Please sign in to post.

Is there a European version of Rick Steves?

Hello, friends. I was just wondering if there is a parallel universe in Europe with their version of Rick Steves, although in this case travelling from the Old World to the New World. If not, why not? Makes sense to me but I've had a couple of beers.

Larry asked my opinion on the American version of the Rolling Stones. I said, "The light version of the Stones might be Aerosmith."

What followed was a question regarding an American equal to the Fab Four: "There are none. Nobody close. The Beach Boys, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Motown did provide quite a bit of inspiration."

Anyway, this is what happens when you go to a bar in WV that is theoretically closed. We're not big rule followers.

Posted by
2403 posts

"If not, why not?"

I might be wrong, but I believe Rick's books are only published in English, and are primarily aimed at English speaking North Americans, as seen from a North American perspective. (Although, I grant that they are, indeed, used by people from many different countries).

Europe covers a lot of different countries with many different languages and a variety of different cultural perspectives. So I don't see how a single series of guidebooks on the Americas aimed at Europeans could attempt to do the same thing, even if it could be published in all of the different languages.

Now behave yourself and do the right thing: go home and stay home.

Posted by
2503 posts

John Cleese presents “Adolph Hilter’s America” live from Fawlty Towers.

Posted by
7109 posts

I’ve often wondered the same Mike. There could at least be a British guy with a similar travel-style. If there isn’t one, it’s a perfect opportunity for someone. Just use Rick’s business model as a guide.

I was in a book store in York and picked up a guide book on San Francisco for a British audience. It was fascinating to read. The tips and warnings, the “how to’s”, the perspective and “must sees” bemused me.

Posted by
1107 posts

This one time, I was looking at the art in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (this was back when it was an art museum and not a gift shop and cafe with some decorations) and the woman next to me was reading about the painting in a guidebook written in Portuguese. It's like those Brazilians have minds of their own.

Another time, some Chinese tourists outside the bookstore on the Berkeley campus were consulting a guidebook and then buttonholed me to ask how to get to the Lawrence Hall of Science to see the viewpoint of the Bay. I wonder if any American or British or other English-language guides to San Francisco advise visitors to come all the way to the Berkeley hills for a good view?

More often, I see half-smashed Brits and Germans lost in the Tenderloin or the Embarcadero who blearly never took the time to read anything about where the good parts of the city are. Lucky for us they tend to sequester themselves near the wharves and Union Square and leave us be in the real districts. This is true in every tourist-drawing town around the world, though, no?

Posted by
744 posts

Why not?

Because our environment is totally different.

With the exception of the English and a lot of the Scottish, most people have exposure to at least two languages growing and usually three. When kids go on school trips they go to other countries and college live usually involves a least s year at a college in another country.

At work, most companies have some involvement with businesses in other European countries and it is normal to have at least a few colleagues from other countries. Looking on the FB pages of my Irish friends and relatives for instance, attending weddings of colleagues in Poland is normal. In fact there are more native Polish speakers in Ireland than there native Irish speakers.

So visiting another country is normal for most Europeans... there is a demand for travel books etc, but beyond that most people are just going to organize things themselves.

Posted by
568 posts

Totally agree, there isnt the fear of travelling by your self over here, you just get on and do it.

Posted by
3949 posts

Group tours for most people in the U.K., be that U.K. or European tours, are generally something that you do when you are in your 80s and no longer feel happy driving long distances to go on holiday and you want a more relaxed pace.

My mum who is widowed, in her 80s and doesn’t drive goes on several of these holidays a year with friends from a local company that picks her up from home in a taxi, puts her along with 30+ others on a coach somewhere central in the locale, then off they go for 5+ nights, then a taxi back home. They always stay in one hotel for the duration and get taken to different places each day such as a National Trust house and garden. She would never have done this when my dad was alive, as they always did their own thing.

There are specialist companies organising holidays such as Peter Sommer Travels who focus on cultural tours of Greece, Italy and Turkey or Great Rail Journeys for rail tours, but most Europeans are more independent. Plus most Europeans have 4-6 weeks paid holiday a year so aren’t in as much of a rush to see places as many Americans seem to be with the tour paces.

Posted by
2809 posts

Travel opportunities and challenges for Europeans in the US or Canada, for that matter, are different than the other way around. Also, some of the cultural barriers about overseas travel are also different in the other direction.

Natural attractions in North America are a large hit here in Europe. However, the major ones are also significantly less accessible without your own car, for instance. In fact, ability/willingness to drive is crucial for most self-guided itineraries in the US, with the exception of some big-city combo with transit/Uber, and resort-style expensive vacations in South Florida (for theme parks) or Hawaii.

Languages barriers also pose different challenges: most people from Western Europe who have the means to afford more expensive overseas travel probably have a decent to fluent command of English, so they can rely on resources geared towards the domestic American and Canadian market themselves. In a way, whatever back door is blogged or written about in English in the middle of Vermont will also be accessible for would-be travelers from most of Europe.

