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Travel Guru Rick Steves On the Value of Culture Shock

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, he didn’t start out in the travel business. “I was a piano teacher,” he says. His piano students weren’t interested in taking lessons during the summer, so he decided to use that time to go to Europe. “I was just traveling, making mistakes and then [becoming] aware of other people who were making the same mistakes that I made.” Steves wanted to help people have , so he began using the piano recital room as a makeshift lecture hall, inviting everyone he knew who was interested in learning more about travel to attend. “They could learn from my mistakes and have a better trip, and I would have a good excuse to go back to Europe and update my material,” he explains. “I started realizing that people really want this information about travel.”He eventually reached a crossroads. “‘Am I going to be a teacher or am I going to be a travel writer?’” he recalls asking himself. “I think I made the right choice to be a travel writer, as much as I miss my piano teaching.”Steves’ first step was creating a book using the material from his lectures. “That was my first book——in 1980,” he says. “I bought 2,000 copies for about $2,000 and sold them on the back of my car.” The book—which Steves originally self-published—is still in print and currently in its 40th edition.

In the late ’80s, Steves was approached to do a television show for public television, which he filmed for 10 years before starting his own production company.

This past October, Steves launched of his TV show, Rick Steves’ Europe, with a focus on European art. “For 20 years, I’ve dreamed of having an art [television] show,” he says. “And now we have this new six-hour series about European art.”This sentiment is core to Steves’ mission. “I really believe passionately in.

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