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Product Details

  • Paperback: 209 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books; First Printing edition (May 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568584350
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568584355
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,800 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Rick Steves is the host, writer and producer of the popular Oregon Public Broadcasting television series Rick Steves' Europe. Over the past 15 years, Steves has hosted nearly 100 travel shows for public television (most still airing in rebroadcasts) and numerous pledge specials. In 2005 Steves launched a weekly public radio program, Travel with Rick Steves. He has also written twelve country guidebooks, nine city and regional guides, six phrase books, and co-authored Europe 101: History and Art for Travelers. His guidebook to Italy is the bestselling international guidebook in the U.S. In 1999, he tackled a new genre of travel writing with his anecdotal Postcards from Europe, recounting his favorite moments from 25 years of travel. He lives in Edmonds, Washington.

More About the Author

Rick Steves advocates smart, affordable, perspective-broadening travel. As host and writer of the popular public television series Rick Steves' Europe, and best-selling author of 40 European travel books, he encourages Americans to travel as "temporary locals." He helps American travelers connect much more intimately and authentically with Europe -- and Europeans -- for a fraction of what mainstream tourists pay.

Over the past 20 years, Rick has hosted over 100 travel shows for public television, and numerous pledge specials (raising millions of dollars for local stations). His Rick Steves' Europe TV series is carried by over 300 stations, reaching 95 percent of U.S. markets. Rick has also created two award-winning specials for public television: Rick Steves' European Christmas and the ground-breaking Rick Steves' Iran. Rick writes and co-produces his television programs through his company, Back Door Productions.

Rick Steves also hosts a weekly public radio program, Travel with Rick Steves. With a broader approach to travel everywhere, in each hour-long program Rick interviews guest travel expert, followed by listener call-ins. Travel with Rick Steves airs across the country and has spawned a popular podcast. Rick has also created a series of audio walking tour podcasts for museums and neighborhoods in Paris, Rome, Florence and Venice (with more tours, including London, coming in 2010).

Rick self-published the first edition of his travel skills book, Europe Through the Back Door (now updated annually), in 1980. He has also written more than 40 other country, city and regional guidebooks, phrase books, and "snapshot" guides. For several years, Rick Steves' Italy has been the bestselling international guidebook sold in the U.S. In 2009, Rick tackled a new genre of travel writing with Travel as a Political Act, reflecting on how a life of travel has broadened his own perspectives, and travel can be a significant force for peace and understanding in the world. Rick's books are published by Avalon Travel, a member of the Perseus Books Group.

In addition to his guidebooks, TV and radio work, Rick is a syndicated newspaper columnist with the Tribune Media Services. He appears frequently on television, radio, and online as the leading authority on European travel.

Rick took his first trip to Europe in 1969, visiting piano factories with his father, a piano importer. By the time he reached 18, Rick jokes, "I realized I didn't need my parents to travel!" He began traveling on his own, funding his trips by teaching piano lessons. In 1976, he started Europe Through the Back Door (ETBD), a business which has grown from a one-man operation to a company with a well-traveled staff of 70 full-time employees. ETBD offers free travel information through its travel center, website (, European Railpass Guide, and free travel newsletters. ETBD also runs a successful European tour program with more than 300 departures -- attracting around 10,000 travelers -- annually.

Rick is outspoken on the need for Americans to fit better into our planet by broadening their perspectives through travel. He is also committed to his own neighborhood. He's an active member of the Lutheran church (and has hosted the ELCA's national video productions). He's a board member of NORML (working to reform marijuana laws in the USA). And Rick has provided his local YWCA with a 24-unit apartment building with which to house homeless mothers.

Rick Steves spends about a third of every year in Europe, researching guidebooks, filming TV shows, and making new discoveries for travelers. He lives and works in his hometown of Edmonds, Washington, where his office window overlooks his old junior high school.

Customer Reviews

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I have purchased this book as I will hear Rick Steves Nov.
He challenges his readers to travel with a purpose, to go outside their comfort zones and learn what the world around them is really like.
Red Pineapple
Much of the book deals with how to travel well as an informed traveler.
Beth DeRoos

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Erik Anschicks on October 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
The Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has a great phrase about how Americans should interact with the rest of the world (I'm paraphrasing a bit): "We have to stop thinking of America solely as an exporter of great ideas and realize that we should be an importer of them as well" (He's a Republican??!!). If there were a thesis statement to this book that wasn't written by Rick Steves, you could not do much better than this, for this is what this book as all about: Learning to travel not just for recreational enjoyment, but intellectual enrichment as well.

