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Travel as a Political Act

Change the world one trip at a time

By Rick Steves
12-minute read
Audio available
Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves

Travel as a Political Act (2009, updated in 2018) is a passionate plea for an enlightened approach to travel; an approach that does away with preconceptions and lets us engage with other countries and cultures. Packed full of actionable advice and top tips to help you travel intelligently, these blinks are also studded with fascinating examples of the kinds of things you might learn along the way.

  • Globetrotters and aspiring explorers
  • Sociologists
  • Students of political science

Rick Steves is an American historian and travel writer. He has spent much of his life traveling overseas and writing books about his experiences. Steves is also a teacher on the topic of travel, advising people on both the logistics of travel and how to get the most out of their trips.

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Travel as a Political Act

By Rick Steves
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves
Synopsis

Travel as a Political Act (2009, updated in 2018) is a passionate plea for an enlightened approach to travel; an approach that does away with preconceptions and lets us engage with other countries and cultures. Packed full of actionable advice and top tips to help you travel intelligently, these blinks are also studded with fascinating examples of the kinds of things you might learn along the way.

Key idea 1 of 7

Playing the role of a modern jester can transform your travel experiences.

Sometimes there’s nothing quite like an all-inclusive vacation package. If it’s some serious rest and relaxation you’re after, poolside drinks and pre-arranged entertainment will probably be just the ticket. But that’s not the only way to travel. In fact, if you really want to learn something about the country you’re visiting, you’ll need to leave your hotel behind and start exploring.

That means it’s time to rethink your role as a traveler. How? Well, you can take a cue from medieval jesters. Today, we often think of jesters as little more than fools or pranksters, but in the Middle Ages, they fulfilled an important political role. Because jesters had one foot in the royal court and one in society at large, they were uniquely placed to tell the king what ordinary people were thinking, who they were mocking and what they were angry about. Whether common folk were joking about his stutter or grumbling because he’d raised taxes on mead, the king usually got the lowdown on what his subjects were up to from his jester.

And you can think of yourself as a kind of jester when you travel. Your role is to go out into the world and collect valuable insights which will help inform your own perspectives as well as those of people back home. Maybe you visit Iran and realize that some people accept the rulings of religious authorities because they’re scared their children will become Westernized materialists. Or maybe you travel through El Salvador and discover that not everyone dreams of owning a Porsche and a fancy villa.

To gather those kinds of insights, you have to make a conscious choice to travel with an open mind. Remember, the point of this kind of travel is to broaden your horizons. That means your own ingrained ideas and preconceptions will be challenged. Go with the flow, and you’ll soon realize just how deeply enriching traveling can be. Whether it’s trying an unfamiliar dish, chatting with locals or doing something you usually wouldn’t, it’s all about learning to see the world as others do.

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