Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves

Rick Steves' Travel as a Political Act is a little dated since it came out in 2009. I'm sure he would have much more to say about globalization, immigration, and isolation if he were writing this book in 2019. But, his thesis that travel should bring people together is even more important today. That's the most important message of a book that says, "We travel to have enlightening experiences, to meet inspirational people, to be stimulated, to learn, and to grow." Steves insists that he holds America to a high standard, and expects it to do better. He sees that as participating as a citizen, of this country, and, of the world.

He covers several countries in the course of the book, Yugoslavia after the war; El Salvador with its poverty and government controlled by American interests and American money. He looks at Denmark as an example of a country that taxes itself to provide a high level of health and educational services to the people. He takes readers to Turkey and Morocco to examine the countries under secular Islam rather that controlled by religious groups. He discussed Iran as it was in 2008, in a lengthy chapter.

For me, one of the most interesting chapters was his examination of Europe under the European Union. While Steves' viewpoint was positive as he talked about unification, it was sobering to read it now after Brexit and immigration issues. It's easy to look back now and say the hopes were so high and so optimistic, but economic issues and fears have played havoc with that optimism.

In some ways, considering the state of the world and this country in particular, Travel as a Political Act is a depressing book. There are times it made me wistful for the past of ten years ago. I'm sure, though, that the author who hoped this book would challenge travelers to take the opportunity to learn  and connect with people, would still say the same thing. It may be a bigger challenge right now. But, Steves insists we can start changing the world in our own little corner of it, and the more we travel, the more we'll want to change it for ourselves and others.

Despite the copyright date, Travel as a Political Act still has an important message.

Rick Steves' website is www.ricksteves.com

Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves. Nation Books, 2009. ISBN 9781568584355 (paperback), 304p.

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Nann said...

Rick gave this presentation at ALA Midwinter this year. He autographed copies of the book afterwards. I sat in the second row and felt as though I were in a PBS special!

Lil said...

I began traveling in the early ‘90’s partly inspired to do so by Rick Steves guide to Europe. The humor and tips he gave, as well as, encouragement in not being shy in interacting with the local population stood me in good stead. I have not read Travel as a Political Act but imagine it is as good in promoting the exploration of countries and its people as his other books.

Lesa said...

Oh, Nann! That is so great. I wish I'd heard it.

Lesa said...

Lil, I wish I had traveled earlier, and had more confidence when I did. Good for you! I'm so glad his tips worked for you.