Rick Steves used to gather a lot of local info that was just inaccessible in English back in the way, I'd guess. German, French, Dutch, Italian travel writers were not competing with RS for the large American public. However, English travel media competes on a worldwide scale for bi-lingual travelers. It is a tough market with hundreds of outlets competing out there, and who knows how many bot-style "top x" lists with affiliated links that completely clog any Google search for specific-but-not-too-much travel advice for the US and Canada (try it from a European IP, it is extremely frustrating to find quality content...)

The size of the US and the relative distances between attractions make it hard to organize bus-based tours that pack a lot of different and interesting attractions, highlight-style (as RS tours), without several very long 'transit' legs. A relatively simple "Pacific Northwest" 12-day tour would still mean 3x, possibly 4x as long road distance than a similar RS tour. "Best of the US" tour covering a sample of destinations between San Diego and Boston in 21 days is a non-starter.

Finally, many people in Europe have some international travel experience because the countries are small and continental travel costs, low. The barrier of "going abroad" is lessened. Many more people have some basic experience of traveling somewhere with a different local language and different public transportation system. So this 'facilitator' role RS tours provide for American travelers who never set themselves out of the country is less relevant, I might guess.

I still think there is a market, probably a large one, for an authorial take on traveling throughout North America. But it is hard to get attention.

Posted by
1001 posts

Andre, a lot of good points in your post.

I love seeing those young versions of RS on the front page of the website. Takes me back.

In addition to popular guide books and/or personalities like RS that Europeans might use for travel in the USA, I wonder if many of them use RS books to travel in Europe, and if they find his perspectives bemusing.

Do you think travel to the US from Europe is as popular as vice-versa? As Andre noted, America is so much more spread out and difficult to get to in a reasonable time, unless perhaps renting a car, but still.

The Tenderloin seems like a good place for steaks.

Posted by
5817 posts

The first point to make is what the hell are you doing going to bars if they are supposed to be locked down? Not being “big rule followers” is not something to be boasting about at the moment. I genuinely despair that seemingly intelligent people are just not “getting it” and seem perfectly happy to be putting peoples lives at risk even if they aren’t bothered about their own..

Sorry( not sorry) for the rant but it’s coming from the position of working all the hours god sends at the moment dealing with some of the consequences of the virus ( today is my one day off this week) whilst in 12 week isolation, largely because so many people think it’s clever to not be “ruler followers”.

But to respond to your actual question
To make my usual point you can’t really answer for “Europe”. It’s a collection of VERY different countries.
From a UK point of view whilst we are rubbish at languages we aren’t afraid to travel. Day trips, school trips holidays to a Europe and then further afield are just the norm. Through history as a maritime nation travel was not that unusual for all levels of society. There are sailors on both sides of my very ordinary, very working class family going back a number of generations. My Taid ( welsh grandad) ended his career as a security guard at a cement works, but in his youth in the 1920s he saw north and South America, west Africa, Australia, India and had the photos to prove it. What is interesting is he never went to a Europe or certainly never mentioned it. With all this travel he was therefore reasonably unfazed when his daughter, my mum, decided to move to Zambia for work in the 1960s.
This family experience is not unusual in the U.K. So, to generalise, maybe we don’t need the slightly “hand holding” approach that Rick Steves offers.

We certainly have lots of travel programmes on UK TV. I get the impression many more than there are on US TV. From the days of Alan Whicker in the 1960s a never ending stream of British celebrities have travelled the world filming their perspectives of the countries they have visited, Maybe because of this travel doesn’t seem quite so alien or intimidating as it does to some people elsewhere.

Posted by
316 posts

Hi BigMike,

To answer your second post, yes, lots of us travel to the US from Europe for holidays.

In my case, many years ago I worked in LA, travelled around California a lot then, went to Vegas etc. Since then have travelled solo and with friends from the UK to various bits of the US. Used to go to US annually for a skiing trip with a friend.

Not with tour groups though until recently when, in the recent past, I did a 17 day US tour with a UK travel group starting in Denver. A bus trip with stops Cheyenne, Laramie, Mt Rushmore, Badlands, Deadwood, Little Big Horn, Yellowstone (2days here), Grand Teton, Arches NP, Salt Lake City, Arches, Mesa Verde, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion and finishing in Las Vegas. It was great.

I travel solo, so in recent years have travelled with various UK tour groups to Asia, Central America, Africa, the Middle East etc. ie places where it is more difficult to travel solo. In Europe its pretty easy to book a flight and an hotel and just head off for a few days, so wouldn't really think of a tour group.

There are various tour companies in the UK that do these sort of trips. They are all a bit different, might have slightly different clientele from each other (by age or affluence etc). The size of the groups can vary hugely - my US trip, for instance, had 17 on it but sometimes it can be as high as 35 - so I was lucky. I have only used a tour group for a Europe trip once - going to Sicily - a terrific trip. This one I went with an outfit called Voyage Jules Verne www.vjv.com.

I was actually due to do another US tour next month - starting Atlanta and doing a loop taking in Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans and various other stops.

