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Travel writer Rick Steves shares advice on navigating post-pandemic travel


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

John Yang: A lot of pent up wanderlust is being released after three years of pandemic restrictions. Americans are crossing the Atlantic in record numbers, jamming hotels and popular tourist sites. A lot of them no doubt are armed with a Rick Steves guidebook or advice from one of Steve's columns, newsletters, or long running series on Public Radio, and PBS. Rick Steves. Thanks so much for joining us.

I understand you just got back from Iceland and Poland. With any differences pre pandemic and post pandemic?

Rick Steves, Travel Guide: You know, I've spent a couple of months in Europe so far this year, ranging from Spain to Estonia to Iceland. And the big issue is the crowds. This sort of a feeling of revenge travel, they're calling it, everybody wants to get back there and do the trips that were canceled.

And Europe has learned how to moderate the crowds by having people book admissions to museums. Europe did not waste time during the pandemic. There's a lot of impressive new infrastructure, new museums, new libraries, new creative restaurants, it's pretty exciting time to be there.

John Yang: I know your guides urge people to get off the beaten path to do things that not many tourists do, but do things that the locals do. Are you still finding new things as you after all these years?

Rick Steves: My whole idea is to go over there and hit and miss and miss and hit and miss and bring home the hits, to make mistakes and learn from my mistakes. Take careful notes so people can learn from my mistakes rather than your own and travel more smoothly.

I've done in the last couple of years venerable long distance trails in the Alps. I've done barge tours in Burgundy. I've learned the joy of second cities in Europe, everybody goes to the first cities why not try Leone or Marseille after Paris? Why not go to Porto instead of Lisbon?

You're going to go to Edinburgh, be sure to check out Glasgow. Yes, go to Dublin. But don't miss Belfast. It's these Rust Belt industrial cities that used to be ignored that are now edgy, and I think really rewarding and they get you away from all the crowds.

John Yang: How do you approach a new place when you first encountered it?

Rick Steves: I tried to be as confused as a typical tourist would be. I've been going there all my life first timers not going to know what ends up. And then I realized that, you know, your time -- your money is a limited resource, but so is your time. And that means remembering a taxi ride can be a good economic choice considering what you and your travel partner's time is worth. That means do a smart itinerary recognizing that you know, you don't want to have redundancy. You don't want to see Oxford and Cambridge do one or other of the great university towns and make time for something entirely different like the castles in northern Wales.

I think it's really, really constructive for us to get out there. Get to know the world find out that there's more than one right way to do things and the world is filled with beautiful people and a lot of love and a lot of joy. And you come home them with I think the most beautiful souvenir and that's a broader perspective.

John Yang: During the pandemic there was a lot have that sort of tunnel vision focusing on things right in front of us. How has that changed Americans attitude toward travel?

Rick Steves: The challenge for us these days is to get away from our screen. You know, I was filming in Venice, recently, and we were trying to find two levers on a gondola going under the bridges size, there is no lovers going under the bridges size, they're all taken selfies, you know.

And as a tour guide, I have to really remind my travelers be in the moment. That's a big challenge for us. And another big challenge is, don't be sheep going where everybody's going. I mean, these days, it's crowd sourced, you know, you got a lot of people who've never been to Paris telling you where the best hot chocolate is, you know, you can let that design your itinerary.

But really, it's important for us not to have that Instagram mentality where you got to stand on the same pier and get the same frame. So you can prove to your friends that you're having a great time, go over there and carve your own path. If you've got Irish heritage, that's where you should go. If you love Wagner, and opera music, you can go to the Wagner festival. If you love Italian food, you can go to Italy, if you love World War II history, you can go to Normandy.

It's just for me, so exciting to be able to go over there and sort through all the options cut through all the superlatives and find out ways that we can travel smartly.

John Yang: And you mentioned Instagram, there's so many people talking about travel on Instagram, on YouTube channels influencers, who may be getting a lot of freebies from the things they're talking about. How has that changed how people learn about travel? How has that changed what you do?

Rick Steves: In the future, I think there's going to be two kinds of travelers, those who consume information smartly and those who take information that comes at you for with an agenda. You got to know how to travel like a temporary local, you got to know when you walk down the main street, the damn rack in Amsterdam, you're going to see a place that looks like a tourist information center, but it's actually a box office selling commercial ventures.

There's no and Frank, there's no Dutch East India Company, there is no Rembrandt in that box office. There's just a bunch of gimmicks that want your time and your money on your vacation. You know, what you need to do is equip yourself with good information, expect your toast itself to travel smart, and you will.

A good example is lines, the green thoughtless, unprepared traveler spends a lot of time needlessly in lines. And for me, that's a big agenda. If I encounter a line when I'm researching for my guidebooks, I find a way around that line. I find a way to coach my travelers to be able to enjoy that site without wasting two hours trying to get into it.

John Yang: Rick Steves helping people travel smart. Thank you very much.

Rick Steves: Hey, thank you, John, and happy travels.

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