Tell Me What You Really Think Rick

I stumbled across a salon.com interview with travel guru Rick Steves from 2009. It was very insightful and told us more about the happy-go-lucky tour guide people know from watching PBS.

I think I began watching Travels in Europe in high school or college. I was immediately hooked, and stored the knowledge for whenever I would be able to escape to Alsace or the Cinque Terra. He made some good points about customs, Americans and travel vs, tourism. The funniest point he made is that only Westerners sit on their toilets, other cultures are squatters-I had no idea. My trip to Germany last year did reveal that the toilets have shelves in them; supposedly for fecal surveillance. I’ll leave that right there.

Steves also noted that only a third of the world eats with forks and knives. The next third with chopsticks, and the last third with their hands. His point was that Americans who have not had diverse travel experiences believe their way and culture is the “norm”. Everyone else is either deviating or abnormal.

He also believes there is a distinct difference between travel and tourism. He compared tourism to the all-inclusive resort compounds full of other tourists-usually attractive ones. He has faith that savvy, experienced travelers know the difference between a tourist trap and an authentic experience. If you have watched his show as long as I have, that travel savvy will rub off on you.

The interview shows a strong desire from Steves that Americans see the world. He sees travel as an educational tool that exposes us all to the fact that most people want the same out of life-health, happiness and happy children, but politics and extremism sometimes get in the way of how outsiders see these desires. His persona on his show is more friendly towards this issue, but the article shows a deeper and more passionate argument for international travel and a more connected world.

Here is a link to the article:

http://www.salon.com/2009/03/20/rick_steves/

January’s Travel and Adventure

Last month, I paid a visit for the second year in a row to the Travel and Adventure Show in Rosemont, just next to O’Hare airport. I decided to focus on more domestic and regional, ie. affordable destinations. Maybe next year I’ll pick up brochures for Macau, maybe I’ll run into James Bond when I go.

The big name, international destinations like London or New York were not marketed here, but there were resorts, cities and adventures that appealed to all kinds of people. However, I would say the show was resort-heavy, but appealed to singles, couples and families. Last year I went overboard with cruises-as if I were headed out on one anytime soon. It was tough walking past the tables for Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and the like, but those books are heavy and I have a bad shoulder already.

I was hoping the Greenbrier in West Virginia would be there, but they weren’t. It was only for a fresh brochure-I’m still dragging around my 2014 book. If you aren’t familiar, the Greenbrier houses a cold war-era bunker for the President, Congress and the Senate. An addition was built to the visible areas of the resort to mask the construction of the bunker. In the 90’s someone leaked its existence and it has been decommissioned, but is now open for tours, Yay!

Back to the show, While it may not have consisted of the big name world-wide cities, you could see they were not necessary to draw a huge crowd, especially if you are into the “adventure” portion of the show. There were several African Safari operators, Tours through China, VIking River Cruises-if you watch PBS here in Chicago, you should know about them. I stopped by the White Wilderness Resort’s booth. They are way up yonder in Minnesota. I don’t think they’ve made my bucket list, but they brought the sled dogs to the show. Last year’s dogs were friendlier and more relaxed, but I can’t blame the two from this year for being uncomfortable. If your habitat was a snowy forest away from too many humans and you were in a hot exhibit hall with tons of humans, then you wouldn’t be too happy. Long story short, I didn’t put my hands anywhere near their mouths.

The surprise for me was Palm Springs. I didn’t think it needed marketing, but maybe it does because perhaps my perception of it is not unique to just myself. Saying Palm Springs brings up images of Johnny Carson, Bob hope and gangsters (thanks Ray Donovan). Apparently it is a big draw for the LGBT community, has a huge mall a few miles away from Palm Springs proper, and the region has some history with the African American community as well. Being an architecture buff, the place is big on mid-century modern architecture when it comes to residences and some commercial and public buildings as well. I researched flights at one point that looked pricey, but the chain hotels seemed pretty affordable. I can say Palm Springs is now a destination for me.

The show is a must for anyone who likes travel, and gives you something to look forward to after all that holiday madness is over. Just keep an eye out in January and the earlier you get tickets, the cheaper they will be Ciao!