If you want to have a look at UK holiday companies that do tours, websites for solo traveller holidays would be www.justyou.co.uk www.onetraveller.co.uk. For couples (and solos) www.travelsphere.co.uk www.titantravel.co.uk www.vjv.com. There are many others.

Posted by
552 posts

You have already had some good replies to your question, so I will try to avoid saying the same things again.

Although we have a branch of Stanfords (a national specialist travel bookseller) in Bristol, I have never seen a copy of a Rick Steves book on their shelves. They may have it at their main London branch. There are plenty of other guide books available, so it may be that it just doesn't meet a particular need over here.

As others have said, travel is a very common experience for many people here. If someone says they went to Barcelona, or Prague, or Venice for the weekend, you only envy their energy. They most likely went for a particular reason - a wedding, or a concert - and not to photograph all the sights. Equally, many people have holday homes somewhere warmer than Britain, or like to know they can play golf somewhere sunny in the winter. Italy, France, Spain and Portugal are popular, but so is South Africa.

What seems to be a growing habit is international childcare. Time was when your children may have moved abroad for work and you looked forward to seeing them and your grandchildren every few years when they came home. Now you get to help with the childcare by visiting them. We have friends who have just returned from Texas and others come back from Myanmar on such journeys, and a cousin and his wife were hoping to go to Bangkok for the same reason. Australia, Canada and New Zealand seem quite commonplace. I think it's a combination of baby-boomer grandparents who have got used to travelling, have secure incomes to pay for it, and have the prospect of cheap accommodation when they get there.

The days of a "once in a lifetime" trip seem to have gone.

Emma - sorry to hear about your 12 weeks sheltering at home. I am in the same position, although, being retired, at least I am not expected to work as well. So far, so good, but it's early days yet, and we are still working out the details.

Posted by
4869 posts

BigMike, I've wondered the same thing. I think many Europeans have a picture of RS that is very different than what we here might have, if the only exposure is through this website and the discussion here. What made RS popular, in my opinion, is not his tours, but his TV shows. He's been on TV (and radio) here in the US for many years with a program that is all about independent travel (finding your own backdoors) and encouraging the middle class to travel inexpensively (travel like a European). His TV shows cover much more than the places in his guidebooks. In contrast to other TV travel shows here, he covers details like laundry, reading train schedules, obscure local festivals, packing light, etc., instead of four star restaurants and special access to the sites.

It was after several years of watching his show before I even understood that he operated tours (he doesn't tout them on the show). And contrary to the impression, his tours are filled mostly with experienced travelers, not timid novices. The guidebooks also encourage independent travel, just limited in scope because of size and detail. What makes the guidebooks popular is that they are direct in stating his opinions, and they are linked to a personality we are familiar with from TV and radio, so it feels more personal and trustworthy. That's in contrast to Trip Advisor, Fodor and Frommer, and whoever else writes American-based travel guides.

So it would be interesting to browse the travel book selection next time in Europe, and see what a guidebook to the US says. But it sounds like there is no personality driven promoter of travel to North America equivalent to RS.

Added: I was going to suggest the Eagles, but I think the answer is there was nothing like the Beatles. Because they were more than just a generator of pop music hits, they changed the zeitgeist. By the mid '70s, the world had changed and pop music was less influential or significant.

Posted by
6540 posts

And Thomas Cook Travel and airlines died in 2019 leaving thousands of travelers stranded away from home.

Posted by
8505 posts

Rick Steves books can be found in London.

Whenever I'm in London, I usually make a pilgrimage to Stanfords near Covent Garden, (And I am still lamenting their move to a new store.) I have seen Rick Steves' book there as well as Watertstones in Piccadilly and Foyle's on Charing Cross.

You would be surprised how many Europeans take tours in the U.S. and not just those in their 80's. They take tours for basically the same reason Americans/Canadians take tours in Europe.

Comparing Aerosmith to the Rolling Stones is like comparing cheap generic ice cream to hand made gelato.

Posted by
1795 posts

I think many Europeans have a picture of RS that is very different than what we here might have, if the only exposure is through this website and the discussion here.

Many Europeans have never even heard of Rick Steves lol! I only became became aware of RS after I "ran into him" at a travel industry convention here in Los Angeles, a year or two ago. After that I discovered his website, podcasts, and then this forum. I'll admit I have never owned an RS guide book, I've flipped through a few at Barnes and Nobles, but I never consider purchasing one, they are very much written for the North American market. The guide books we have back in Spain are mostly translations of French and British guidebooks.

For me, the closest thing to a "European" version of Rick Steves would be the Frenchman, Philippe Gloaguen, founder of le Guide du Routard back in the 1970s. His guide books are well known in Spain and he has built up a travel company very similar to Rick's, they even have their own travel forum.

