What's your opinion of Rick Steves?
In my book, he's pretty cool. I can't fault him for anything; travel is my life, and the guys' lives, and it's Rick Steves' life as well - after all, this is someone who researches his books by spending a third of the year 'on-site'. I respect that - and I think it's also a reflection of his own passion, and that usually translates as something you can trust
However, you guys have raised good, positive points about his work. I haven't read his books, but I have watched several of his TV shows, which suggests that I must have found some relevant content in 'em to keep coming back.
My gut reaction is that Rick's not talking to me, but to my mother. But I think my mother (were she still with us) would find his tone annoyingly pedantic. His obsession with carrying that one small duffle bag and demonstrating how to pack it really gets on my nerves. I'm constantly waiting for him to show us how to wash our underwear with hotel soap and hang it on a travel clothesline that we've cleverly stowed in our dopp kits. But he'd leave out that fact that if you're moving on the next day then you really need to blot your laundry dry with the single tissue-thin bath towel that your inexpensive hotel has provided, then you have to use the same towel for your body or risk the ire of the domineering matron by asking for another.
But I digress. Clearly there's an audience for Rick's work, and if he convinces the older traveler to skip the packaged tour and go it on their own, then more power to him. Just because I need a more edgy commentary doesn't mean he's not right for some.
Wherever you go, there you are.
No one trip is "the trip of a lifetime" -- they all are.
CAn he come across as pedantic? Sure - but then again, the things he says are nothing new to anyone who's done some independent traveling. For a lot of his market, though, to them 'travel' is something done with lots of luggage, at the classic 'this is tuesday so this must be belgium' pace - and for them what he says (packing light, talking to the locals, avoiding tourist places, etc) is probably on the verge of revolutionary.
I think I like Steves not for what he says as it relates to me, because like you Miamc, a lot of it doesn't - he kinda preaches to the choir there, you know? - but when he can take the middle-aged and senior crowd, and enlarge their perspectives a little when it comes to travel. I just have to respect it - and I think it helps not just those people, but the rest of us too, because there's just a few more, more independently-minded travelers out there
My in-laws are much healthier but they actually like the "group" atmosphere. They took a tour recently of six weeks in outback Australia and then a month in China. Personally, I think they like to think of themselves as "adventurous" but I think they'd be scared to totally go on their own.
On the other hand, I may go for a three-hour general orientation tour of a city, but that's it! The last tour package I went on was in high school on my first trip to Europe. I can't complain because just the "newness" of Europe was wonderful, but I did resent having my time planned for me.
As for Rick Steves, he seems to mix the standard guidebook stuff with a lot of gems that could only come from quizzing the locals. He's clearly not one to stuff his brain completely to the brim with LP gibberish.
But to actually be so elitist as to snob off someone because they were carrying a different guide? That's every bit as pretentious as fobbing off someone because you don't like their shoes or their brand of backpack. Every publisher's going to give some different info; if anything, I'm hearing Let's Go touted much more than LP, and Steves still does some accurate, respectable work.
Have backpack, will scribble,
4 months, 1 continent, a loopy Yank writer and a lot of trains. Oh my.
Perhaps it's a generational thing, yes. "I think Rick Steves is the Mr. Rogers of the geriatric travel set." I agree.
However, perhaps it's his publishers fault for swaying him to this travelers-for-dummies market. I actually read something Rick Steves wrote before his whole "Back Door" life, in some travel narrative compilation book. It was about his travels during his younger days, and he can really be a funny guy. Too bad he's known now for something completely different.
From today's San Francisco Chronicle
Smokin' Steves: Travel writer and public television star Rick Steves is in the Bay Area this weekend with a special tip: Lay off marijuana smokers.
Steves, whose European guides have made him a near-household name in the Bay Area, is also a board member of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He'll be making an address in that role at this weekend's Wonders of Cannabis Festival in Golden Gate Park.
"Society has to make a choice to tolerate other lifestyles or build more prisons,'' Steves told us in a phone interview from his Seattle office.
Citing what he called the "European perspective," Steves said decriminalizing weed doesn't necessarily mean that use goes up.
"I'm not going to tell you that people should smoke pot or that I smoke pot in America," Steves said, "but I will tell you that I think our drug policies are laughable."
As for Steves himself?
"I smoked when I went to Nepal in the '70s -- everyone did," Steves said. "It was very casual. And you know what they say ... when in Rome.
"I don't hide it from my kids," Steves added. "I even had the president of NORML over for dinner so my kids could meet him. It's good to be honest about it, be credible and honest because there's a real serious problem with hard drugs out there."
As for why he's taking such a high-profile position on pot?
"I know a lot of people who smoke, but who would rather hide in the closet and be ashamed than speak out and say these laws are stupid,'' Steves said. "I mean, 8 million people have smoked -- some of them must have inhaled."
Link to news story
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