May 10, 1955 |
Edmonds, Washington, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Washington|
|Occupation||Writer; television & radio host|
|Known for||Travel guides|
|Spouse(s)||Anne Steves (divorced 2010)|
Richard "Rick" Steves (born May 10, 1955) is an American author and television personality focusing on European travel. He is the host of the American Public Television series Rick Steves' Europe, has a public radio travel show, Travel with Rick Steves, and has authored various location-specific travel guides.
Steves started his career by teaching travel classes through The Experimental College, a student-run program of non-credit classes at his alma mater, the University of Washington, and working as a tour guide in the summer. At the time, he also worked as a piano teacher (his father had owned a piano store). In 1979, based on his travel classes, he wrote the first edition of Europe Through the Back Door (ETBD), a general guide on how to travel in Europe. Steves self-published the first edition of his travel skills book ETBD in 1980. Unlike most guidebook entrepreneurs, he opened a storefront business. Initially, this was both a travel center and a piano teaching studio. He held travel classes and slide show presentations, did travel consulting, organized a few group tours per year, and updated his books. He did not provide ticket booking or other standard travel agency services. He incorporated his business as "Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door." The store was in Steves's hometown of Edmonds, Washington, north of Seattle. The company's headquarters are still in Edmonds.
During the 1980s, his business grew slowly but steadily. He brought out more guidebooks, which were published by the alternative publisher John Muir Press under the label "2 to 22 Days in ..." His group tours competed more on sincerity, small group size, and service than on price. He sold railpasses and travel gear in his store and eventually by mail order, ran a trip consulting service, and held slideshows and lectures. Gene Openshaw, a childhood friend of Steves, wrote most of the history and art material in his books. Dave Hoerlein, an architect by training, drew maps for the guidebooks and became a popular tour guide.
In 1991, the company had approximately five employees and Steves began producing TV shows about European destinations. These shows were produced with his own funding and given to public television stations for free. The TV shows made him a nationwide figure, and his tour, guidebook, and merchandise businesses boomed. An important factor in his company's success was the information exchange possible between the various parts of the business. The tour business benefited from the yearly guidebook updating and his trip consulting businesses, and vice versa. The company is privately held by Steves.
Steves advocates independent travel. His books and media deal with travel mainly in Europe and are directed at an American audience. As host, writer, and producer of the popular and long-running Oregon Public Broadcasting television series Rick Steves' Europe, and through his travel books, he encourages Americans to become what he calls "temporary locals." He encourages his readers and viewers to visit not just major cities but also cozy villages away from popular tourist routes. Steves's television series, guidebooks, radio shows, mobile applications, and his company's European escorted bus tours attract fans known as "Rickniks".
Steves's relationship with public television began in 1991 with his first series, Travels in Europe with Rick Steves. Since then he has become one of public television's top pledge drive hosts, raising millions of dollars annually for stations across the U.S. He writes and co-produces his television programs through his own production company, Back Door Productions.
Since self-publishing his first book in 1980, Steves has written country guidebooks, city and regional guides, phrase books, and co-authored Europe 101: History and Art for Travelers. His guidebook to Italy is the bestselling international guidebook in the U.S. In 1999, he started writing in a new genre of travel writing with his anecdotal Postcards from Europe, recounting his favorite moments from his many years of travel. Steves's books are published by Avalon Travel Publishing, a member of the Perseus Books Group. In 2009, Steves published the book Travel as a Political Act, a guide on traveling more thoughtfully.
In addition to his guidebooks and television shows, Steves has expanded into radio, newspaper and mobile applications. In 2005, Steves launched a weekly public radio program, Travel with Rick Steves. Focusing on world travel, although with a heavy emphasis on Europe and North America, each program has a guest travel expert for interviews, followed by call-ins with questions and comments. In 2006, Steves became a syndicated newspaper columnist with his Tribune Media Services column. In 2010, he launched the mobile application Rick Steves' Audio Europe, a library of audio content (including self-guided walking tours) organized into geographic-specific playlists for the iPhone and Android.
Political and civic advocacy
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.
Steves is currently on the Advisory Board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He co-sponsored New Approach Washington, the initiative to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana in Washington State. Steves hosted an ACLU-sponsored educational program broadcast, Marijuana: It's Time for a Conversation.
