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Rick Steves in Columbus, Ohio

Rick gave his talk "Travel as a Political Act" in Columbus last night. I spent 5 hours in my car to attend, and it was worth it. He brought some of his old favorite jokes and added in some new ones. He talked about his visits to Guatemala and Ethiopia in regards to reducing world hunger. He addressed the carbon footprint of flying, briefly.
For me, his political activism makes it more likely that I will use his products.

What are your experiences hearing Rick live? Does his political beliefs matter to you when buying his products?

Posted by
8248 posts

I've been to a couple of his "Test Drive a Tour Guide" events in Edmonds and heard him speak on a variety of countries and topics.

One of the times I went it was when legalizing marijuana in WA was a ballot initiative for the following fall and he had a big booth set up as he was a strong supporter. I just cracked up when I saw it because the initiative wasn't really on my radar altho my "local" TV stations are from Eastern Washington and I live just 15 miles from the state line.

His political beliefs and his actions (including his strong support of PBS) do make a difference to me and that is one reason I use his products. The other is that he and his guides believe in educating people while they travel.

To be fair, I'll say I also travel with Road Scholar which bills itself as a non-profit. They are pretty much apolitical but also have a strong educational component for their trips.

Posted by
1038 posts

I heard Rick speak in New Orleans several years ago. He was scheduled to be in NOLA to speak at a teachers' convention, and added on an evening talk as a benefit for our PBS station. It was planned fairly quickly, was a high-dollar event (given to me as a Mother's Day gift), and included a delicious 4-course dinner in the upstairs private dining area at a Very Fine Old New Orleans French Quarter Restaurant. Rick spoke with joy, intelligence, insight and, yes, political opinions to a group of some 80 attendees, and spent awhile (long past his scheduled ending time) then answering our questions. He worked the room, taking group photos with each table of eight, and engaging us all briefly, individually. We were told that he would not have time to take individual photos with him. At one point in the evening, I went out into the serving hallway to find the restroom, and discovered Rick hanging out with the serving staff. He was laughing, telling stories, and taking individual photos with these men and women who could likely have not afforded the hefty price tag of the dinner that they were serving. I already respected RS tremendously, but that respect jumped up even more, that night. Best I could tell, there was no financial or other public gain to be had on his part by spending quite a significant chunk of time with the serving staff instead of with the financially more affluent folks back in the dining area, but that is who he honored with plenty of his private time, listening to and respecting their stories and lives.

Posted by
5979 posts

I've seen him give this presentation live once, then on TV, and later on video. I found it interesting and nothing especially original or unusual, but highly entertainingl. I judge his products on face value, but heard nothing that impacted my use of his products. Other than his stance on marijuana legalization, I don't think his politics were too strident, and even that has become pretty mainstream. Apparently others disagree and see any mention of human rights or criticism of politics as inflammatory. He gave another presentation here a couple of years ago, sponsored by a large local retirement community. I think they expected a happy-traveling-anecdote type presentation. The community, which serves a very conservative population must have gotten a ton of complaints, as they sent out an apology letter to all attendees.

Posted by
873 posts

Pam- I really like the educational approach of his programs and his guides as well. Last night he told a story of his first trip to Europe and his unhappiness at being in museums. After he studied the history behind the museum pieces, they held a completely different place in his heart. He said that he got his history degree by accident; he noticed that he had enough history classes to meet the major, rather than taking the classes just to meet the requirements.

jmaludinuu- Thank you for sharing that story. Doesn't surprise me. : )

Stan- Rick's politics run left of my home environment. I would have loved to have been there with Rick and a room full of retired conservatives. Oh, the gasps that could be heard.

I didn't really intend to start a thread praising Rick Steves. But I do appreciate his point of view, and I am glad that he is trying to spread thoughtfulness and reason in today's climate.

Posted by
8248 posts

"Last night he told a story of his first trip to Europe and his unhappiness at being in museums. After he studied the history behind the museum pieces, they held a completely different place in his heart."

Oh, I hadn't heard that one! Having things explained to me on-site with a historical and cultural context has added to my enjoyment.

Without sounding too much like a sycophant, I'll also say that he does put his money where his mouth is.

BTW, on the Best of England tour several years ago we were visiting Stanway House in the Cotswolds. We were shown into the library where it was very obvious that the family does a lot of their actual living and stacked around on various tables were books on legalizing marijuana. I noticed them about the same time the guide said that the current Earl of Wemyss had met and liked Rick and that they had a lot in common. I just laughed and thought...yep, I bet they had a lot to talk about!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanway_House

Posted by
1049 posts

I have heard Rick speak on three occasions. Some of my friends are big donors to PBS and gave me their tickets One of the talks was on the Queen Mary in Long Beach and included drinks and food. Attendance was limited to about 60 people so we had a good opportunity to talk with him. For one of the talks, I happened to be wearing a “Keep On Traveling” shirt and Rick noticed it and spent a lot of time talking to me. I recommend wearing one if you want to get his attention. One of the perks of going to his “big donor to PBS” talks is all the stuff that he gives away including planning maps and DVDs.

Posted by
2810 posts

Thanks so much for your heartfelt story. That says a lot when you drive 5 hours to attend his talk. My Rick story goes back many years even before we took our first RS Tour. I knew Rick for his political activism. We have supported the same political causes. Yes, we live close to the RS Travel Center and frequently take classes and use their library. I am proud to have an autographed copy of “Travel as a Political Act.” His book has been an inspiration for our travels.

As mentioned up thread, I encourage a visit to the RS annual reunion and or “test drive a guide.”

Posted by
1583 posts

I’ve been impressed with his willingness to tackle social issues in a manner that could impact his bottom line negatively. I was really impresses when he donated an apartment building to the YMCA two years ago to shelter homeless women and children. However, the reason we continue to travel with his tours in large part rests on the autonomy he allows his guides. Its says a lot when the leader of the company trusts his people to know how to do their job.

Watching the video of how he got started in the tour business and the way he ran those beginning tours is pretty entertaining. I also appreciate that as he ages, the expectations for tour members has modified a bit. I find we’re doing much less luggage dragging that we did on our first tour and the hotel have more amenities.

Posted by
873 posts

Janis,
One of these days I will go the reunion meeting in January. My son lives in Portland, so I could add a visit to him.