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City Lights Staff | WABE
January 12th, 2023
Since 1976, Rick Steves has been encouraging people to broaden their perspectives through travel. The popular public television host, bestselling guidebook author and activist is widely considered America’s leading authority on European travel. You may feel like you know him from watching his series “Rick Steves’ Europe” for many years on our television station.
Steves is currently hosting the free virtual travel “Festival of Europe” on his website via Zoom, with 22 nights of offers, travel guidance and opportunities, Jan. 9-30. He joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to talk about travel to Europe in 2023.
Steves’ very good reasons to pursue travel whenever possible:
“If you don’t travel, it’s easy for other people to shape your worldview, through mostly commercial media and social media and so on. And when you do travel, you actually meet it face to face, and you get to know the other 96% of humanity that lives outside of our borders,” said Steves. “I just think that you can travel as a way to just have fun and recreate, and that’s fine, but you can also travel thoughtfully and have a transformational experience, and it allows you to get comfortable with the rest of the world, to get friendly with the rest of the world, to realize the world is filled with joy and with love, and with beautiful people.”
“Fear is for people who don’t get out very much, and you know, very fundamentally, I think people are afraid because they want to be safe,” he reflected. “I think a traveler knows that the best way to be safe is not to build walls, but to build bridges, and to have relationships and to connect with people who may be different than us. We’re afraid of things that are different, and when you get out there, and you try some food that’s different, maybe you’re not so afraid of it. And if you meet some people who are different, maybe you realize, ‘Okay, we’re all in this together. We can compare notes, and we have to share this planet.’”
Steves’ favorite places, and why Europe should be a new traveler’s priority:
“My favorite countries are India and places in Southeast Asia. My son lives in South America and Columbia. I love to go. But as a teacher, I really want to help Americans just take that first step, and for me, the first step to becoming friends with the world from the United States is going to Europe,” Steves advised. “Europe, for me, is the wading pool for world exploration, and a springboard for traveling beyond that.”
He went on, “I spend a hundred days a year in Europe, and help people sort through all the superlatives – cut through the superlatives, basically – and recognize, we Americans have the shortest vacations in the rich world. Our time is a precious resource. We have to use our time smartly. Of course, we’ve got to spend our money smartly, and I believe that you need to focus on having experiences rather than just a bucket list of things to check off. I’m privileged and just filled with joy that I get to teach people about Europe to introduce people to Europe, and when I learn about a new little place in the Alps or a new little place in the Greek Isles or a new little adventure in Turkey, I realize that thousands of people are going to benefit from that because I can share it.”
How Steves more than offsets the carbon footprint of his and others’ travel:
“Yes, those of us who fly to travel… contribute to climate change,” said Steves. “It’s only ethical to pay our way from a carbon point of view, and you know, you could stop flying. But I think flying and traveling is important for world peace… I think the challenges that confront us in the future will be blind to borders. We’ll have to be grappling with these challenges with nations working together, and it’s just very constructive to get out there and get to know the other 96% of humanity.”
“But scientists have explained very clearly to me that if you smartly invest $30 in fighting climate change in mitigating the carbon, you create as much good as you create bad by flying all the way to Europe and back, and you zero out your contribution to climate change from that flight,” Steves continued. “I just think it’s fundamentally ethical for us to pay $30 to fight climate change if we’re gonna fly to Europe and back, and then we become carbon neutral in our flight. So what I’ve done in my business as a model for other tour organizers is to create what I call the Rick Steve’s Climate Smart Initiative, and we take 25,000 people to Europe in a normal year, and 30 times 25,000 is what? $750,000. I rounded up to a million dollars, and then I find organizations in the developing world that are helping farmers do their work while contributing less to climate change.”
Rick Steves “Festival of Europe” virtual travel series is ongoing through Jan. 30. Signup is available on his website at https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/festival-of-europe. His show, “Rick Steves’ Europe,” is available to watch at https://www.pbs.org/show/rick-steves-europe/.
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