Steves also supports solutions to homelessness. In 2005, he constructed a 24-unit apartment complex in Lynnwood, Washington, to serve as transitional housing for homeless mothers and their children. Trinity Way is administrated by the local YWCA. Members of the Edmonds Noontime Rotary Club help maintain the buildings and grounds, providing everything from furniture to flowers. The club also raised $30,000 to build a play structure for the children there. Steves also raises funds for the hunger advocacy group Bread for the World.
Steves is an Honorary Council member of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington.
As a lifelong traveler, Steves avows that terrorism is something Americans should get used to, a natural outgrowth of the United States' position in the global community and how it is militarily advanced. In an interview with the Seattle Times, Steves said:
I think we're 300 million people and if we lose a few hundred people a year to terrorists, that doesn't change who we are and it shouldn't change the fabric of our society. Frankly I think we should get used to losing—as long as we're taking the stance in the world of being the military superpower, you're going to have people nipping at you. And if it's hundreds or thousands—we lose 15,000 people a year to have the right to bear arms and most people think that's a good deal, year after year. We spend 15,000 people for the right to bear arms. What do we spend to be as aggressive and heavy weight on this planet? We're always going to have terrorism."
In Travel as a Political Act, Steves writes that displaying the American flag on car antennas "creates a fearful, schizophrenic dynamic that may stoke today's terrorism and tomorrow's international conflicts." 
Steves is an active Lutheran and has written and hosted educational videos on subjects such as Martin Luther and the European Reformation. Steves supports Liberation theology. He has been a speaker for the Lutheran Peace Fellowship.
Steves was married to Anne Steves until 2010, when they divorced. They are the parents of two grown children: Andy Steves and Jackie Steves.
Steves spends about a third of every year in Europe researching guidebooks and filming TV shows. His home and his Back Door Production headquarters are in Edmonds, Washington.
- Holtz, Jackson (March 8, 2006). "Rick Steves built travel biz through the back door". USA Today.
- Potter, Everett (June 19, 1994). "Rick Steves takes you to 'Europe Through the Back Door'". Lakeland Ledger.
- "Contact Us". Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door. Retrieved June 25, 2011.
- Corbett, Sara (July 4, 2004). "Rick Steves's Not-So-Lonely Planet". New York Times. Retrieved June 25, 2011.
- Molnar, Jim (February 14, 1999). "Travel Books -- Two Takes On Touring Europe". The Seattle Times.
- "Rick Steves". National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. June 17, 2011. Retrieved June 25, 2011.
- "Advisory Board: Rick Steves". NORML. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
- Brodeur, Nicole (March 14, 2006). "Rick Steves is just a NORML guy". The Seattle Times.
- "Sponsors | Yes on I-502". New Approach Washington. Retrieved 2012-12-09.
- "Rick Steves' Europe: Trinity Way". Ricksteves.com. Retrieved 2012-12-09.
- "Rick Steves' Europe: Social Activism". Ricksteves.com. Retrieved 2012-12-09.
- "Rick Steves Europe: Rick Steves Donates $1 Million to Edmonds Center for the Arts and Cascade Symphony Orchestra". Ricksteves.com. Retrieved 2012-12-09.
- Undated (probably prior to 2009) NARAL Pro-Choice Washington Letter
- Postman, David (September 13, 2006). "The RIck Steves Guide to terrorism in the world". Seattle Times.
- Steves, Rick (2009). Travel As a Political Act (Kindle ed.). New York: Nation Books. Kindle location 1640
- Steves, Rick (2009). Travel As a Political Act (Kindle ed.). New York: Nation Books. Kindle location 123-30.
- Steves, Rick (2009). Travel As a Political Act (Kindle ed.). New York: Nation Books. Kindle location 1833-39.
- Official website
- Rick Steves at the Internet Movie Database
- Transitions Abroad interview with Clay Hubbs
- Rolf Potts interview
- Transitions Abroad columns written by Steves
- Interview: Rick Steves on Guided Tours
- Interview: Rick Steves on Baby Boomer Travel Trends
- Steves on KUOW radio program Speakers Forum
- The Rick Steves Guide to terrorism in the world
- Can we fight terrorism constructively?
- NARAL Pro-Choice Washington Letter (Undated)
- Rick Steves' Europe - Episode Guide, by Season