As a 14-year-old with a bad attitude, Rick Steves first started traveling Europe by accompanying his father, a piano importer, on piano factory tours. He didn’t gain a taste for travel, however, until he saw teenagers in the Copenhagen train station with nothing more than backpacks and Eurail passes.
“There were no parents in sight. They were just as free as the wind and Europe was their playground,” said Steves.
His appetite for travel quickly grew and Steves began documenting the ups and downs of his trips to Europe.
“I thought, ‘boy, other people are making the same mistakes I’m making,’” recalls Steves. “I should organize all of these lessons into a talk so other people can learn from my mistakes and have a better trip.”
For more than 35 years, Steves has been helping millions of people seeking adventure in Europe through his guidebooks, PBS television show, blogs and apps.
“I always say when you are traveling, you need to be your own tour guide,” said Steves. “You need to equip yourself with good information and you will travel smart.”
Steves knows today’s travelers use smartphones and tablets to learn more about the countries, culture and people they are visiting, as well as just traveling abroad.
“As a teacher, I am enthusiastic about all these ways to digitally share information and make people equipped and prepared to enjoy maximum thrills for every mile, minute and dollar of their European vacation.”
But Steves is quick to remind travelers to also be physically present on their European vacations.
“I was actually in Venice making a TV show a year ago. We saw lots of people in gondolas, but we didn’t find anyone focused on each other. They were focused on their screens. And I thought; that is a little discouraging.”
Steves laughs and often shares this memory with travel enthusiasts, like those who packed into The Denver Post’s Amazing Adventure Travel and Recreation Expo in Denver. Steves was the keynote speaker on the Verizon Wireless main stage and reminded a standing-room-only crowd that the more information they can arm themselves with, the more they will get out of their sightseeing.
“It’s amazing how much can be done with a great device,” said Steves. “I just have this amazing computer [smartphone] in my pocket right now and it makes me feel really good.”
One of the reasons why Steves is radically revamping his 2015 edition of Europe Through the Backdoor guidebook is to include tips on using mobile technologies.
“We decided this year that our idea of a well-equipped traveler includes someone who has a mobile device and uses it,” said Steves. “The new edition will be inclusive of Web support, apps, and technology as [it relates] to how to travel in Europe. It’s an exciting time!”