why do you do these helpful things?

My husband and I are wondering if all the knowledgeable people who answer our ridiculous travel questions are employed by Rick Steves' travel service? My husband thinks you are not. I can't imagine that people are willing to be so helpful for no reason other than being a good neighbor to the entire world. Ron's wife, k

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
7732 posts

I do it for the free money belts. I get a free one for every 100 posts. I then sell them on e-bay and make a small profit from it.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
8186 posts

He's joking - otherwise I'm missing out on my free money belts ;-) I love to travel and like to talk travel. I come here because it's the easiest site to navigate and I learn a lot (or am reminded of something I forgot), hear current news that I may have missed, and occasionally share something I know about with other travelers.

Posted by gone
2081 posts

hi, Im suppose to be paid? i do it since i just started to travel and thought my experience from trail and error (T&E) and from using RS books would help others. I also do it since, for some, its a big step from reading to doing. Not that everything i post/reply to is correct or right, but its a method and works for me. im not sure if you notice, but as far as the rest of the world goes, not alot of them represented here - at least from what i see. happy trails.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2193 posts

Work avoidance. Some of my stuff might actually be helpful, but upon reflection, I might just also be full of crap. I'm sure I actually learn more than I can offer in return, but I like to share what I know.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
11065 posts

If I'm employed by Mr. Steve's company, then I'm still waiting for my first paycheck. I think my first post dates from perhaps 2003, so that would be 10 years of back-pay I should expect. Hell, in the Church of Rick Steves, I'm usually one of the foremost heretics, so I'm expecting to be excommunicated any day now. Seriously, I don't know why I spend so much time on this damn website. Perhaps because I want people to avoid the same mistakes I made a long time ago. Perhaps because by engaging in these conversations, I'm always learning something new. Maybe I just need a diversion from work. Or maybe because I just like to feel smugly superior about all the stuff I've learned about Europe... probably a combination of all of the above.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8729 posts

Nope, we are not paid. The one thing we all have in common is a love of travel. Earlier posters have said it better, but I think most of us post here because, over the course of years of travel, we have learned a few things - some of them the hard way - and want to share them with others. It helps to have some posters who are actually based in Europe now, too.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
6816 posts

I post here and on other travel websites (Tripadvisor and Fodors) because I enjoy helping other travelers, and I almost always learn something in the process. The interesting thing is thet the other two websites I mentioned do offer recognition to consistent, prolific and helpful posters. This one does not, but I post here anyway.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
7334 posts

Ronald is right, K. I started reading the Helpline a few years ago, it was almost two years before I posted anything. I learn a lot from reading other peoples' posts, and if I offer some advice that's not correct or outdated, someone will swiftly correct it. I've been spending a lot of time in Italy and I usually find some places that RS doesn't cover, so if I can offer some advice (on Bologna, for instance), I'm happy to do it. I'm also curious about how other people travel, and it's enlightening to see that there are so many different ways to do it (only a day trip to Rome? If that's all you have, it's better than no trip to Rome).

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
13875 posts

Nope, no $$, no ££, no €€. No recognition, no working for RS. I post because RS is indirectly responsible for my bride and I moving back to the UK - inspiration - and because my bride and I met at a PBS pledge drive - = - so we were brought up to give something back. As a regular traveler to Europe, and resident in the UK who works in an industry which directly affect many travelers I have specialist knowledge that I am happy to share. Besides - as was just mentioned, I usually come out with knowledge than when I went in. I benefit that way. Besides - = - its fun.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3553 posts

Oh dear... that is way too hard of a question to answer. I think it might throw me into therapy... or maybe this site keeps me out of therapy.
I am one of those people who would rather be in Europe...and if I can't be there, I want to be thinking about it. It's better than watching TV. I think my check must be 'in the mail.' :)

Posted by Matt
Washington, DC, USA
571 posts

I tried to convince my wife that planning imaginary trips we couldn't afford yet was a fun way to spend an evening, but she doesn't agree. At least here I can help people plan their trips and know someone is actually traveling. Also, I've benefited from the advice on these boards and want to share the favor with others. But most of all, there seems to be a real community of good people on these boards. Check out most chat boards and message boards and you see some real ugliness, but this site brings back my faith in the goodness of people!

