I am really not sure how I feel about Rick Steves — I watch his programs on PBS occasionally to vicariously fulfill my European travel wishes, but there is just something about him that I find off-putting. Maybe I’m just jealous.
I haven’t read any of his travel guides, but I did pick up his book, Travel as a Political Act, because I was interested in its premise — how travel provides the opportunity to be better local and world citizens. Drawing on his own travel experiences, primarily in Europe but also in El Salvador, Turkey, Morocco, and Iran, Steves provides a picture of the world that is not necessarily seen by stereotypical tourists only looking for fun and the “name” attractions. As well, especially with his visit to Iran, he shows the places in a light rarely if ever displayed in American media outlets — not everyone is anti-American, and most of the world’s Muslims are peaceful, law abiding citizens, for example.
I have not travelled nearly as much as I want to, but I appreciate the sentiments that Steves expresses in this book. Seeing the sights is of course an important part of the travel experience, but just as important is interacting with local people and immersing oneself in the culture even if only for a short time.
Some of the more overtly “political” statements he makes felt out of place to me, but aside from that, as an aspiring world traveller (alas, doing most of my travelling through books these days) this book is informative and enjoyable.
This is the first book off of my list for the 2011 TBR Pile Challenge.