Imagine your reaction if Mr. Rogers had suddenly torn off his sweater and bared his chest, sharing the hard facts of life with the kids who loved him so.  Remember when Dan Ackroyd used to imitate Julia Child, blood spurting all over the set as he/she tried to cook? 

That was my initial reaction when I began Travel As a Political Act by Rick Steves.  The gloves have come off this travel baron since the world has gone through so many changes after 9/11.  “I believe that for many Americans, traveling still means seeing if you can eat five meals a day and still snorkel when you get into port.”  Steves tries to make a distinction between vacationing and traveling, with traveling meaning travelers will be able “to have enlightening experiences, to meet inspirational people, to be stimulated, to learn, and to grow.”  Steves believes that Americans would be a lot better off in the world if we traveled politely, with our eyes and ears open, and tried to learn how the world is both like and dislike us.

Speaking of dislike, this book is not shy about speaking to the issues of why America is not perceived well overseas.  It also confronts social issues around the world like the role of woman, the tolerance of drug use, and the political agendas that challenge a traveler in certain parts of the world.  While you may not always agree with Steves’s beliefs, the way he states them will create a great hook for any book discussion. 

This book concentrates on particular parts of the world that Steves has approached with a cautious attitude because of his preconceived notions.  After meeting the people of each country, he has come away with something new.  “On returning from a major trip, you sense that your friends and co-workers have stayed the same, but you’re…different.”  His book should get readers eager to discuss his challenging view of traveling.  They can start by debating if it is true that “in this Global Age, the world’s problems are our problems.  It’ll be all hands on deck.”



About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

1 Comment on "ALL HANDS ON DECK"

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  1. misha says:

    I always knew that Steves was containing his more opinionated self behind his dorky glasses and polo shirts–you cannot travel, as he does, and not be changed or see your own country differently. Recently, when asked what he liked best about living near Seattle, he said: “The airport.” Looking forward to reading this one!

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