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1759 posts

I do it for the laughs, but only when I think I can be helpful. HaHaHa!

Posted by Margaret
813 posts

Paid, oh dear me, NO. In fact, when Rick Steves visited Vanderbilt University a while ago, I made reservations early, was dying to meet him in person (which I got to do), BUT he declined to allow my husband to take his photograph with me.........something I will NEVER EVER forget, Rick!!!! That would have been "payment" for me, and I would have proudly showed that photograph to all my traveling friends along with a HUGE endorsement for Rick (but NOT). Seriously, we enjoyed our two guided tours with Rick's company so very much, helping on this site is a way to say thanks to his company. Also, as some of the other posters mentioned, we all learn so very much reading the posted questions and the answers. Other posters have helped me with their bits of knowledge, so it is sort of like paying it forward, one tries to help others. Now, NEXT time Rick is in town, he BETTER allow the photograph :o
Little things keep loyal fans happy!!!

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
1290 posts

No, we are not employed by Rick Steves. Agree with Terry Kathryn:"I am one of those people who would rather be in Europe...and if I can't be there, I want to be thinking about it." I personally am not happy unless I am planning my next trip, on the trip, or communicating with others about their trip experiences. I have Rick Steves to thank for getting me interested in European travel. His shows on TV made it seem so easy to travel, even on a budget. In my opinion, Rick is doing something good by offering trips to Europe so that travelers can go and meet people all over the world and see how they are unique but yet very similar to us. I like Rick's philosophy of peace and regarding the people he meets on his travels as friends. If I can help here in any way, I'm glad to. K, your last sentence, "...being a good neighbor to the entire world" Lovely idea.

Posted by Andrea
Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
673 posts

Well I'm much more of a lurker than a poster but I hang around to learn from others and occasionally give the benefit of my experience to someone else. I've also gotten great advice from others here. They usually respond within minutes of my posting a question! Hanging out here allows me to dream a little that everyone else's trips could be mine. I do believe I may have traveled more than some who post much more than me but I tend not to get involved unless I have something concrete to suggest. And Mattyou are the male me. I seem to always be working out details for trips I may never take, and some that I do. My hubby can't fathom why I am currently figuring out how the ferries to Croatia from Italy work when our next trip is England and Scotland (only a few weeks away now!). He loves traveling but the planning, not so much.

Posted by Dick
Olympia, WA, USA
1619 posts

Shhh, don't tell Nancy, Nigel, Tom, Rebecca, and Margaret about the big paychecks! But I still haven't figured out if we're getting paid by the post or by the word. ;) This is a fun topic, I learn a lot, I get to pontificate a little and hopefully share something useful now and then. I don't do other boards so I don't see the ugliness others mentioned (it's bad enough to read the comments on my newspaper's website). I like most of the RS approach to travel though with age my wife and I have gone a little softer..... I met the great man in the security line at SeaTac last winter, he was pleasant enough but clearly gets his fill of these random encounters. There's a downside to being on TV and having products in your name. So, Ron's wife k (if that really is your name!), tell Ron that he's right, we're all motivated purely by altruism, not the big bucks! Heh heh.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
4031 posts

"I am one of those people who would rather be in Europe...and if I can't be there, I want to be thinking about it." Terry kathryn hit the nail on the head for me. That's exactly how I feel. Also what so many others said, helping, learning, giving back, living vicariously, and... I love certain places so much (Paris, Normandy, Sorrento, for instance) I'd like others to have a good time and love those places too. I love reading other people's posts and advice, love hearing the "conversation" of others who love europe as much as I do. It's also a great escape... I have a stressful business and life and clicking on this site and reading posts takes me away from it all for a bit. Funny thing is, I hate to write. Hate it. Not good at it. That's why I'm usually short and to the point... :)

Posted by Laurie Beth
Was MN, now TX
646 posts

Sure we get paid in smiles. I love to travel and have learned so much from Rick's books, online presentations, public tv shows, tours and reading the posts on this Helpline. Sharing some of the things I've learned is a small way for me to pay back (and hopefully pay forward, too.) I read this message board almost every day and have come to feel like some of the frequent posters are my virtual friends.