Excerpt from Guide du Routard on the USA (translated into English):

"Crossing the Atlantic to discover the United States is an unforgettable experience. Mixed but deeply united, the 50 states are much better than the stereotypes of the prophets of anti-Americanism. Land of immigration for a long time, the United States is a world country, a planet in its own right. In the United States, there is a strong feeling of belonging to an exceptional nation, with a messianic destiny, in a promised land."

What's in common between the Arizona desert and the snow-capped peaks of Vermont? Between Utah Mormons and Key West gays? Between Latinos in Los Angeles and WASP in Boston? From Boston to Washington via New York and Philadelphia, the Northeast of the United States is dotted with great cities of art and history, shaped by waves of immigration, past industrialization and the American dream."

Posted by
1001 posts

Carlos, is Rick Steves in person pretty much the same guy you see on TV or videos?

Emma, there were only three of us at the bar sitting around a table several feet apart. It's a hole-in-the-wall joint. Two beers and I think everything's funny and then fall asleep. Yes, I've been called "light weight" a few times. I could never hang with the the military guys in Britain and Germany. Not close.

Bless you, Emma. You're doing the Lord's work.

Posted by
523 posts

Carlos, that is beautiful. Thanks for sharing and translating that perception of the US. I think it is so interesting to hear what people think about our home country, home cities and thats why I would love to be able to participate in a website like the one you mentioned.
As a New Yorker, I engage lots of visitors on the subway or in department stores. They usually comment on 1) people are nicer than they thought they would be 2) amazement at how crowded the city is 3) the skyscrapers!! 4) and when the dollar is weak to their currency- the shopping!!. I especially love the high school groups from the more rural parts of the US. Fun to see kids so excited to see a building taller than 3 stories and having their first elevator and escalator ride. Often, they are equally excited and nervous to be in a big city that their parents equate with Law and Order ! I first brag about how NY is a big, populous and diverse city where we all get along. And then I offer to be either rude or mug them if they really want a "NY' story.

Emma, my prayers are with you and all on the front lines. We are the epicenter in the US and it is heartbreaking . But it is equally inspiring as we work together. It is hard to comprehend the magnitude of this virus an the impact on the health care system and on people if you are not in the midst of it. I am working from home for a hospital and it is only when I speak with my colleaques that the reality hits. otherwise, from the safety and comfort of my apartment where i am in self-isolation, it can seem like an inconvenience .

Big Mike and friends; please stay home. Stay home . Stay Home and Save Lives.

There is a great Hezekiah Walker hymn about all being part of God"s one family " need you to survive'.
" I pray for you, You pray for me...
You are important to me,I need you to survive
For these days:
"I stay home for you, You stay home for me
You are important to me. I need you to survive.

Take care

Posted by
1795 posts

@BigMike - Yes he speaks and acts just like in his videos! I don't think he just puts on this personality, though it was the "Los Angeles Travel and Adventure Show", so he may have had an image to uphold, it's a pretty big convention. I think he was here this year too, but I did not go.

Posted by
1001 posts

Carlos, there are a lot of good nuggets in your post. We should be paying you.

When I meet someone who is "famous" locally or otherwise, like the weatherman in Charleston, WV, it's a bit jarring when they're not like they are on TV, but other times I've met people who are exactly like I thought they were. RS does come across as genuine, which is refreshing.

Diane, got it.

We get a good amount of Germans and English (or English speaking I don't want to get in trouble here) visiting the parks in WV and especially along the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive in Virginia. Sometimes I want to engage them in conversation and ask them where they're from and what they're doing, but I don't.

Posted by
1795 posts

@Diane - yes I have the same reactions when I read travel descriptions of my home country of Spain, it's very heartwarming. Here's some more translated descriptions of the USA, from Guide du Routard -

"We rediscover the power of silence, the majesty of a cliff, the magic of light, the breath of eternal wind, the roar of a torrent, then the soothing gurgling of a river.

California represents all the attraction of an “end of the world”, both highly urbanized and very wild. Sea, mountain and desert are at the gates of cities, themselves rather open to nature.

Florida, covered with swamps infested with mosquitoes, snakes and alligators, has become America of extremes and excess. Hundreds of kilometers of white sand planted with coconut palms line the coasts, and strings of islands emerge.

In the heart of Louisiana beats the rhythm of New Orleans, a city of jazz music. Farther north lies what the Americans call the Deep South, that of ancient oaks and rockin 'chairs creaking on the terraces of planters' houses. And then comes the south, that of the alligators, of the light flowing between the giant cypresses planted between two waters in the bayou.

New York. Those who have never set foot there already know it, through cinema, TV series, music, literature. New York is a dream machine. Diverse, frantic, electric, magnetic, magical, dizzying, inventive, intense ... adjectives jostle to describe it. It is the city of extremes and superlatives."

Posted by
2809 posts

I think the US is, individually, the most sought-after intercontinental destination for European travelers. As I said, there is a huge appeal of natural areas, theme parks in Florida, Las Vegas, the big cities of New York and Los Angeles, and so forth.

This has waned quite a bit, but the US used to have a reputation for being an easier destination for family trips, and for having less indoor smoking. Now things have converged. It retains the reputation for being a cheaper place than around Northern Europe, Switzerland etc.

