Last night a neighbor asked me if I would be interested in attending a lecture by Rick Steves in Chapel Hill, NC, offered by PBS to members and their guests. I jumped at the chance. For those who don’t watch PBS, he is a well known world traveler with books, TV show, PBS station (UNC-TV), and radio show, on NPR, and lectures all over the world.
Beginnings of Traveling Career
At fourteen Rick Steves traveled to Europe with his parents and fell in love with traveling and Europe. For many years he spends four months out of the year traveling to foreign countries in Europe, Turkey, Asia and even Iran. So was the beginning of a life long quest for travel experiences and knowledge of different cultures.
He plans each show and shares the information from his books, which he edits annually by adding more information and republishes the updated books each year. All of his videos can be seen free on his website http://www.ricksteves.com and much can be seen on his Facebook page: “http://www.facebook.com/ricksteves/
Mr. Steves also has specialized tour guides in different countries to fulfill the varied interests and budgets of travelers and still leads tours himself. His books provide guidance in traveling safely, economically, and efficiently and gives specifics for countries with very different customs.
Mr. Steves Enters the Room
A charming, smiling, personable, eloquent, knowledgeable Rick Steves entered the room unannounced and began. The theme of his talk was to introduce visitors to open their horizons to the politics of traveling. He spoke of how surprising it is to him that many people go to the same beach over and over again and never venture out into the rest of the world.
The Lessons Begin
Through traveling our minds open to new ideas and understanding. We can learn that other people have the same feelings, trials, loves, devotions, and often similar faiths that we do. There are good, kind, intelligent, poor, rich, hard working, people out there that we will never meet nor learn about if we don’t step out of our comfort zones. Some people have amazingly made lives for themselves under very adverse circumstances. But they have known little else and are content with their lives, never wanting TVs, phones, or computers. Things like water, food and clothes are highest on their list of wants and needs.
Some Controversial Subjects Are Handled Differently
When the government “dumbs down” their people by not supporting education, the government has more power. Education is vitally important to our future.
There are countries in Europe who have higher taxes but they have some of the happiest people. They have longer vacations, shorter work weeks, and have some very different views of legalizing such controversial problems as drugs, prostitution, and of course marijuana. They legalize and tax many issues that our country outlaws.
In some European countries prostitutes have to be seen by a doctor routinely and documented that they have no diseases. If a prostitute’s customer becomes abusive, there is a button to call the police. Drug addicts are handled quite differently there as well.
Different Kinds of Pride
There is a growing identity pride related to their region, their country and belonging to the European Union. Often flags representing these three roots of their lives are represented by three different flags representing each one flying over a government building.
One Fascinating Bit of Many
I have quoted and loved the wisdom of an ancient Persian Sufi poet, theologian, and scholar: Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, now known as Rumi. Mr. Steves related a story how he met a “Whirling Dervish,” (a monk who follows the teachings of Rumi). When asked if his travelers could watch the man “whirl,” a monk explained his movements as a way of praying to God. This Dervish explained that one foot stayed in place symbolizing that his prayers were centered on his home country. The other foot goes around the stable foot representing the rest of the world. One hand is extended to God, to channel the prayers to God. The other hand aimed downwad to the earth to channel God’s blessings from God to the earth.
I was stunned. Some people may never have heard of a whirling Dervish but I always thought they were soldiers, who whirled around and around to enter a trance before they went to battle.
Rick Steves Advocates Helping Other Countries
Through his travels Rick Steves has developed an obvious love for the world family, evident by his comments on using money to drill for water in some countries. He told how in some countries children are left alone while the mother walks many miles just to get water. By drilling for water in many poorer areas without water we could gain the praise and gratitude of many countries.
Get to Know the People
When you travel anywhere, mingle and smile at the people of that country. Interact with them. Make an effort to learn some of their culture or a few words of their language. It does wonders to promote good feelings between countries.
Several Traveling Tips
1. Only bring carry 2 pieces of luggage when you travel.
2. Only pack what you need for the best scenario. You can always buy what you need there.
3. There are laundromats there where you can wash your clothes every three days.
It was such a delight to have seen and listened to Mr. Steves talk.