Thank you Rick Steves

I’d like to share some gratitude to Rick Steves. The man has been a virtual travel companion for me throughout a lifetime of international adventures.

The cover of Europe Through The Back Door circa 1990 The cover of Europe Through The Back Door circa 1990

My first encounter with Rick Steves was when my friend David showed me his copy of Europe Through The Back Door in May of 1990 as we prepared for a 3 month adventure in Europe after finishing college. It looked like the perfect companion to our backpacking in Europe reference manual Let’s Go.

Rick took us to Cinque Terre, Kosovo, Prague, Salzkammergut, and so many other stops that truly were “through the back door”: off the regular tourist beaten path. While it seemed that every other backpacker we saw had their dog-eared copy of Let’s Go in hand, we probably saw Rick’s book less than a dozen times during our 12-13 weeks in Europe.

In a time when it was rare to book lodging ahead of time, and at a stage of life where “stealing” a free night of lodging by sleeping in 2nd class on a train seemed like a good idea, Rick’s details on where to look for cheap but good eats and rooms was invaluable. Even more, he would often describe the old lady running the guest house and give her name, and she would be the very person greeting us as we walked in from the train station. He made European travel feel exotic and welcoming at the same time.

I soured a bit on Rick Steves in the 2000s. He became a household name, and his country-specific guides were as omnipresent with middle aged American travelers as Let’s Go was with backpackers. There’s no back door any more; everyone knows about Cinque Terre. Knowing that Imelda runs the guest house is no longer an advantage.

More recently as I’m playing tour planner and guide for friends and family, I’m reminded that his content is still golden and worth sharing with others. As guides like Fodors, DK, and even Lonely Planet have become less frequently updated and more poorly curated, Rick’s mission of helping folks that want to experience culture and usually stay on a budget seems to help him and his team stay focused on providing true value. His vast inventory of YouTube content provides a different means of learning from his experience.

Rick recently celebrated 40 years and shared some tidbits on the history of Europe Through The Back Door. I also found this thoughtful piece by a travel writer on Rick Steves that made me wonder: should I re-purchase one of the original editions and try to visit some of his spots that have since fallen off the radar?

Anyway, thank you Rick Steves.