Book Review: Travel As A Political Act by Rick Steves


Summer is a time for travel for many of us.   With most kids out of school for the summer as well as the weather, which here in Washington is at least absolutely idyllic.  (Even though I am working much harder for my 25 hours per week at the library, with the budget cuts even here and all the economically stressed patrons relying on our services more than ever. )    While I don’t have the vacation time or the money to take any long distance international trips  (indeed with the increased security I can no longer cross over the border to Canada,  which was once a favorite overnight trip).    So Rick Steve’s  Travel As A Political Act,  which is concerned pretty much exclusively with international travel might not seem like an obvious choice for me.

But ever since meeting a stunningly handsome and extremely friendly man from the South Pacific island nation Tonga I have dreamed of taking a year to make a very leisurely circle from Chile in South America to Easter Island to Tahiti to New Zealand to Australia then back via Tonga, Hawaii and then finally home to Seattle.   I managed in financially better times to do a pretty good deal of travel and expect that someday I will have the luxury of being a nomad for awhile again and the resources to see some very distant parts of the planet.   All of which is by  way of explaining my interest in noted travel journalist Rick Steve’s new for 2009 trade paperback.   Steve’s is an engaging and eloquent writer and basically takes his reader on an ethically enlightening trip around the world, discussing  both the fascinating people and cultures and the current geo-political realities they face in countries near and far to most everyone in the “Western world” or as travel writer Edward Hasbrouck more properly puts it the “global North” of rich countries which includes Europe and increasingly much of Asia vs the “global South” which includes much of central and south America, parts of Asia and all of Africa.  (Defying geography Australia and New Zealand are firmly in the North category.)

Having literally led tour groups all over the world,  Steves is a very experienced traveler who has real knowledge of the great world out there beyond our comfortable borders.    From the modern, democratic Muslim countries like Turkey and Morocco to the deeply poor countries of Central and South America as well as places around the world that have been quite seriously affected by the global trade policies of the rich North.     While I completely agree with Steves about how much travel can broaden your perspective and lead you to see issues in the news in a new and different light,   I think this short and very readable volume would be an excellent starting place for any Northerner who feels little informed about the great world to dip a toe into learning something about places from Iran to Eastern Europe to the Americas,   even if the reader is unwilling or unable to travel to any of these places himself.   Travel As A Political Act.    Very Highly Recommended.

Title: Travel As A Political Act   Author: Rick Steves   Publisher: Nation Books,  New York City    Format: Trade Paperback   Publication Date: May 4, 2009

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