Posted by Beatrix
2204 posts

I'm with Terry Kathryn and Susan. If you consider travelling to be the best thing in the world then talking (or here writing) about travelling is the second best thing to do while you can't be out roaming the world. And I'd like to contribute a bit of my experience showing that Europe doesn't have to be a very expensive once-in-a-lifetime-only experience but can be done in an affordable way without roughing it. Especially when travelling as a family.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
6030 posts

I'm with TK, Susan and Beatrix. I love to travel, love to plan trips, and like to talk about travel. I have learned so much from people here and try to share the things I have learned with others.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
5725 posts

I agree with all the other replies. I do it because it's fun. I do it because I don't want people to make preventable mistakes. I do it because things that seem obvious to me are not obvious to others, and I can easily steer them in the right direction. I do it because, while some questions get lots of knowledgeable posters (so I won't be "missed" if I don't reply), for others I have something unique to contribute. And I do it because I'm avoiding other work. But no, we are not paid for this. Your question reminds me of Margaret Cho's fantastic joke: "I would have made a wonderful prostitute - if only I had thought ahead and charged." Since I didn't think ahead, I'm doing this for free.

Posted by Charlie
Honolulu/Seattle, HI/WA, USA
2313 posts

The folks on this web site seem to all have a few things in common and you have probably figured that out by all of the replies you have received.
Personally, I go to Europe every summer for a month and have done so since 2001. I have taken 10 RS tours (soon to be #11). I use to answer any post where I thought I had something to contribute but I eventually found that it was just taken up too much of my time - not that this is a bad way to spend ones time. Now I mostly respond to posts that have not gotten any replies where I think I can offer something to get it started. And, no, I am not paid for my time spent on this web site. Happy Travels

Posted by Ronald
Amarillo, TX, USA
11 posts

Ron is giddy that he's right! I wish someone was coming to Cactus, Texas (across the road from Etter where I lived for 10 yrs.) Then I could steer you right! For some reason a place with one gas pump & a little Mexican food café and only 30 houses doesn't get much tourism. We thank you for invaluable /rapid FREE advice. We are senior citizens (widowed)and now newlyweds. This trip represents his life's dream & our combined life savings. Sitting at our computer talking to all of you and purchasing tickets on a train (we've never ridden on a train) seems like something out of a science fiction movie. ( I'd never dreamed this would happen in my life time.)
I'm sad to know the French don't care for American's. I'm going to try not to pay any attention to that. As you can easily tell, I'm not a traveler or a trip planner. But if I were, this site would be where I'd join all of you for frequent little daily escapes. What you are doing is so kind. I hope you travel frequent, far, and extravagantly but at bargain prices! Ron's wife k (that's my real name, spelled with a single lower case letter.)

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
9472 posts

I agree with everyone, its fun to talk about travel, read about travel and dream about travel.. so if not actually travelling then travel forums ( this and others ) are a fun way to spend time for me . I have been on forums for years and can honestly say I still learn something new and interesting every day I come on them.
I appricieate the help I get and love to return the favor.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
24141 posts

