When I travel I want to learn what it would be like to live in another time and place, in a different home and with different food, using different modes of transport in a different climate, to have different fun.
And that’s where Rick Steves and I sync up. His goal is to make travelers feel like “temporary locals.”
The Rick Steves conglomerate offers every kind of resource to make this happen - books, guided tours, Twitter, TV, radio, a store and speaking engagements filled with insight and humor. He is the complete go-to guy for travel.
For trip ideas, I DVR Rick Steves Europe on PBS. Then I buy one of his books - updated every year. Although he sells large books on individual countries, I buy smaller books on specific regions, such as Rome or the Amalfi Coast, because they’re less cumbersome and localized.
The main details are still there—though his favorite hotels may already be booked. But the small stuff includes those factors which can turn an average day into a great day—like the must sees, the must avoids (tourist traps, pickpockets), and arrival times. In the Loire Valley, he recommends arriving at the very popular Chateau de Chenonceau in late afternoon. In June I strolled down the tree-lined lane at 4 p.m. and faced hordes heading for buses. By six o’clock, I had the chateau and the gardens to myself. My photos look like I live there.
These books also send you to the best local chocolatier or vintner or coffee brewer. And at some of the restaurants and hotels he recommends, at least in Italy, you can get discounts if you show them your copy. That’s pretty cool.
Rick loves to walk. If you do, too, check out his walking or biking tours which can be downloadable to your iPod.
Rick monitors quality control. Last month I hired a guide from his favorite tourist agency in Cesky Krumlov. I asked if she was present during the filming of Rick’s travelogue and if she met him. “No and Yes. I was hired after the show, but recently he was traveling incognito through Europe to verify some of his recommendations.” A sly smile appeared. “I recognized him.”
The man is a paradox. He distributes wonderful travel advice because he wants you to be like him, independent and adventurous. Yet he also runs a guided tour company. I have many friends who take a tour every year, and I’m talking singles and couples, young and old. They all rave about the high quality experience of traveling in a small group with wonderful guides. I guess you’d say he’s got every base covered.
Now don’t think I’m discounting Fodor’s or Lonely Planet. They’re good, too. And I do listen to Arthur and Pauline Fromer every Sunday morning--religiously. I’m just saying that Rick Steves speaks to the Spirited Woman in me—and probably in you, too.