Things that would often puzzle European visitors to the US include the maze of unofficial tipping rules (who, when, how much), hotels with large rooms and 2 double beds, ice dispensers, and general dangers of the walking even relatively short distances depending on where you are (danger of being hit by cars, no crosswalks in sight, sidewalks that end suddenly etc), prices on stores that are not inclusive of taxes. Also, if you are over 60 travel insurance to the US costs at least 2x-3x as much as for a trip to Australia, Japan, Singapore, Russia...

Posted by
1386 posts

there isn't the fear of travelling by your self over here, you just get on and do it.

Once reason for this, as I recall from living in England in the early 90's, there was a travel agent (or 2 and often 3 or 4) on every seemingly every High Street. You could as easily buy a 4 day "city break" in Florence as you could a new saucepan. You could walk in and browse through racks and racks of catalogs - choosing by destination, length of stay, pricepoint. My girlfriend and I could decide at lunchtime to head to a travel shop, flip through the pages until we found something interesting, and be in Greece by the weekend.

There was nothing scary or distant or difficult (or expensive) about it. We just "got on and did it." There wasn't a need for a Rick Steves.

Having said that, I would love to go back to Florence, Greece and other places I visited while living in England, armed with my Rick Steves travel guide, to see them each again!

Posted by
6073 posts

Frankly I don’t think there’s a lot of European tourist interest in
the US. Unless you live in or are visiting one of the few famous
places one hardly ever sees tourists.

Like everywhere else in the world, tourists discriminate. True, there are major hot spots in the US which draw a disproportionate number while a large part of the country (and many states) are much less visited, if at all (but that's true of even US-based tourists). But millions of people do live in those places because they're densely populated. I lived in Los Angeles for 20+ years. There were European and other (mostly Asian) international travelers all year round all over CA (Santa Monica, for example, reports that ~ 50% of its tourists are international, although that is not broken up by country/region: https://www.santamonica.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/2-Page-Econ-Imp-Summary-2017.pdf). San Francisco is a huge draw, as are large swaths of CA. Even remote National and State Parks have lots of European tourists. I saw more European tourists in lesser known parks in Utah than US tourists. German and French tourists, especially, were always found on any moderate to high physical activity/ recreational outings.

No, I don't think there's a European version of Rick Steves in Europe. He fills his own niche with a certain segment of the US market which is a bit apprehensive and needs a gentle push (and some handholding) to travel. Many Europeans have traveled to adjacent countries even as children (I did, even having grown up in a communist country), so they don't need that much cajoling.

Posted by
1795 posts

As for tipping. . . you don’t have to--if you feel the server/waiter doesn’t deserve it. This is an arrangement that is grossly misunderstood by foreigners. But since these jobs are held by college students--working their way thru college, tips are highly appreciated to help cover tuition expenses and their monthly rent.

Foreigner here 🖐 who just happens to also live in Los Angeles, and I don't agree with the above statement, in the USA you basically have to tip even if the service was not totally satisfactory. I would strongly recommend any fellow Europeans to make sure to tip at least 15%, if it was really a bad service then 10%, anything lower and you can get into trouble. Also most servers in restaurants are not "just students", many are working adults trying to make ends meet, many with families to provide for.

On tipping in the USA (from le Guide du Routard):

"In restaurants, waiters have a relatively low fixed salary , most of their income comes from tips. This is the genius of capitalism: leave it to customers, according to their degree of satisfaction, to pay the servers' salaries! In short, the tip is therefore an institution that you should not deviate from (except in fast food and self-service places). An oversight will make you pass for a total redneck and a notorious stingy! The tradition is to leave 15, 18 or 20% (15% being the minimum of the minimum!). Calculated on the price excluding taxes. The Americans, naturally generous, easily giving 20 to 25%. In short, keep in mind that with sales tax plus tip,you are 25-35% more than the displayed price, if not more..."

Posted by
55 posts

Not aware of any travel guru overseas, but every time we go on a trip, we check out the travel section of the local bookstores. I especially enjoy picking up travel guides for my home town (over the years San Francisco, Monterey, Washington, D.C., and now Las Vegas) in foreign languages. It's a blast to see what advice the French, for instance, have for those visiting the Wild West of Las Vegas.

Posted by
5017 posts

is Rick Steves in person pretty much the same guy you see on TV or videos?

As best I can tell, yes, totally.

BigMike, I live in Seattle, and have run into Rick Steves out in the wild several times over the years, in a variety of settings (his home and HQ are in Edmonds, just north of Seattle, so I guess he would be considered a minor local celebrity). I have seen him at various company events there in Edmonds, too, although not in one-on-one interactions. I'm pretty sure that there isn't some public persona he puts on for media appearances and public events, and a different one when not "working."