Ron's wife k, What a great topic! I've really been enjoying the replies. Being paid by RS ETBD would be nice, especially since I'm on a Pension, but I haven't received any money so far. A few bucks would help to offset the money paid for RS tours. I haven't really given it much thought, but like many here there are probably a few reasons I post. Some thoughts..... I've received a lot of help over the years from others, including many of you, so answering questions for others is a way to "pay it forward". I especially like helping first timers to Europe, as I remember how confused and apprehensive I was before my first trip. I feel somewhat compelled to answer questions related to technology, as have a technical background. I often know the answers without having to refer to websites or books, although I sometimes double-check my information for accuracy in case my memory is a bit "off". I also find that answering some questions helps me with information that's useful for "future reference" for my own trips. Similar to what Terry kathryn mentioned, I'm always thinking about Europe. If I've just returned from a trip, I'm already planning the next one, so answering posts here helps to keep "Europe" in my thoughts every day. Reading Lola's reply was somewhat thought provoking. It's interesting that Frommer's and other sites at least acknowledge people that contribute to their Forums, but RS doesn't. I don't post here to receive recognition, but it does seem a bit odd? You mentioned "I'm sad to know the French don't care for American's." I haven't noticed that. I've travelled with Americans in France, and have never noticed any problems in that regard. You may find that's not the case. Cheers!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
24141 posts

Ron & k, "purchasing tickets on a train (we've never ridden on a train) seems like something out of a science fiction movie." Rail skills is definitely something to research before trips, as there are some potentially expensive "caveats" to be aware of, especially in Italy. The aspect of changing trains is something that you'll have to get used to. If you have a Library nearby, try to find a copy of Europe Through The Back Door as that has a LOT of good information on "how" to travel well in Europe. The country-specific Guidebooks have details on hotels, restaurants, sightseeing and transportation.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
6030 posts

Ronald, I don't know where you heard that the French don't like Americans, but I have not experienced that in the 5 weeks I have spent in France over several trips. While most Europeans are more reserved that many Americans, it doesn't mean they dislike us. One thing I encourage you and your wife to do is to learn a little about the cultures you will be visiting before you go. It will make for a more enjoyable trip. I'll address France, since you specifically mentioned it. They have a more formal culture. You should learn a little bit of French will will go a long way. Learn how to say hello (bonjour), please (pronounced see voo play), excuse me, etc. Learn in French how to ask someone if they speak English. There is currently a thread under To The West titled Speaking French and Greeting People. I suggest you read it for some good information. I hope the two of you have the trip of a life time!!!

Posted by gone
2081 posts

@ Ronald, ....I'm sad to know the French don't care for American's. I'm going to try not to pay any attention to that. As you can easily tell, I'm not a traveler or a trip planner. ... That is so not true. I will say thought that the only people i saw that i thought were inconsiderate were AMERICANS. You treat them with respect, they will do the same. It doesnt hurt to learn to say Hello, thank you and good-by in french either. They will probably like you texan accent. Even if you do come across someone that doesnt like an American for whatever reason, dont sweat the small stuff. Enjoy your trip and move on. Happy trails.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
7334 posts

Congratulations to the newlyweds! I hope you will post a Trip Report when you get back.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
3278 posts

This forum feels like a real community; we are mutually helpful. By participating, I get the benefits of others' thoughts on travel and I get to share my experiences. "Random acts of kindness" pay off to the giver as well as to the recipient. Since I have gotten involved in the RS travel style, I have traveled more and probably enjoyed it more than I would have otherwise. I get ideas and inspiration from other contributers here. Now I am thinking about a ferry crossing between England (Portsmouth or Southhampton) and the French coast as a reminder to me of what the DD landings were like. BTW, I recommend being helpful as a goal in life.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5687 posts

I came onto the Helpline in sort of a back-door way. MIL came to town about 6 years ago,and brought a Rick Steves Germany book with her and wanted to do a lot of the things in Frankfurt that he suggested. I had never heard of him, so of course had a look at the book to see what he said about Frankfurt, Mainz, the Rhine, Heidelberg and some of the other towns I thought might be in the book. To be honest, I was kind of surprised at the many mistakes, mainly historical, that should have been researched by the editors. Also was a bit taken aback by what he said about Mainz, Wiesbaden and Heidelberg, and was very surprised that Hamburg wasn't even mentioned. The funniest part though, was when my MIL insisted on being taken to the red light district in Frankfurt. For the life of me, I couldn't imagine why this 70+ year old woman would want to walk through here. Her comment? The walk through Frankfurt that Rick writes in his book goes through here. So, walk through we did. To this day, I am still wondering why Rick suggests this as part of a sightseeing walk through Frankfurt. Anyway, started reading the Graffiti Wall, the Reader Feedback and ALL of the archives on the website, before I ever started reading the Helpline. Once I found this, I just started answering questions, wanting people to enjoy their visit to Germany. I also tried to correct misconceptions about places I knew were wonderful, like Mainz, Heidelberg, etc. as well as suggesting new places to visit, that weren't in the book. Helping people to find some new back doors, I guess. Today, I really like meeting people from the Helpline if they come through Frankfurt, making friends with some of them on FB, and simply enjoying the camaraderie that exists here on the Helpline.

