Traveling in Dad’s Footsteps

In an article called “Andrew Steves: Travels in Dad’s Footsteps,” by Jim Benning, he interviews the son of an avid travel writer to learn about his plans for his first trip to Europe without his parents.

“For young Americans, the first solo trip to Europe is a rite of passage. But what’s in store if your father is the king of Europe guidebook writers?

More than a few newly independent 18-year-old Americans will make their first trips to Europe this summer without mom and dad, but few will have the baggage of Andrew Steves. Andrew is the son of Rick Steves, Europe travel guru to the PBS-viewing masses, author of countless guidebooks, and the only travel writer regularly assaulted on the streets of Berlin and Rome by rabid, autograph-seeking fans. When I heard that the younger Steves would be embarking on his first solo trip to Europe this summer, I was full of questions. Would he take his dad’s guidebooks? Would he wash his socks in the hotel sink, as his father instructs millions to do? Shortly before Andrew attended his high school graduation ceremony and embarked on the trip, I dialed him up to get the scoop.

World Hum: I’m guessing this won’t be your first trip to Europe?

I’ve been 17 or 18 times with my parents, but this will be my first time without them. I’ll be going with a friend I’ve had since kindergarten, Alex, who’s also 18.

Are you taking your dad’s guidebooks?
We’re taking his book and ‘Let’s Go’. My dad’s guidebooks are geared toward retired people. ‘Let’s Go’ is written by Harvard students. They list the best clubs in the area. We’re definitely going to be looking for that. We’ll be going to hostels and meeting other people from other cultures in our same situation.

Have you inherited your dad’s passion for travel?

I think it’s really important to travel. I listen to some country music stations, and you hear people say the USA is the best country on Earth, and they’ve probably never been outside their own state. You can think your country is the best, but there are also other people who think their country is the best. It’s important to appreciate other cultures.

You’re part of the first generation of young backpackers heading to Europe after 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq. How do you feel about traveling to Europe at this time in history?

I’ve been going to Europe every summer for every year of my life. The last five years my dad has taken us places as a kind of a publicity stunt. Like if there was mad cow disease, he’d take us right to England. If there was Hoof and Mouth, he’d take us wherever that was, to show it’s no big deal. I’ve grown up in a family where we didn’t stock up for Y2K and we didn’t get too scared after 9/11. Many people die of starvation every day in Africa. I’m not going to go into any countries at war like Afghanistan or Iraq, but I’m comfortable going to Europe.

Has your dad given you lots of travel advice?

He has. We’re doing a mock-packing session with him to see what he thinks we should bring and what we want to bring.

Will there be conflicts?

Yeah, my dad just got back from Europe. He was there for a month and a half. In his bag I think he had two pairs of pants and three shirts.

Not enough for your taste?

Of course, we’re young men and we’re going to want to meet young ladies, so we have to think about that. If we’re wearing the same clothes all the time we might smell…”