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Award-winning travel writer and TV host Rick Steves is coming to Sacramento next week to share his thoughts on travel at St. John’s Lutheran Church.
“Americans can travel in one of two ways,” Steves said. “They can travel in a way that widens the gap between them and the rest of the world, or with the proper attitude, you can broaden your perspective and get empathy for other cultures.”
Steves got his start in the travel industry as a tour guide, and he has since authored more than 50 guidebooks. He is also is the host of the PBS series “Rick Steves’ Europe.”
He had a simple message for those who are nervous or afraid about setting foot on foreign shores:
“Fear is for people who don’t get out much,” he said. “You should go to places that seem frightening and see if they are frightening.
“When the people in the U.S. were talking about bombing Iran, I went there,” Steves said. “Some of the nicest people in the world are in Iran, and when they found out I was an American, they were even nicer.”
Working 12- to 14-hour days would be too much for some, but Steves said he considers himself lucky.
“I happen to love my work,” he said. “I can work 60 12-hour days and feel younger and more refreshed.”
But that’s not to say travel is relaxing for him.
“I’m not a vacationer,” Steves said. “I just work. I work really hard, and I’m spending 120 days a year in Europe working, and when I take a hike, I’m taking notes on how others can do it easily. When I go into a museum, I’m comparing it to other museums and taking notes on the art to relate it to readers. I hire local guides, and I pick their brains so I can assemble a guided tour for others so they don’t have to hire a guide.”
When it does come time to relax, Steves said he enjoys doing the mundane, everyday things near his home in Seattle – going to the movies, being on the waterfront or in the mountains and shopping at the market on Saturdays.
Best-known for his European travel guides and TV shows, Steves said he is most commonly asked which is his favorite country, but the answer surprises many.
“I usually say India," Steves said. “India rearranges my cultural furniture in a beautiful way and reminds me how ethnocentric even broad-minded travelers can be.”
There won’t, however, be a guidebook on India from Steves.
“India is too personal of an experience,” Steves said. “I don’t want to write in India. When I go to Munich, I can tell someone exactly what to see in four days, but I couldn’t do that in India.”
When it comes to European countries, Steves said Italy is his favorite.
While famous for his guidebooks, Steves published a book last year titled “Traveling as a Political Act,” and it received the Lowell Thomas award for best travel book Monday from the Society of American Travel Writers.
That book will be the groundwork for Steves’ talk, “Traveling as a Spiritual Act,” on Oct. 20 to Sacramentans at St. John’s Lutheran Church on the corner of 17th and L streets.
“The talk is funny,” it’s not just heavy stuff,” Steves said. “It’s thought-provoking and really helps celebrate the ultimate goal of traveling – getting a broader perspective.”
Ticket sales will benefit the Rwanda School Project and Lutheran Social Services of Northern California.
“We’re tremendously honored that he’s doing this, and we really are excited to have him as a partner in this philanthropic project,” said Angela Nickerson, director of discipleship for St. John’s Lutheran Church.
Nickerson said there is a strong Sacramento link to the schools in Rwanda, with several members on the organization’s board living in the city.
“We see that not only as a way to be evangelical, but to be part of a reconciliation process and helping them after the genocide,” Nickerson said.
Steves is well-known for his philanthropic efforts, including volunteering at pledge drives and telethons through KVIE and efforts in and around Seattle.
“We can get a few hundred people together and raise serious money for the schoolchildren of Rwanda, and people will leave here with enthusiasm for embracing the world,” he said.
And after his talk, he said he hopes more people are inspired to get out and explore.
“We’re all children of God, and it’s nice to get out and meet the family,” he said.
The event will be at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 20 with a reception at 5 p.m.
Tickets ($40 for the lecture only and $99 for the lecture and reception) can be purchased here.
St. John’s Lutheran Church is located at 1701 L St.
Photos courtesy Rick Steves.
Photo 1: Rick Steves at Mont St. Michel in Normandy, France.
Photo 2: Rick Steves and his camera crew on the Amalfi Coast, Italy.
Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.