Thanks to my sister and brother-in-law, Tillie and I made the journey to Des Moines this evening to hear a talk from travel guru Rick Steves. As many of you know, I’m a fan of traveling, and Rick Steves’ guidebooks enhanced my journey around Europe when I studied abroad in college. I’m a fan. I may or may not even have a pair of Rick Steves recommended travel underwear. Seriously, don’t judge. Try them. They’ll change your life. I digress.
Despite bringing down the average age in the room by a few years (the Iowa Public Television sponsorship will do this to a crowd), the speech was very enjoyable. I always enjoy hearing and learning from people who are so well traveled and cultured. The perspective and respect of others that such people bring is very fresh to me for a variety of reasons.
I found myself nodding quite a bit throughout the speech as Rick’s travel philosophy aligns perfectly with mine – Traveling becomes more enjoyable when you are able to immerse yourself in the culture and meet the people of that culture. Further, Rick will beat into your head the cons of following the crowd to the tourist traps and flocking to those sites that travel companies want you to flock to for monetary reasons. His most popular book, Europe Through the Backdoor was created to give interested travelers a look at well-kept secrets across Europe. It does just that.
As the speech went on, I started to think about how I could apply Rick’s philosophy to this blog. My goal is to find runners across the world to share their city with us through a run. By the way, I have 41 spots left to fill during the next year. Yes, my recent run took me by many popular tourist attractions, but my most enjoyable stops for pictures were those that were not planned (my runner’s choice photos). I thoroughly enjoyed sharing these lesser-known areas of each of the cities that I visited. The stumble-upon factor added an awesome element to my trip.
So here’s my recommendation to those who will be contributing to this blog. Yes, visit some key landmarks in your city during your run that people might already know about, BUT bring a few extra thank you signs with you to thank people in front of places that are lesser known or weren’t on your scheduled route. I promise you, it’ll make for a more enjoyable run and a more interesting blog post.
While I’m at it, here are a few suggestions for anybody reading this post who enjoys traveling.
Transportation – We’re conditioned to drive our cars everywhere. Look around and learn about other ways you can get around while traveling. The Megabus factor to my run was part of the excitement. I truly believe that if I was driving, the trip would have been less special. Also, one of my more memorable visits to a city recently was visiting by buddies Zim and Kuncel in Minneapolis. Minneapolis is great as is, but riding around the town with them on bikes made it that much cooler. I was inspired by their love for traveling via two wheels.
Hotels – At what point did paying $125 to rest our heads for an evening become the norm? It’s become the norm via advertising, marketing and per diem expense vouchers. On your next trip, whether for leisure or business, try reaching out to a friend in that city and ask if you can spend an evening with them. If you really want to get adventurous, try couchsurfing or find a place on airbnb. Yes, the whole ask aspect of the first scenario makes people uncomfortable. As a society, we’ve become uncomfortable asking people to enter their space. What’s the worst they could say, no? What’s the best that could happen? You could strengthen or rekindle a relationship! Plus, saving yourself or your company a little cash is a bonus. I’ll be the first to extend the offer. If you’re ever in Ames, Iowa call up Hotel Good and we’ll put you up and we’ll show you our wonderful city. You’ll just need to be aware that there’s a 75% that you’ll wake up with this guy staring at you for no apparent reason.
Restaurants – If you’re in a city that isn’t your own, leave any of these restaurants off of your “will eat at” list – Applebee’s, Fridays, Olive Garden, Subway, McDonalds, you get the point. Yes, they’re comfort zones, but you can’t beat the surprise of a great meal that you can’t experience anywhere else. It’ll take some research or asking, but it’s well worth it. Note – Starbucks is an exception for me personally while on the road, but only if I need a quick caffeine fix or free wifi.
Overall, our evening with Rick Steves was a success. Rick motivated me to continue to find path-less-traveled in life and enjoy every moment of it. Tillie was a little uncomfortable throughout the speech only because of the little one growing and kicking inside her stomach. I think he liked what he heard! We might have a little traveler on our hands.