If you grew up watching PBS with your Grandma, before cable television came to your neck of the woods, you already know that Rick Steves was the only travel TV host back in the day.
So, since we were in the Seattle area, we attended Rick's 2017 European Travels Report.
Held in Edmonds, WA, near his headquarters, a full-house gathered to hear Rick tell tales and share photos from four months of his 2017 European travels. Did I mention it was free?
I've traveled through quite a bit of Europe and have family who still live there, so I didn't expect to learn new little morsels, but we did...
We Were Surprised to Hear Rick Admit that He Doesn't Always Follow His Own Advice
Like that time he didn't wear a money belt—because he doesn't always wear a money belt—and his wallet was lifted from his back pocket. My jaw dropped.
He doesn't always wear a money belt? He knowingly carried a wallet in his back pocket? On the crowded Paris metro?
I'm still not sure what to do with this knowledge.
Thank goodness he told the rest of us to not do the same, or we might spend a good chunk of time trying to replace our wallets. =)
If Travel is Your Passion, Find a Way to Work for Rick Steves
According to Rick, his tour guides are some of the best paid in the business (so no tipping is allowed). If travel is one's passion, what a great way to get paid to travel.
Attend Rick Steves' Free Events and Classes
At Rick Steves' free travel events and classes, one can find free itineraries, free beginning language classes, and encouragement to travel any which way you please. He seriously did not make this about taking his tours, but encouraged people to seek out the wise travel opportunities that they feel are best for them.
Download Rick Steves' Free Audio Europe App Tours
Listen to his free guided audio app tours, as you take yourself through Europe. I was really impressed to discover that he offers this free of charge. How incredibly helpful.
Book Directly with Hotels
Rick reminded the audience of the importance of supporting local/family businesses, which can struggle to survive if they have to give up 20% of their income to join online booking sites. Yet businesses can become invisible now if they're not listed on online booking sites.
So he suggested calling hotels directly. You might even discover that the hotel prices are cheaper when booking direct.
When staying in hotels, I've almost always booked directly with the hotels. Because I've yet to to find a booking site that consistently offers the best price, that consistently lists correct hotel information, or that consistently makes it easy to remedy any booking challenges.
For me, there has just always been a glitch, when using online booking sites.
So I was really pleased to hear Rick Steves point out the benefits of booking directly with local hotels, when using that mode of lodging.
Know Local Taxi Rates
And prepare to pay them. But not more. Verify the price of the trip before getting in the taxi. There's no need to be taken advantage of, Rick reminded us. Sometimes the going rate can even be such a great rate that you might choose to take a taxi much farther than you initially imagined affordable.
Consider a Cruise?
I know. We are not people who would typically consider going on a cruise.
However, we were recently discussing the idea of possibly using it as cheap and comfortable transportation, to get from point A to point B, with food included, while allowing us to rest, accomplish work on the computer, etc. A little (albeit unnatural, for us) rest on the road, if you will.
So imagine our surprise to hear Rick discussing cruises.
He shared some reasons, like...some people have bucket lists, but not enough time or money to check them all off the list. But if they cruise, one can wake up each morning in a new location, affordably, without repeated flight/hotel costs.
Rick also offered up the idea of not following the cruising crowd—by ditching restaurant lines, shopping excursions, and group tours in the ports of call. Instead, he suggested hiring a private local tour guide (maybe with a few others, to reduce costs) to visit other sites. This can provide a more local experience while supporting a local small business owner.
Rick also mentioned that about 80% of rooms on most newer ships now have their own outdoor balcony (you can tell older ships by all the portholes). Hearing this significantly changed my view of cruise ships, as there's nothing better on the water than being able to focus on the horizon while breathing fresh air.
(I'm also guessing that extra/natural ventilation might help cut down on the transmission of onboard viruses. Just a thought.)
So if the price, ports, and health of the ship are right, this could be a viable option for independently minded travelers who might not normally consider a cruise.
If You Feel Fearful About Travel, Analyze Official Statistics
For instance, an American might not realize where it's safer to travel abroad than it is to live in America. So it's important to get those stats directly from the official sources. Not from biased groups. Not from sensationalistic sources. It can place reality into accurate perspective.
SURPRISE Topic: Know What Fascism Looks Like
We were surprised to hear Rick bring up this topic.
For those who have family members who have lived through the horror of Hitler, it can be startling to discover that others might not know what fascism looks like. The red flags. The eerie similarities rising in some modern politics.
So it was fantastic to hear Rick share a little about his Fascism Project, which he's planning to air sometime around September 2018.
Of course, I wish we could watch it right now, but great things take time to create. Rick shared what we can expect it to cover—and what an enormous relief, as it sounded spot on!