Rick Steves got a dose of his own advice when he traveled to Great Britain in the wake of Brexit. The travel guru thinks of himself as a pretty progressive and liberal person. He therefore assumed that his friends across the globe would share his outlook.
“Liberal people were sad about Brexit, because they believe in the European Union, and I thought all my British friends would be anti-Brexit,” he told KTTH’s Jason Rantz. “I got there and it was about 50/50. A lot of people I really respect are pro-Brexit and I learned a lot. It humbled me and reminded me that there are good cases and to learn both narratives.”
Rick Steves has built a travel guide empire over the years. He promotes travel as an edifying practice. Through that experience he offers a couple pieces of advice: fear is overrated; and travel makes you a better American, politically.
“We used to say, ‘Bon voyage,'” he said. “Now we say, ‘Have a safe trip.’ Anytime somebody tells me to have a safe trip, I say, ‘have a safe stay at home, because where I’m going is safer than where you are’ — if you believe in statistics.”
“Fear is for people who don’t get out very much,” Steves said. “The flip side of fear is understanding, and we gain understanding when we travel.”
Rick Steves: Traveling as a political act
The third edition of Rick Steves’ “Travel as a Political Act” was published this February. It’s central theme is that by traveling the world, Americans become better citizens; they gain a broader perspective through being challenged and departing their comfort zones.
For example, people can travel to Scandinavia where citizens willingly pay much higher taxes, and seem grateful for it, Steves said. Or they can visit the Holy Land and see the results of building a wall between different groups of people. Or even travel to the Netherlands where the drug policy is radically different than the United States’.
“My Dutch friends tell me, ‘You Americans legislate a lot of morality,’” Steves said. “A society has to make a choice: tolerate alternative lifestyles or build more prisons. They always remind me that us Americans lock up 10 times more people per capita than they do over there. So there’s something screwy about our laws or we are an inherently more criminal people.”
In short: Gather experience and learn from others as they view America. Add it to your view, or come away stronger from the challenge and bring it all back home to the USA.
“When you step into the privacy of the voting booth, you don’t just vote for your own personal self interests, you vote for how your vote will impact people south of the border,” Steves said as another example “To me that is just enlightened. If you happen to be a Christian, those are Christian values. And if you are just a selfish American, only worried about your financial well-being and security, the long view is that you don’t want to be filthy rich in a desperately poor world … it’s not a nice place to raise your kids. In the long run it’s a dangerous scenario.”
“The best souvenir you can bring home is a broader perspective and a passion for building bridges instead of building walls,” he said.
Hear Jason’s full interview with Rick Steves here.