I recall meeting and hanging out with him one night at a political event in Seattle a few years ago. Like me, he was just there as an individual, we both happened to be celebrating an election result, we were all drinking beer, chatting and mixing with strangers. It was basically just a big party, with a very positive vibe (our candidate won big, so everybody was elated - I recall that night, there were literally crowds of people dancing in the streets). He was with some friends, so was I. We happened to be standing nearby, people drifted in and out of conversation circles, as you would at any social gathering. He and I shot the breeze for a while over beer, not talking about European travel or his business at all, just basic socializing. There was no overt recognition of him as a local "celebrity" there that I could detect, although I'm sure many people there recognized him. He seemed quite at ease.

He came across exactly as he does in the TV videos (though maybe a little more animated, as we all had been drinking for a while). I think what you see on TV is what you get, unfiltered, no special veneer of TV personality.

Posted by
1001 posts

Vic, you should post more, and many others too numerous to mention. I need to post less, read more.

Thank you, David. It seems RS is comfortable in his own skin. He is who he is. That's refreshing.

Posted by
1895 posts

I live in South Dakota. We often see a particular form of camper van driving on the expressways towards the West. I believe that the camper vans are leased primarily by European visitors. That's not the same as RS, but is a European tour approach.

Posted by
8505 posts

I worked in the tourism industry in the U.S. mostly with international visitors. Most of the time I was based in Los Angeles. Before that I worked in the entertainment industry.

First, let me say, not all servers are college students. It depends on where you are. If near a university, they might be. In Hollywood or West L.A they were mostly out of work actors, writers, etc. In Vegas, they were often either transplants trying to make a living or out of work entertainers. (My work took me to Vegas very often.)

As for foreign visitors, there are four areas that are the most visited--NYC, Washington DC, Orlando and California. After that, foreign visitors would go where they had an intersest or too see areas they saw on TV or in Movies. National Parks were also very popular.

Most visitors I worked with knew the tipping policy in the U.S. was different and inquired about it. Some ignored it. (I remember one group of 100 British small business owners who were on a sponsored trip to Los Angeles and stayiing at a five star hotel. They would go down to the bar for a drink before dinner and thinking it was like a pub didnt leave any tips. The servers were not happy.)

I would also say that most visitors found that America was not like what they saw on their favorite fictional TV shows. They came with a stereotype and left with a different opinion.

Posted by
1107 posts

Everyone tailors their style and their content to suit their audience to some extent and RS is no exception.
He doesn't talk about drugs/alcohol/parties/sex very much at church events,
and he doesn't talk about faith and ethics very much at college events.

I've seen him in person a handful of times and during a Q&A after a talk at the International House he was pestered by frat boys asking about his preferences in drug-delivery (Are you a bong man or a blunt man? they tittered) and he went with the spirit of the occasion: I'll take it any way I can get it, so long as it's legal, was his reply. He knew there were journalists in the room somewhere.

He also knows to treat experienced travelers differently from those just putting their toes in the waters, and to treat those with plenty of discretionary funds differently from those who have to save and plan well ahead to be able to afford a trip.

Side note on sidewalks and the dangers of America for those on foot: I'm in one of the counties with confirmed cases on the rise and a shelter-in-place order in effect, and it's still much more likely that I will be injured or killed by a distracted driver than by the virus. Any area here in the USA developed after WWII was probably designed from the ground up to be pedestrian-hostile. Why else would we need the term 'pedestrian friendly'? Or even the word 'pedestrian'? A pedestrian is a normal person. The term 'driver' should be the exception. It's like the noun 'non-smoker' -- you mean a person, right? No one is born with a cig in their mouth.

Posted by
5017 posts

I would also say that most visitors found that America was not like what they saw on their favorite fictional TV shows. They came with a stereotype and left with a different opinion.

I think that's generally true anywhere. And it's also a great reason to travel - to dispel those myths.

Posted by
1048 posts

Another reason there is less demand for someone like that in Europe is going to another country is not a big deal here. I live in one of the larger European countries not so centrally located on the continent. But I've taken day trips across the border several times, and the only things that changes is that there is a different currency on the price tags, another time zone and the locals have a slightly different dialect.

Posted by
2809 posts

Florida theme parks might be tacky/over-programmed, but it is something high on the list of aspirational middle- and upper-middle class family trips. One of those things you do once in a lifetime with children, even though prices are high and lines are brutal.

The drinking age (21) and lack of public transportation outside of big cities puts off a bit the college students out of Euroe from traveling on typical backpacking trips. Many don't have drivers' licenses and, if they have, car rental is prohibitively expensive for people < 25 y.o. with all youth driver supplements.

Posted by
333 posts

This is where things get messed up between the US and Europe and between English Speaking Countries and non English speaking countries.

