Travel the World from the Comfort of Your Couch
March 04, 2013
When I was in High School, I had the opportunity to travel to France for a week with my French class. We arrived in Nice towards the end of Mardi Gras and even got the chance to see the burning of the King on the Mediterranean (the King was a paper mache statue that looked out over the celebrations). Visiting Paris and the Eiffel Tower was also a great experience, but unfortunately we didn’t get to go to the Louvre. It was closed for renovations. This was, for me, a once in a lifetime trip that probably will not be repeated.
Let’s face it, many of us would like to travel around the world and see the sites, but there is often something standing in the way. Money! Travel is expensive, and it can be very difficult for the average person to be able to get together the finances to go to any of the places that they may have dreamed of visiting. However, while it will never be a perfect substitute, there is a way to experience the world that can cost you nothing.
Travel videos come in two types: the incredibly interesting and the incredibly boring. Simple images of the well-known tourist destinations and some well-meaning, yet dull, historical commentary can suck the life out of places that should be fascinating. The best travel videos manage to convey the sense that you have just visited the places themselves, even though you have never set foot outside your door. They can also wet you appetite to go someplace you might never have heard of. And without question, the best guide for the couch bound is Rick Steves.
Rick Steves’ Europe has been a mainstay on PBS for quite some time. In it, Steves not only travels the European continent, but does it in a way that is different from the typical travel video. He does it from the perspective of the locals. Instead of only focusing on the famous sites (although, he does cover these), he puts a lot of emphasis on the tiny gems hidden in the side streets and little villages. He usually stays in small family-run hotels and B & B’s and spends time getting to know the average man on the street. This helps give the viewer a taste of the real lives of the people who reside there.
Along with all the local color, Steves also presents a great course in European history. And he manages to do so without making you feel that you are being lectured to. He covers everything from the origins of the local cuisine to how the traditional sports that are played in the area came to be. He also gives a great sample of the incredible European art that is found in the museums, as well as on the avenues, as he walks the streets with his ubiquitous backpack slung over his shoulder.
Watching a Rick Steves video makes you feel like you have actually visited Europe. They also give you a fantastic look into the daily lives of the average citizen. One thing I always take away after watching one of his travelogues is how alike the people in these places are to us. Usually we don’t see the regular people from other countries on TV. We get politicians or soldiers in the midst of some war or another. But when you get to meet the local artisan or the woman who makes the cheese from scratch, you understand how most people in this world are just like us. Their traditions may be a little different, but the majority are simply good people going to work every day to support their families.
So, if you have always wanted to see the real Europe but fear you may never get the chance, make sure to check out Rick Steves’ Europe. While it can never completely make up for not being there yourself, you can feel you have tasted at least a little bit of European life and culture. And you might even learn something, too.