I got to attend some pretty awesome travel talks this weekend at the Chicago Travel and Adventure Show.
First, I got to hear from Rick Steves, who is 1) extremely dorky^ 2) super comfortable with the fact that he is dorky 3) my favorite person to hear from when talking travel. He talked about how great informed travel is. Informed travel is a huge deal for me. I often get teased because when I travel, I plan for weeks beforehand, have information on everything and often also have a guidebook in hand. I use TripIt to plan my trips and perhaps to the annoyance of my fellow travelers, send them a detailed itinerary of what we are going to do prior to the trip :) Now, before I come off as completely controlling and crazy, let me clarify that it is detailed, but not necessarily strict. I like going into trips knowing that I will not have to stand in lines, that I will not be spending more money than I have to, that I will not be spending time in places that I really do not have an interest in. I like knowing that certain times are busy, or that certain places are more worth my time than others. I like traveling often, so I also like to know that I am considerate of how much money I am spending. In short, I like knowing all the options and picking the best ones for my purposes :) For all these reasons and more, Rick Steves has been my go to travel guy for Europe. I absolutely love his guide books, I love that he includes places that are not necessarily heavily advertised otherwise and I love his outlook on the importance of ‘back door’ travel. His talk at the expo did not disappoint. While he did do a great deal of self promotion and talked about his books, his tours and his tv show, he also talked about how easy and affordable travel (to an extent, I realize and appreciate that travel is a luxury that not everyone can afford) truly is for the informed traveler and how important it is to travel and understand the world around us. The barriers of language and ‘the unknown’ often hold us back, but when it comes down to it, travel is about about the people you meet and seeing how their lives are led around the world. Whether or not you know their language, people are proud of where they come from and are often willing to share their lives with others in a way that we can all understand. Rick Steves talks about all this and more in his travel books and it truly transformed my travel experience :) If you’re interested, he’s got a lot of episodes up on hulu, here’s a great one:
Because he’s kind of a big deal with the travel folk and because he is aware of it and probably did not want to stand in line forever posing for pictures, he politely declined to pose for my picture, which resulted in this awkward shot taken by my new friend, the older man standing behind me in line :)
While Steves was certainly the highlight of the expo, there were also other speakers I listened to, the first was Pauline Frommer, who was not quite as exciting and talked more specifically about the places she’s been rather than the ideas behind travel (which was fun, but it was more like looking at someone’s photo album rather than what I was looking for). I did, however, enjoy her segment on Poland. Having been born in Poland, I never really looked at it from the perspective of a traveler, so it was very interesting to hear about what a cool place it is from her perspective :)
Last, but surprisingly not least, Chris Harrison from the Bachelor talked. I have to say that initially, I was not even going to mention him because, let’s be honest he doesn’t travel for the love of travel and he certainly does not plan these trips, but I ended up really enjoying his talk. While he did talk about the show itself and answered quite a few Bachelor questions from the audience (it was hard not to notice that Harrison seems have a lot of male fans… about 75% of the questions asked were by men!), he also talked about the effect of the show on the communities they enter, the logistics of travelling with a tv show and his own reflections on the travel he squeezes in occasionally when he has limited free time on site. Something that did not really register until I heard him talk was that the places featured on this show, or any other show, are essentially being advertised and see a spike in tourism after the show is aired. I never really thought about this, but it makes a whole lot of sense. While I think we can all agree that The Bachelor/Bachelorette series is highly uncomfortable for everyone, including the ‘actors’, the viewers and the locals, I also appreciate that they do travel, they do experience other cultures and sometimes they end up in places that would normally not be given a second thought (but apparently are the PERFECT places to fall in love ;) I confess, I watched a few seasons…!). They expose the mainstream audiences, who are not necessarily individuals who are innately interested in travel, to what lies beyond our immediate reach and how beautiful and interesting the world is. Despite his very own long line, Harrison posed for me, making for a better picture :)
To be honest, I did not really stick around for any of the booths as I was not interested in purchasing a vacation, but I did check out the culinary stage, where I learned to ask for the tail end of the fish at restaurants (I think they were talking about salmon and how it doesn’t have bones in it’s tail? I could be completely wrong on this… I arrived late), the heated scuba diving pool where I was encouraged to hop in but politely refused :) and the Dance stage where I saw a Slovakian dance group perform. It’s always very exciting to be around people who get excited about the same stuff as you and this was no exception, I loved the expo and plan to be back next year :)