Posted by Mary
Reno, NV, USA
392 posts

"I'm sad to know the French don't care for American's" This could not be further from the truth. After many, many trips to Europe and two to France, all of the French people that I have met have been really friendly and helpful without even being asked.

Posted by Thomas
Snyder, Texas
504 posts

Ronald, How wonderful for you to be having this big adventure! You will not be disappointed. I have never had anyone in France be rude or unfriendly to me, so expect to find friendly people, more reserved than Texans in their friendliness but very polite and helpful. We were just in Amarillo a few days ago, by the way. Our son will be a student at the Texas Tech Pharmacy College there for the next 4 years.
Have a great trip!!

Posted by Thomas
Vienna, Austria
517 posts

I'm a life-long travel junky. So this is a natural for me. On top of that, I love my adopted city of Vienna. To the degree that I'm able, I want to help ensure that visitors to Vienna walk away from it with as positive an impression as possible.
I also agree that I enjoy the community feeling around here.

Posted by Joel
Tempe, AZ, USA
1046 posts

Ron's Wife K - I've been traveling abroad since 79. If I can help people with a few of the tricks that I've learned great. I know I've learned quite a bit from this site.

Posted by Paul
Tuscaloosa, AL
891 posts

I'm relatively new at posting here (I think I've only been doing so for six years or so, which is nothing in comparison to many of the others). I started after searching for an answer to a question I had before my first trip since getting out of school (that is, twenty years later). The information was helpful, and then after my trip I wanted to share what I learned in my own experience. I've been fortunate to take more trips since then and have learned something each time. I guess I just want to share information that I would have appreciated getting if I were asking the question. To me, figuring out the best or cheapest or most reliable or easiest way to maintain contact while traveling is a puzzle that I enjoy trying to solve. It is my hope, however, that one day we'll all just be able to use our phones and devices the same as we do back home and travelers will be confused that anyone would even think of asking what is the best way to call, text, or get data when overseas.

Posted by Diane
1400 posts

I keep coming to the Helpline exactly because it is a community. I'm not a frequent poster. When I do drop in for a visit, it's usually because I'm busy researching and planning out the next adventure or two. I see my participation here as a "give and take". If I'm here, I might as well see what folks are discussing. If I have that tidbit of info that someone needs, I post a reply to their question. Questions like "what is your favorite Gelato place in Rome?" are indeed important! I'm pretty sure that I've either asked that particular question or participated in a similar discussion at some point myself... {grin} If I have the time to write, then I'll answer; but only if the topic is of interest to me and I have something to contribute. Someone sent me a question (PM) this afternoon about info that I had shared back in 2011 regarding a ferry to Croatia. Sometimes I usually help out with France and transportation questions. Now that I'm here, I'm doing my usual browse through ;-) {waves hi!} I travel to Europe frequently and I like the discussions and the people who participate here. It's really amazing how willing people here are to provide really good advice and are SO NICE. I also appreciate that the travel approaches voiced here often reflect my own. It's by saving where I can that I can manage traveling as long and as frequently as I do... I really couldn't pull it off without the kind of advice that I find here! A BIG "thank you" to all of you who have helped me with my plans for the last few years! Recently, you have helped me with Russia, Ireland, Christmas markets and Greece. So, we're definitely not RS staffers - what we are is incorrigible travel planners!

