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Hi from Rick: Soakin’ with the Locals

I’m in Iceland this week making a new TV show. Last night, after a long day filming, I went to the neighborhood pool. Soaking in a very hot corner, I met Thor. He explained how in his country, each neighborhood has a public pool heated by mineral springs — and how it serves as the great equalizer. He said, “Doctors, truck drivers, students, even the prime minister… we’re all the same in this hot pot.” A moment later, I looked into our camera and said, “I’m soakin’ local.”

Today, our guide Saga explained how her country (with a population of under 400,000 — the vast majority descended from Scandinavian settlers a millennium ago) has a database where the entire population is connected in a massive family tree. (When people who are dating get serious, they check online to see just how closely they might be related.) Later, she explained the importance of national solidarity in Iceland, sharing how at a big protest, one angry demonstrator got carried away and threw a rock at the police. The rest of the crowd — rather than piling on — turned around and protected the people who were there to keep order.

She stumbled a bit pronouncing the word “solidarity” (one of my favorite words)… and I was only too happy to help her say it in English. Coming from a country where a sense of national unity is elusive, I found myself wishing more Americans would travel to this little land and learn its lessons.

Visiting the neighborhood pool and talking with the locals got me thinking of the poem I wrote, which we put to images to make our recent TV show called Why We Travel. This sums up my enthusiasm for thoughtful travel — that we strive to provide travelers using our guidebooks or joining our bus tours — more than ever. Here are a few lines from the final chapter of that poem (read the full chapter) — about how travel helps us connect and why that matters:

By traveling thoughtfully, we connect. Even for those who can only travel as a state of mind — travel can result in a deeper connection.

Travel connects us face to face with reality…
It’s not virtual… it’s not through a viewfinder.
Travel is candid, honest…being in the moment.

In a world hungry for authenticity, we yearn for connection…

Travelers connect with different cultures…different people…
On the road “strangers are just friends we’ve yet to meet…”

Travel is more than a holiday. It gives us new experiences: acts as our greatest teacher, makes our lives more meaningful, and connects us with a global family. We can’t all travel physically. But anyone can live with a travelers’ mindset. It’s a choice. Travel makes us more comfortable with the world, our hearts bigger, and our lives richer. And it makes us happier. And that… is why we travel.

Of course, my colleagues and I at Rick Steves’ Europe would love to help shape your travels, and there are so many ways we do that: our guidebooks, TV shows, bus tours, website, and… this month’s Travel News with tips for the best way to feast like a local in Europe; suggestions for a few of Iceland’s most thrilling outdoor adventures; favorite pack-along essentials picked by my staff; and a video clip about making connections from my Why We Travel TV show. Plus, after recently traveling in the British Isles, Cameron Hewitt wonders if classic B&Bs have become an endangered species.

If you’re ready to join us, now’s a better time than ever to be “soakin’ local.”

Happy Travels,


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