“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness” (Mark Twain, author)
I don’t know about the PBS stations in your area, but ours love Rick Steves shows and specials – especially on weekends and during fundraising campaigns. Sometime in late August I stumbled across one of him giving a lecture. I hadn’t seen it and he immediately grabbed my attention.
He (like me) is a believer that the majority of people in the world are good. Even though his talk did not inspire me to donate to the fundraising effort, I bought the book ahead of my journey to Eastern Europe, then finished it during the trip.
Travel As a Political Act (3rd edition, 2018) is not only an antidote of his travels, it focuses on the ability of travel to bridge cultures. After all, many people have fears based on exaggerations, myths, and a lack of knowledge.
Eight of the 10 chapters center on specific regions/issues as Yugoslavia, El Salvador, Denmark, Turkey & Morocco, Israel/Palestine, Europe & drugs, and similarities & difference between Europe & America. The other two chapters are about the importance of travel and retrospective thoughts when returning home.
Simply put, each of us have a worldview that is shaped by friends, family, media, perceptions, education, and personal experiences. Rick Steves want travelers to
- Get the most out of travel by keeping an open mind and getting outside our comfort zone
- Think beyond the logistics “hows” as flights, hotels, transportation, sights, and travel tips. The “whys” of travel allows travelers to be enlightened, learn, and grow.
- Understand that bridging differences begins with understanding differences
- Travel with the purpose of learning, not just seeing because everything has a history.
- Know that sights are important because of what went on there and why it is important to the people today.
- Learn why people are proud and why they hurt because all people have dreams, national heroes, traditions, values, and stories.
Yes – these points are easy to say, but very hard for many to do.
Travel As A Political Act is a good read. There is no question in my mind that Rick Steves is promoting his worldwide view. Just like his television shows, he is optimistic, affable, humorous, and even at times cheezy – all with the goal of how travel can change a personal perspective if the person embraces travel with an open mind.
Although some may say the author is promoting a political view. I disagree because he is using his personal view through experience to help travelers get the most out of travel. However, I understand how a reader can construe one personal view in the same light as a political view. Because of that, I hesitate to endorse this book for uber conservatives. On the other hand, they may be ones who could benefit from the challenge if they approached it with an open mind.
“While seeing travel as a political act enables us to challenge our society to do better, it also shows us how much we have to be grateful for, to take responsibility for, and to protect.” (Rick Steves, traveler & tour agency owner)