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1525 posts

I post in part (like others have said) because it makes me think of Europe and relive the pleasant memories. But also in part because in the process of planning and executing past trips a lot of knowledge is gained and it would be a waste not to share some of it after I'm done experiencing it. I love knowing that any time I have a specific question about a specific location someone here will have something of value to pass along. Sometimes the information comes in a flood. When the opportunity arises, I like to return the favor. I like to encourage people to travel as much as possible because I think travel is important and worthwhile - particularly for families with school-age children like ours. If there is anything I can do to ease fears or smooth over planning anxiety or help save money, I'm happy to do it. Meanwhile, there are still many places I have not been and much I still have to learn, so even when I'm too busy to post often, I lurk and see what tips are out there to pick up. One of the frustrations anyone finds when dealing with others who travel is the stunning variety of travel preferences - from the backpacking teen to the tour-bus granny; from the penny-pincher to the 5-star fanatic; from the history buff to the power shopper. It can be so varied that it becomes almost impossible to offer advice to anyone. Being on this particular web site narrows those variations somewhat and makes offering advice easier. Rick Steves travelers tend (and "tend" really is only as far as you push it)to be of a certain type that I can more easily identify with. That said, you don't have to look hard to find strongly varied opinions here either.

Posted by Dick
Olympia, WA, USA
1619 posts

So, let me get this straight. Am I the only one who's getting paid? As for alleged French hostility, we'll never forget the gentleman we met on the Pont des Arts in 2003, at the height of US-French tension over Iraq. After he took our picture for us (those bizarre Americains, n'est-ce pas?), he asked earnestly "We're friends, aren't we?" Far from encountering hostility or coolness at that difficult time, we met several people who seemed to go out of their way to assure us that the dispute between our governments didn't affect their affection for us (goofy, ever-smiling, baseball-cap-wearing, French-mispronouncing, tap-water-drinking oddballs though we are). We're looking forward to another dose of this bemused affection in a few months!

Posted by Roy
East Alabama
1062 posts

What's this about being paid? I thought this was a subscription site! Am I the only one being billed for this service? That's $3 a day just for reading, and another $2 for each post, including this one. That does it! No more payments from me. I want to be paid, too.

Posted by Dick
Olympia, WA, USA
1619 posts

Thanks for your kind generosity, Roy. I understand RS is considering charging you by the word instead of by the post. Be assured that your funds are going straight into my travel kitty! ;)

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
4235 posts

I hope you travel frequent, far, and extravagantly but at bargain prices! K, that may be the nicest sentiment I've ever read on the Helpline!!! Of course, "being a good neighbor to the entire world" is pretty nice ;-) (I never realized there was an 'Etter', and you DO mean "across the road" from Cactus! I've learned something from YOU today!) Congratulations to the two of you, and I hope you have a fantastic trip! Feel free to start a new thread and ask any question you'd like to - don't worry that it's already been asked! And when you're returned from your trip, be sure and post your experiences under Trip Reports. I know what you mean by science fiction - I can't believe I'm chatting with you, and people from Germany, etc., at the same time. I felt the same way the first time I bought French train tickets, or made a hotel reservation in
Germany. It's WAY better than Dick Tracy's two-way wrist radio :-) (Wait a cotton-pickin' minute - does Ronald find us 'amateurish', as in 'surely not professional'?!? Just kidding...!)

Posted by Brad
Greeley, CO, USA
352 posts

Ok K maybe you need to get to know other people in your own life that do things just to be nice. I was taught by my minister father, teacher/librarian mother and wonderful grandparents that you do nice things for the world expecting nothing in return. My mom is gone and so are my grandparents but my father and father in law never think of themselves first.
Especially when you have been given so much as I have been you get a different perspective I guess. Its called being grateful. I am just giving you a hard time. But only half jokingly. I am sure you have many wonderful friends and family members. I know you are being touch in cheek and so am I but we have found most people who travel extensively tend to be less arrogant, more thankful, less spoiled and think of others first.