Rick Steves

Rick Steves advocates smart, independent travel. As host of the popular public television series, “Rick Steves’ Europe,” and author of 22 European travel books, he encourages Americans to dive deep into Europe and become “temporary locals.” His readers discover not just great cities, but cozy “Back Door” villages away from the tourist-trampled routes. He helps American travelers connect more intimately with Europeans — often for a fraction of what mainstream tourists pay.

Rick took his first trip to Europe in 1969, visiting piano factories with his father, a piano importer. By the time he reached 18, Rick jokes, “I realized I didn’t need my parents.” He began traveling on his own or with a friend, funding his trips by teaching piano.

In 1976, Rick started a business called Europe Through the Back Door (ETBD). His tour program has grown since then from a couple of minivan tours each year to 200 annual bus tours that escort more than 5,000 Americans through Europe.

ETBD is also one of America’s top railpass sellers. It has grown from a one-man operation to a company with a well-traveled staff of more than 60 full-time employees. ETBD offers free travel information through a website (www.ricksteves.com), travel center, European Railpass Guide, and free quarterly newsletter.

Rick self-published the first edition of his travel skills book, “Europe Through the Back Door,” in 1980. It has since become a best-seller. He has also written eight country guidebooks, five city guides and five phrasebooks, and co-authored “Europe 101” and “Mona Winks.” In 1999, he tackled a new genre of travel writing with his anecdotal “Postcards from Europe,” recounting his favorite moments from 25 years of travel. Rick’s books are published by Avalon Travel Publishing in Emeryville, California. In 2002 his Italy guidebook was the topselling guidebook to any foreign destination.

In addition to his guidebooks, Rick writes columns for newspapers and magazines. He also appears frequently on television and radio talk shows and online travel chats as a leading authority on independent European travel.

Rick is one of public television’s top pledge drive hosts, raising more than a million dollars annually for stations across the United States. His newest TV series, “Rick Steves’ Europe,” premiered in 2002 with 14 episodes about European travel. Rick is now producing his 7th season of travel shows for PBS.

Rick writes and co-produces the programs at his production company, Back Door Productions. Prior to these programs, he co-wrote 52 episodes of “Travels in Europe with Rick Steves.” These earlier shows still air nationwide on public television and the Travel Channel.

Rick also travels throughout the US teaching travel classes. He is known for his lively and irreverent sense of humor.

[For more information about Europe Through the Back Door, please see About Rick’s Company.]

Europe Through the Back Door and Back Door Productions are both located in Rick’s hometown, Edmonds, Washington. His office window overlooks his old junior high school.

Rick Steves is a recognized authority on European travel. He’s candid, funny, and quotable.

  • To arrange an interview or request a free copy of Europe Through the Back Door’s fun and informative travel newsletter, please e-mail Brooke Burdick at brooke@ricksteves.com, or phone 425/608-4233.
  • If you are a reporter or program host interested in reviewing Rick’s books, please call Avalon Travel Publishing (510/595-3664, ext. 324) for review copies.

Rick Cares About Those Who Can’t Travel

Through his Europe Through the Back Door business, Rick Steves donates the use of four duplexes to Seattle’s Pathways for Women / YWCA, which provides emergency housing to eight local homeless single mothers and their children. Rick has helped house the homeless this way for more than 10 years.

Rick also assists his church with educational videos. He has written and hosted videos about Martin Luther and the European Reformation (in Germany) and filmed videos explaining development initiatives in Papua New Guinea and in south Los Angeles.

Rick and co-author Bob Effertz donated 100 percent of their royalties from the sale of their “Asia Through the Back Door” guidebook (through the eight year life of that guidebook) to charities working to help developing countries become self sufficient.

For several years, Rick’s tour company has hosted an annual charity tour. All proceeds from the tour (about $50,000) are paid directly by tour members to Bread for the World Institute, a citizens’ lobby organization that works toward eliminating world hunger. One year, rather than boycotting Turkey for its human rights abuses, Turkey tour members could direct their tour payments to a group that works to defend the separation of mosque and state in that country.

Rick’s public television programs also provide Bread for the World with national exposure by including a 12-second announcement about the organization before and after each show. Rick is considered one of the most energetic and productive fundraisers for public television stations. He spends about 20 days a year visiting stations during pledge season.

Rick used full page ads in his guidebooks in 1999 and 2000 to raise awareness of the Jubilee 2000 campaign. The campaign encouraged the rich world to forgive the debt owed by developing nations.

Why I care about the decriminalization of marijuana.

With my support of NORML (a group working to decriminalize marijuana in the USA) and talks at Seattle’s Hempfest as well as at other events, some people are wondering what’s motivating me. Let me explain:

I support the decriminalization of marijuana among responsible adult users in the USA. (“Decriminalization” does not mean unfettered use — it simply means NOT mandating that use is a criminally punishable offense.)

I do NOT support the legalization of hard drugs.

Like most of Europe, I believe marijuana is a soft drug (like alcohol and tobacco), not a hard drug. Like alcohol and tobacco, there is no reason why it shouldn’t be taxed and regulated. Crime should only enter the equation if it is abused to the point where innocent people are harmed.

I do not support children using marijuana (or alcohol or tobacco). In fact I don’t advocate smoking marijuana at all. I believe, however, that if mature adults want to smoke marijuana recreationally in the privacy of their own homes that is their own decision. That’s why the president of the ACLU and I serve together on the board of directors of NORML.

Why do I care?

Last year over 750,000 Americans were arrested on marijuana charges. Many of them were sentenced to mandatory prison time. Our courts and prisons are clogged with non-violent people whose only offense is smoking, buying or selling marijuana. While our nation is in a serious financial crisis, it spends literally billions of dollar annually chasing down responsible adults who are good, tax-paying citizens in all regards except for the occasional use of marijuana. Arresting people for marijuana use is laughable now in most of Europe. Canada is now following the European model. After ten years of treating marijuana as a medical issue rather than a criminal one in the Netherlands, law enforcement officials there report no increase in the use of pot. They also report that by decriminalizing marijuana, the crime related to it simply evaporates. The propaganda war our government wages against the use of marijuana is not only expensive in terms of money but it erodes its credibility among young people in regards to other more serious drugs. The White House even runs ads during the Super Bowl claiming (between all the beer ads) the marijuana causes teen pregnancies. As it has politicized science and medicine and so much else in our society, the White House has recently sent a summary of the evils of marijuana to all prosecutors in the USA with a litany of entirely false claims. These are refuted one by one at www.norml.org.

We’ve been there.

Prohibition on alcohol (1920-1933) finally fell apart in our grandparents’ age because Americans came to realize that the criminalizing of alcohol did not reduce its consumption. But did succeed brilliantly in: filling jails with unlucky drinkers who got caught; creating a stubborn network of “underground distribution” crime where none had existed before; and diverting enormous government resources to violate people’s personal privacy. It was Big Government at its worst. And our grandparents stood up and said, “stop this waste!” In the name of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we’ll all be better off when we let our police officers, courts and prisons deal with real criminals and start taxing marijuana rather than arresting those who enjoy using it.