Wrap your stay-at-home thoughts for a few minutes around travel guru Rick Steves — an American best-selling author, TV host, radio personality, activist, teacher, speaker and champion of European tourism. Come away with an eye-opening look at a successful business owner whose penchant for creating meaningful experiences for travelers to Europe is as passionate as his inclination for making ethical choices his guiding light. His tourism company — Rick Steves Europe, founded in 1976 when he was 21 years old — has, in recent years, guided 30,000 travelers annually on bus-tour getaways, bringing in $100-million revenue per annum. This winter, when the company faced uncertainty due to the novel Coronavirus’ impact on the travel industry, Steves set different wheels in motion. He fully refunded trip payments to all pre-paid customers for 2020. Then he promised job security and healthcare coverage to the more than 100 staff employees at his Edmonds, Washington headquarters (near Seattle), while not knowing how long the pandemic’s threat would last. It was a bold resolution, as well as a reassuring vote of confidence in the future.
With countries closing borders and the virus continuing to spread, Steves has remained at home. This is the first summer since 1980 that he has not traveled to Europe.
The scope of his and his team’s steady output is significant: more than 50 guidebooks, a PBS-TV travel series (now in its 11th season), a public radio show, a syndicated newspaper travel column, a Rick Steves Audio Europe app and a Rick Steves’ Classroom Europe series that produces hundreds of free short educational videos about art, culture, history and the environment that are helpful for use by teachers and homeschooling parents. Even his Facebook and Instagram feeds are lively. The timing of his newest book — For the Love of Europe: My Favorite Places, People and Stories (Avalon Travel), which spotlights 100 personal essays — will appeal to armchair travelers, particularly those who now miss moving in the wide-open yonder. Among Steves’ many skills, being a storyteller ranks high, as evidenced in these enlightening, funny, outrageous, perceptive, poignant, soothing and touching pieces. Call this book his love letter to travel. Sit with the essays, allowing the descriptions to wash over you, and feel as though you can almost imagine being there, too.
In this interview for Forbes, Steves shares insights for navigating challenging times, reaching difficult decisions, cherishing travel memories, focusing a traveler’s mindset and discovering unexpected bonuses in your own backyard.
Celebrating Success to Facing a Pandemic
In late January, Steves hosted 100 of his tour guides from Europe for a weeklong gathering of workshops, brainstorming sessions, lectures and parties at his office and home. “We were euphoric,” he remembers. “We rented a party boat on Puget Sound…and [had] an incredible time. They all flew home,