First off in most countries that teach a second language the second language IS English more often then not. If not English then it is the language of the neighbor country/major trading partner. In the US we don’t have as obvious a choice as we predominantly speak English and most of us live so far away from Mexico that it would be like England and Greece. So it is hard to get a consensus on a second language. The local high schools around me tend to require one semester of a second language but that is more to expose kids to see if they enjoy learning a second language then to actually teach them. Those schools also teach. Japanese, Chinese (Mandarin I assume?) Spanish, French, and German that I am aware of.
The other problem with US teaching foreign languages is that unless you use it at home (and thus probably learnt it that way) you won’t have as much obvious use for it as if you lived in Great Britain and that leads to my 2nd point.
The US is HUGE and very far from other major counties with two exceptions. In the North we have Canada and in the South Mexico. From where I live it only takes 2 hours longer to get to London then to Mexico City.

I have taken driving trips 1800 miles one way and been gone for 4 weeks and only realy seen two states (just drove through the others). I can drive for well over 6 hours and not leave my own state if I head north west.
So the time/distance to another country is such that a working stiff may very well never get to another country, Then again if you live close to a boarder you may go a lot. By the time I was 20 I had been in Canada at least 20 times and for around here at that time that is on the low end. Why? Because it was close and easy.

As for people in England vacationing in a county in Europe. Well that is basically like someone vacationing out of state. Not exactly unusual. I probably have averaged at least 1 trip per year out of state my whole life and in my adult live after I got a good job I probably average 2 or three trips a year (and about that again for work). And keep in mind we used to travel 3 hours north most weekend to the family cottage.
So it is not that the US has anything against travel to foreign lands it is just that the distance and cost is pretty high and we have so many places to go in the US. And as for languages. Which one can I use in Europe that will be more common then English?

Posted by
3907 posts

We've travelled to the US at least once a year over the last 12 years however it's unlikely that we'll return for the forseeable future. Much of our travel destinations have been dictated by our ability to exchange our Marriott Timeshare weeks for resorts within the US. We've visited the predictable NYC, San Francisco, Washington DC, Las Vegas, Orlando etc because they're pretty much the standard 'must visits'. However we've also been to less obvious places for Europeans such as Hilton Head Island, Park CIty, Lake Tahoe, Williamsburg, VA and others.

I particularly enjoy the national parks with Yellowstone (and The Tetons) being my favourite but the problem is so many of them are an absolute pain to get to from Europe. To visit Yellowstone we flew into Chicago and took a connecting flight to Salt Lake City, spent a night there and then drove for a week in Park City and exploring the surrounding area before driving to a little town called Driggs in Idaho (their biggest claim to fame is having an outdoor cinema in a potato field!) where we rented a house to base ourselves for exploring The Tetons and Yellowstone (I underestimated the drive times!) so we stayed a night in a crappy hotel in West Yellowstone for one night to maximise our time. We left it too late to book accommodation either in the park or nearby Jackson Hole. I want to visit again but it's a logistical nightmare and for someone who dislikes multiple flight changes it's not an appealing prospect.

Other than the national parks there isn't any draw to the US for us. We've become somewhat disillusioned with the country, during all my travels across the world there have been five occasions where I've genuinely been concerned for my safety and they have all been in the US. Distances are too vast and I'll never forget the 10 hour drive from Baltimore airport to Willaimsburg VA, a journey that should have taken just over 3 hours but due to an accident and other traffic issues it turned into one of the most torturous drives ever (I-95 isn't exactly enthralling at the best of times). History and culture wise there's far more on our doorstep within Europe so it doesn't make sense to fly all across the Atlantic anymore and if beaches are my thing (despite there being many superb beaches throughout Europe) then I'd much rather fly to Thailand or Vietnam than the Gulf coast of Florida simply to combine it with such a different culture.

I loved the Midwest. Our stay in the little town of Driggs was forever memorable, a population of just over 1500 where it seems everyone in the supermarket knew everyone else, therre was a rodeo every Friday night and the most warming and genuine welcome we've received anywhere. I disliked Miami, enjoyed my road trip through Texas despite the repeated attempted scams in Dallas, San Francisco was disappointing, Orlando is extremely boring if you don't like Disney (in fact most of Florida is pretty much "meh"). Loved Sequoia and King's Canyon and will never forget horseriding in the desert surrounding the Grand Canyon but absolutely detested Las Vegas. I can't understand the seemingly hugely popular appeal of Hilton Head but recognise the charms of Savannah and Charleston. If I had to choose somewhere in the US to live it would probably be somewhere in Wyoming but I couldn't put up with US television, it would drive me insane!!!

As for a European equivalent of Rick Steve's, there isn't one. You could compare British travel presenters such as Alan Whicker, Michael Palin and even Judith Chalmers!

Posted by
1001 posts

JC, I agree with everything you posted. Having lived in the sauna of Florida for four years and having visited Orlando dozens of times, it's always nice to see that city in the rear-view mirror. I-95 and many other interstates are often a disaster, and predicting you're arrival time is nearly impossible. Perhaps it's good news the US Congress is considering $2 trillion for infrastructure. I can't recall feeling unsafe anywhere in Europe but there are plenty of places within US cities to avoid. It may be politically incorrect to say so, but it's true.

My wife wants to go to Las Vegas and nothing about that entire scene interests me. I guess I'll go along with the idea just to check a block and be a swell husband.

