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Travel as a Political Act Paperback – May 5, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews

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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.
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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: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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