was correct. The driver was referring to Steves’s long-running, widely syndicated, family-friendly public-television travel series, “Rick Steves’ Europe,” on which Steves is a joyful and jaunty host, all eager-beaver smiles and expressive head tilts. With a backpack over one shoulder and a hand tucked into his pocket, Steves gushes poetically about England’s Lake District (“a lush land steeped in a rich brew of history, culture and nature”) and Erfurt, Germany (“this half-timbered medieval town with a shallow river gurgling through its center”) and Istanbul (“this sprawling metropolis on the Bosporus”) and Lisbon (“like San Francisco, but older and grittier and less expensive”). He reclines jauntily atop the cliffs of Dover and is vigorously scrubbed in a Turkish bath. The show has aired now for nearly 20 years, and in that time, among travelers, Steves has established himself as one of the legendary PBS superdorks — right there in the pantheon with Mr. Rogers, Bob Ross and Big Bird.
The article actually underestimated how long Rick's show has been on the air. I grew up watching "Travels In Europe" back in 1991.
And you can tune in and watch Rick visit the same places 23 years later.
It's pretty remarkable. Technology has changed everything during Rick's career - we've gone from no mobile phones and having to carry all your tickets in hardcopy form in the late 80s early 90s, being only able to arrange flights with travel agents or travel agencies, to today where you can book a hotel literally instantly on your phone or tablet - but Rick and the wonderful places he visits are a constant.
From the NYTimes article:
Rick Steves desperately wants you to leave America. The tiniest exposure to the outside world, he believes, will change your entire life. Travel, Steves likes to say, “wallops your ethnocentricity” and
“carbonates your experience” and “rearranges your cultural furniture.” Like sealed windows on a hot day, a nation’s borders can be stultifying. Steves wants to crack them open, to let humanity’s breezes circulate. The more rootedly American you are, the more Rick Steves wants this for you. If you have never had a passport, if you are afraid of the world, if your family would prefer to vacation exclusively at Walt Disney World, if you worry that foreigners are rude and predatory and prone to violence or at least that their food will give you diarrhea, then Steves wants you — especially you — to go to Europe. Then he wants you to go beyond.
Rick's infectious enthusiasm for travel is pure, exuberant, unironic joy. His fandom spans generations and cities:
“It’s a strange thing,” he said. “I get energy from it. It’s like I’m breathing straight oxygen. What would I do if I stayed home? Not much. Nothing I would remember.”