The book is broken down into sections that demonstrate how different sections of the world handle socioeconomic situations differently than we do in America. He most certainly is not blind to American advantages, despite what his conservative critics will say. He speaks about how he finds it "disheartening" to see extreme theocracy being embraced in curriculums at Iranian universities, institutions he (rightly) believes should be open to challenging the status quo. He also speaks of how it is far easier to make a better profit owning a small business like his in America, as opposed to the regulatory hurdles of EU nations.

At the same time, he makes it clear that the rest of the world thinks about things globally and constantly interact with each other far more often and effectively than citizens of the U.S. do, and he's absolutely right. Some of it can be explained by American geographic isolation, but also because we are conditioned by many influences to fear or dismiss what we don't immediately know or understand. One of the greatest truisms he offers: "The very people who would most benefit from international travel - those who needlessly fear people and places they don't understand - decide to stay home.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A. Friedman on January 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
Most of all, this book is about politics. But not the dry kind nor the angry, shouting kind. It offers light & easy reading of warm human stories (and some sad & poignant ones) that gently instill a sense of shared humanity and the logical (political) conclusions one may draw therefrom.

The author is not a radical liberal. He's not "in your face," nor does he "bash" America. He does not rant about US foreign policy, aggressive military actions, nor illegal wars. He is a Christian, family, patriotic business man who necessarily arrives at humanistic values through his wide experiences as an engaged citizen of the Earth. He expresses these values with an ease and eloquence that is instructive rather than combative, and so I hope to share this book with some of my more conservative and hawkish friends.

The book is highly readable, entertaining, and never dragging. There are plenty of short tales about ah-hah moments, glimpses into people's lives, funny stories, and poignant moments that both held my interest, renewed my hope despite these contentious times, and made me eager to hit the road again myself.

Rick's strength is his open mind & heart that allow him to mingle and to understand foreign perspectives-- to suspend judgement and appreciate "cultural relativity." He doesn't make foreigners "right" nor us "wrong," but rather suggests the lessons we can all learn to promote global peace and prosperity.

The European chapters explore EU attitudes toward such issues as nudity, sex, drugs, & prostitution from which we might learn alternative perspectives. For instance, he favors drug regulation over prohibition and rehabilitation over incarceration, citing the results achieved in Europe.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on July 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
Steves believes travel should bring us together, and ever since his first overseas trip (age 14) he's spent a third of his life overseas; for the last 30 years he has taught people how to navigate the logistics of travel, mostly in Europe.

While unapologetically proud to be an American he also enjoys learning by observing other societies, and sees travel as a way to make the U.s. even stronger. Fear of terrorism is an irrational barrier to travel, per Steves, and he cites the numerous recent years of total safety as proof. Travel has also taught him that we don't have a monopoly on bravery or grit.

Anyone can learn that half the people on this planet are trying to live on $2/day, and a billion on less than $1 - but traveling to the developing world and coming face-to-face with these "statistics" makes the problem more real.

The bulk of the book then summarizes his recent travels around the European area. The former Yugoslavia shows the psychological and physical damage left from a tragic war, the European Union is molding a free-trade zone while maintaining its cultural diversity, Denmark shows contemporary socialism and a society rated the most content in the world, Turkey and Morocco offer a moderate side of Islam within fast developing nations, Netherlands and Switzerland offer a different approach to drug policies, and Iran demonstrates how fear and fundamentalism can lead a nation to trade democracy for theocracy.
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36 of 46 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
Rick Steves is at it again. He used to tell people to travel "close to the ground," spending less money by staying in hostels and mingling with locals on free museum days. Now, realizing that his aging readership demands ensuite bathrooms and has more money than time, he's adjusted his guidebooks accordingly. He even runs a booming tour business, even though you just know he has no respect for people who take package tours. His heart is in the guidebooks that encourage you to travel on your own, the Rick Steves way.

And that is what he advocates in Travel as a Political Act - travel the Rick Steves way. Early in the book, he reveals that as a young tour guide, he tried to shake up his tour members by not making hotel arrangements until the last minute. Sometimes he waited too long to make reservations and there were no rooms left, so the group had to camp out. He wanted to teach them what it felt like to be homeless. While acknowledging that this was not a good practice for a tour guide, he still has a spark of that teaching-people-a-lesson attitude. In his own words, he is "evangelical about travel."

How do you make travel a political act? This is where it gets a bit vague. Get out of the bus (or cruise ship or car or RV) and talk with people. Observe how people live. Get out of your comfort zone and explore the parts of town that are less touristy. Learn how what our government does affects people around the world. Or how it doesn't affect them. When you come back home, vote thoughtfully. Talk politics with people who disagree with you. Bring up touchy subjects like poverty and drug policies. Teach people a lesson.

Travel as a Political Act is a short book (around 200 pages) with lots of photographs.
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