Book Review: Travel as a Politcal Act, by Rick Steves


In 2005, I took a ‘package tour’ to Morocco with a company I had used before, to travel to Thailand. The Thai trip was the best vacation I ever had, because they guides were phenomenal.  So, based on that experience, I booked this particular tour.  Well, while the guide as  ok, he really discouraged  the participants from checking things out on our own.  I wanted to  visit a small market outside a bazaar, and he would not let me. Not only that, he  steered us to some less than ethical carpet and leather  dealers.  I was very discouraged.  Why didn’t I just  go out on my own instead of booking a tour?  I didn’t have that much time, and the travel arrangements  in country can be daunting.

Not all ‘package tours’ are like this. You can now check Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor and get good information.  Sometimes it’s the luck of the draw.

If you haven’t heard of Rick Steves, you don’t watch public television, nor are you interested in travel.  The guy is a genius. He turned his love of travel into  a great business, informing people, mostly interested in Europe, about how to find not just cheap places to stay and  interesting things to see and do, but how to really get the most out of their travel experience.

Published in 2009, with what I think of as a somewhat controversial title, I was immediately intrigues because….I don’t think of Rick Steves as the type to court controversy.  He doesn’t want to scare people.  He wants them to be adventurous.

As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, myself, I feel travel is a political act if  you really try to take advantage of every opportunity.    I am recomending this book because  it’s a little class in  what kinds of things you should consider about your own values, and the  cultures you will experience while traveling. There are 9 chapters, and all are about places and issues that  are ‘oblique’ or ‘counter’ to  our  national mindset…particular his chapter on how Europeans  deal with drug abuse.

One thing that most Americans don’t understand is how heavily influenced our government policies are NOT by  us citizens, but by  organizations with an economic interest.

I also know that the economic interests use media in a more sophisticated manner than most people  realize.  We are   so subtly influenced about what is right and what is fair than we care to admit.

This book would be a great gift for anyone contemplating travel. It is  well written, easy to understand, has great photos, and gives great information in a very compact place.

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