He looks like many an American in Paris: royal blue Oxford shirt half-tucked into boxy Dockers, reciting French with a really bad accent from a dog-eared phrase book. But this traveler is no tourist. Rick Steves is the hardest-working man in the travel biz. And the phrase book he's clutching is his own ― one of 30 guidebooks he's written to open the "back doors" of Europe to America.
"I'm like a child playing in the tidepool of the world," Steves says. "It still amazes me."
That's the Rick Steves most of us know from his books and PBS travelogues: enthusiastic, informative, and slightly geeky ― the kind of gee-whiz guy you'd be pleased to have as a neighbor. What you might not know is that Steves is your neighbor. And he's the last person you should ask to give you a tour of Seattle.
"I'm so clueless about this area," Steves says, gesturing from his office in the Seattle bedroom community of Edmonds out to Puget Sound sparkling in the distance. "I still have trouble telling the difference between Bainbridge and Whidbey Islands."
And there's your first hint that the "everyman" of travel in Europe, author of the best-selling guidebook in America (Rick Steves' Italy) is a man of contradictions that add up to one singular citizen.