Steves, Rick. Travel as a Political Act. Nation Books. 2009.
R.S.- Rick is a travel writer who does travel guide books, leads tour groups, and does TV shows about travel. He is a committed activist. He received the Wittenberg Award in 2007 for his social activism.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Mark Twain. Steve has written this book that I think is an in depth commentary on that quote. He shows great courage in his conclusions which very much reflect his personal ‘prejudice’. He takes the wonderful privilege of travel and tourism to a totally different level from what it is traditionally viewed as. This kind of travel is definitely educational and probably life changing. A very thought provoking resource. Note: I wonder what Rick would have to say about ‘missions tours and short term missions trips’?
The motivation for travel must be beyond leisure and curiosity. Genuine learning and legitimate advocacy only happen with hard work and diligent preparedness. “Choose to travel on purpose. Connect with people. Overcome fear. Get beyond your comfort zone. Choose to be challenged.” Such goals will have life-changing effects and are what ‘travel as a political act’ is all about.
Visits in the countries of former Yugoslavia revealed people groups that demonstrated tremendous efforts of rebounding from the devastating wars of the mid- 90s. “I see the value of history in understanding our travels, and the value of travel in understanding our history.” (45)
The countries of the European Union are examined as a total unit and comparisons are made with America. These contrasts focus on life style and how socialism has impacted these countries. Europeans tolerate big government and high taxes because they want a higher quality of life, the rewards of socialism. Tolerance prevents the legislation of morality.
The author’s travel in San Salvador becomes a rehearsal of history that does not reflect well on the arrival of Columbus and how that began a process that affected the people adversely. Some interesting comments are made about globalization.
Rick’s report on his travel in Denmark is really very idyllic. He is quite taken with the people’s “dedication to their social contract”. (125) They are “highly taxed but highly content”. (113)
Turkey, like so many other developing countries, is dealing with powerful forces of change while attempting to remain the same. Understanding Islam is crucial to appreciating people of Muslim countries. The greatest problem in East-West relationships is fear, on both sides. “Islam is as varied culturally as Christendom.” (143)
“Europe is not hard on drugs or soft on drugs but smart on drugs.” (149)
In 2008 Rick did a twelve day TV shoot in Iran. As is his priority, his focus was the people. The politics were not ignored but certainly not emphasized. This event takes travel as a political act to another level.