Rick Steves travels all over the world for a living. But Thursday evening, he’ll be right here in Houston, to talk about travel as a political act. News 88.7 spoke with Rick to get a preview.
How do you define travel as a political act?
“Well, I’ve been teaching travel for decades now, and…you can learn about catching the train and packing light and finding a good meal. You can learn about appreciating the art and the history. And you can also travel in a way that is really transformative, and that helps an American, in particular, become less ethnocentric, to get out of our comfort zone, to gain an empathy for other people and their baggage. You know, we have a lot of baggage here in America, and other people have baggage also…I think when we travel, the most important thing we can bring home is a broader perspective. That’s the most beautiful souvenir.”
There’s been a lot of concern both in Europe and elsewhere about the Trump administration. How are Americans being received abroad today?
“Europe is generally more progressive than we are, so a lot of times, they just kind of marvel at some of our choices. On the other hand, there’s a rising populist and fearful and nationalist, tribal kind of a sentiment in Europe, so they’ve got right wing parties that are surprisingly strong in Europe these days too. So, we’re all in this together, and I find that it’s a fascinating time to travel right now…You know, we’ve traveled through times when Europeans just shake their head and roll their eyes about this or that American policy or this or that American war or this or that American president. But I find that Europeans accept us as individuals, and they’re curious about our political choices. And I think if you’re a reasonably…sensitive and polite traveler that you will not be judged based on their perception of our president.
Turkey has long been one of your favorite destinations. But over the past year, the country has seen a failed coup d’état and a serious crackdown on civil liberties. What sort of recommendations are you making now for people who are considering going to Turkey?
“Turkey is a real heartbreak for me…I’ve traveled there ever since I was a kid, almost every year. I was proud to be able to say…we had our Turkey tour program going without a glitch…ever since before the first Gulf War, even though a lot of Americans thought it would be unsafe to go there. I’ve always felt it’s a very rewarding place to travel. But this is the first year in over 25 years, I think, that we have not had a Turkey tour program. It’s not because I think it’s dangerous…I think it’s just a marketing reality. No Americans are comfortable going to Turkey right now. Cruise ships have stopped docking in Istanbul…The Hippodrome and the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace and the Spice Market, they’re just shuttered…If you wanted to go to Istanbul, it’s wide open…Many of the hotels are closed, but those that are open, you’ll get a very good price. You’ll get a very warm welcome, and you’ll have an interesting experience being in Turkey in this new, dark, and sad time.”
Rick Steves will speak at the University of Houston Student Center Theater, Thursday, March 30, 6:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m., as a guest of Houston Public Media. The lecture will be followed by a question and answer session. General admission tickets are $60. VIP reception tickets are $150.
Rick Steves On Travel As A Political Act – Houston Public Media