Rick Steves Says Travel Will Be 'Normal' Again — Eventually
Travel will be normal again. Eventually.
At least, that's what the legendary guidebook writer Rick Steves thinks.
"My spiel is, if I had to predict, we're going to get back to a sort of normalcy," Steves said in a recent interview with The New Yorker. "Kind of like airports after 9/11. People said travel will never be the same. Well, airports will never be the same, but they're still airports… I think travel is still going to be travel."
Steves, like many Americans and travelers around the globe, had to cancel trips when the COVID-19 pandemic started sweeping across the world, he told the magazine. He had his annual 100 days in Europe planned — hotels sorted, tour groups booked, plans in place — all of which quickly went out the window.
With borders closed, the travel expert turned to Zoom and social media, and even looked at destinations closer to home. But as Europe has slowly opened back up over the past several months (even with vaccine mandates or testing requirements in place) and Steves said he isn't giving up.
And while he says traveling right now is a "fluid situation," his "mantra has been: COVID can derail our travel plans, but it cannot stop our travel dreams."
"Should people be making European-travel plans for next summer?" he added. "No one knows how we'll be, societally, by then, but I fully expect to travel in the spring—as long as the situation is no worse than it is today," he said.
When people do get back to Europe, Steves said it's important to make the most of it and be mindful of why we travel.
"I don't think we're going to want to stand in line with a bunch of people who just want to see the 'Mona Lisa,'" he said. "There's ninety percent of Europe that has no crowds, and you do have a choice. If you want to have more peaceful, more thoughtful travels, there are plenty of ways to do that."
And to blend in with the locals, become a "cultural chameleon," he says, encouraging travelers to have chocolate in Belgium, Pilsner in Prague, eat late in Sicily, and drink whiskey in Scotland.
"For a lot of people, their default is, 'OK., I want to drink, and my favorite drink is this Martini.'… The question is not, Where can I get my drink? but, What do local people drink here?" he said. "When I'm traveling, I physically change from country to country. When I'm in Greece, I go for a glass of ouzo. I never come home after a long day of work in Seattle and think, I'd like a nice cloudy glass of ouzo. That's almost ridiculous. But when I'm in Greece, I don't let a sunset go by without having a nice glass of ouzo."
Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.