Posted by
3907 posts

My wife wants to go to Las Vegas and nothing about that entire scene interests me. I guess I'll go along with the idea just to check a block and be a swell husband.

Mike, your wife might find herself sharing the opinion of my wife when walking together, hand in hand, clearly as a couple, wonen would hand me flyers for strip clubs and other 'male entertainment' venues as if my wife was invisible. It's demeaning and insulting from both sides and that is the overwhelming experience of Las Vegas, a sordid, cheap, soulless, mysogynistic dystopia. Quite possibly one of the worst places I've been to in the US.

Ironically enough it was my first visit to the US. I mentioned the threatening incidents I've experienced in the US, two of them were on that very first trip. First stop Atlanta, an experience that afforded me the experience of hostility as an ethnic minority, then Vegas which was just tacky followed by Cincinnatti where once more I was targeted for being white. Despite this baptism of fire we continued to visit for many years,

Posted by
3907 posts

JC, I agree with everything you posted. Having lived in the sauna of Florida for four years....

But Mike, isn't West Virgnia just as much a sauna in the summer? Our visit to Williamsburg and coupled with a few days in DC during August a couple of years ago were just as hot and humid if not more so than what we've experienced in Florida. Admittedly most of our visits to Florida have been to the coast so that helps to keep the humidity and temperature more manageable but the day we visited Historic Jamestown almost made me weep. I so wanted to spend time on the replica ships and the town as I have an interest in the early settlers but the heat was suffocating and my sole focus ended up getting back to the air conditioning of the visitor centre. I really felt so sorry for the poor lads dressed up in full body armour costume!

Posted by
1067 posts

"But Mike, isn't West Virgnia just as much a sauna in the summer? Our visit to Williamsburg and coupled with a few days in DC during August "

You were in the coastal areas of Virginia (OK, DC in not in Virginia but it does border on Virginia). West Virginia is west of Virginia and is mostly mountains.

Posted by
1001 posts

JC and Bob, I'd say West Virginia isn't as intensely hot as Florida for as long a period of time. This of course gets into latitude and solar inclination. One thing I missed while living in Florida was the seasons. In Orlando it was really hot and not quite a hot. Apparently a lot of people seem to like it.

Posted by
3907 posts

Thanks Bob, I didn't take into account the topography of West Virginia.

Posted by
11422 posts

Some of you mentioned our National Parks? As devoted hikers to the fabulous parks of the American Southwest (and some others, such as Acadia and Olympic) we've frequently run into more trekkers from abroad on the trails than fellow Americans. That includes more remote parks, such as Canyonland's Needles or Horseshoe Canyon units, versus, say, the Grand Canyon. Those interactions, however brief, have always been positive, and favorite moments of our time spent exploring America's greatest natural treasures. Most of them have been European but South Americans and Canadians as well. Not many from Japan, Korea or other parts of Asia.

We intensely dislike Las Vegas too! It's a convenient fly-in hub for Zion, Bryce and some other locations but we can't get out of there fast enough. Bleh. Not Orlando fans either. JC and Carlos, have either of you been to Santa Fe, New Mexico yet? That's a great spot for Spanish/Mexican/First People history, architecture, food and art plus some fab hiking and other interesting day trips within reasonable drives. We've been umpty times and have never been bored!

Posted by
1795 posts

@Kathy - Thanks for the recommendation of New Mexico! I'm actually reading a book now about the Spanish period of the American Southwest, in which Santa Fe and surrounds figures in prominently, it's still on my list.

Last spring I did a 1.5 week road trip out of Los Angeles, first to Zion National Park, then Bryce Canyon National Park, next Canyonlands National Park, then on to Antelope Canyon, ending at Monument Valley in the Navajo Nation, before driving back to LA. Wow what an adventure! As you said, many hikers I ran into were fellow Europeans, I even met a family from my hometown of Barcelona, what a small world.

Posted by
1048 posts

First off in most countries that teach a second language the second
language IS English more often then not. If not English then it is the
language of the neighbor country/major trading partner.

Or in countries with multiple languages: The other/one of the other official languages. E.g. frenchspeaking swiss children are taught German as a 2nd language. Italianspeaking children learn German or French (or Romansh), and while some germanspeaking children learn English, some learn French.

Posted by
3907 posts

@Kathy. No, I haven't been to Santa Fe, again it's down to the logistical issue. I had a quick dummy run on flights from London to Santa Fe and many required two changes! Eek....no way. The best I found was British Airways to Dallas Fort Worth and then onto Santa Fe with American Airlines. My wife and I currently have two companion passes as a result of our BA credit card and due to the pandemic they've been extended for another year (by next year we'll have accrued another two passes). Obviously we'd use our passes for our children so we'll pay for two tickets rather than four. We all really enjoyed our Christmas and New Year break to Kuala Lumpur and Phuket so will most likely look at travelling east again. Whilst my wife and I have travelled in Asia a bit it was the first time for the kids and for them the different culture was more appealing than visiting the US again. However, at the moment all planning is on hold.