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Thursday, August 6, 2020

What I'm Watching: Rick Steves

Forty-four years ago today, your Head Trucker first set foot on the soil of merry old England, owing to the grace of a little unexpected windfall that came into my hands - though I really had no business gallivanting off to foreign parts when money was so hard to come by.

Owing to assorted family tragedies and financial reverses, too dreary to relate here, by the time I finished high school my mom and I were deep in poverty.  It took me ten long years of perseverance to finally get through college, meanwhile learning the value of a dollar the hard way, by working all sorts of ill-paid, bottom-drawer jobs with no future:  construction worker, apartment cleaner, warehouseman, delivery truck driver, retail clerk, night auditor, and so forth.

But to see Europe and its history, art, and culture with my own eyes - ah, now that was like a dream come true!  I decided there was no better way to use that little sum than to treat myself to a two-week tour of London and Paris - at the time it cost around $800 (about three months' minimum-wage pay then) for a hotel-and-airfare package deal via TWA.  It might have been more prudent to save that money or apply it to necessities; but I thought to myself at the time, what if I never get another chance to go? 

And in point of fact, no other chance ever did present itself, so I'm glad I went when I could:  a poor man's Grand Tour.  The memories are lovely.  It would have been even nicer if I'd had a travel companion to share the experience with, but none of my blue-collar friends could afford it, or were even interested in seeing them furrin places over yonder.  Why bother with all that boring old stuff when you could just stay home, pop another Bud, and watch the Bicentennial Minutes?

Fate being a rather capricious tour guide on the road of life, I am still struggling to make ends meet in retirement, but I'm sure that many Americans are by now familiar with the travel books and videos of Rick Steves, a lively, extroverted fellow who thinks travel is not only fun but educational as well.  Pick just about any European country you please, and you will easily find one or several Rick Steves videos on YouTube telling you just how to get there, and what to see and do.

But though Rick presents himself as a laid-back, happy-go-lucky type, he has a lot more on the ball than you might expect.  He has written a book whose title is self-explanatory:  Travel as a Political Act, which I have not read, but I believe he expresses some of the same views in this video I'm watching this week.  If you want to hear the philosophy of travel from someone who has spent a third of his life in Europe every year for the last forty years, give it a whirl; I'm about halfway through it myself, and find it very thought-provoking.

Or if you'd rather just imagine yourself soaking up some rays and cruising through the blue Mediterranean, here's a you-are-there video. Enjoy!


Frank said...

I was expecting some scanned photos of your youthful trip to England...I'm disappointed. Hubby and I have been to Great Britain and toured with a bus tour there which was excellent...but, even before COVID I wouldn't be caught dead on a 10 story high monstrosity of a traveling city cruise ship with 5,000 other people!

Davis said...

I've wasted a lot of money that I ought to have saved to retire - but really I'd rather work til I drop with all the marvelous memories and sights. All part of my education And dear memories with my beloved.

Russ Manley said...

Frank - Somewhere in a box or trunk are all my snapshots of London and Paris, but they're rather dull - I'm in none of them! Traveling alone as I did, there was no one around to take a picture of me.

And these modern monstrosities they call ships - oh no, oh no, OMG no! It's like taking Rockefeller Center to sea, isn't it? A disaster waiting to happen. Not me, brother.

Davis - Money is mighty important when you get old - but so is happiness, and love most of all. You are blessed. Rejoice!

Huston said...

Hi! By coincidence it seems you were in England one year after I was, in 1975. This was my high school graduation gift, and I went with my Mom to London and then on my own to Paris. It really changed my life, even though nothing wildly exciting happened (I was hoping to loose my V, possibly with some guy named Jean-Luc, along the Seine perhaps). I've made numerous trips to Europe since, and as a side note it is not as expensive as you might think. Package deals involving air+hotel can be very cheap, so much so that it is almost cheaper to go to Europe than vacation in the US. I've been following your blog off and on for a while, and have enjoyed reading many of your wise observations.

mwg1208 said...

I've started to read Travel as a political act, and am enjoying it very much.
Health issues kept me from any real travel and with Rick Steves I've always felt like a stow away on his adventures.
In the index of "Travek..." Rick
puts suggestions for further reading and I intend to do that.
Thanks for helping me see someone I already liked in a new way.

Russ Manley said...

Huston - We are of the same generation and had similar itineraries. Like you, nothing very exciting happened to me, either, drat the luck! The wildest thing was getting cursed by the lady attendant in a men's room in the Paris Metro for not leaving her a tip. How was this country boy supposed to know the etiquette of that? Ah well, tant pis.

mwg - Glad I turned you on to a good read. Rick is a good cheerleader for travel and seems to be a pretty sensible guy. Unfortunately, my traveling days are long past now - but I'm glad I got to see a bit of Europe when I could. Just wish I could have stayed longer.

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