This past weekend the Annual Travel and Adventure Show took place in Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California. I learned about this wonderfully educational event on Facebook. I had saved the event months ago and came across it when the reminder was prompted. I wish they did a better job advertising because this show has been put on for the past six years and I had no clue!
Anyways, this show is a two day event filled with educational seminars, talks, food, and of course the travel booths. It’s a national forum and is set up in many different cities around the country. To learn if it is coming near you, you can go here. You can explore destinations from around the world as you talk to travel experts and save with deals and show-only deals. This year the travel celebrities included Rick Steves, Samantha Brown, Andew Zimmen and many many more. Since I have a traveling component to my blog and I wanted to meet two of the long line of celebrities there, I booked the tickets and planned my day out. It is a two whole day event and I didn’t have time to attend all the lectures so I picked two-Europe Through the Back Door with Rick Steves and Patrica Shultz, the author of a “1000 Places to See Before You Die”.
With a coffee in my hand, I braved the crowd Saturday morning and found a seat in the back at the Rick Steves’ lecture. He came up the stage and is and sounds exactly like he is on the show-utterly sweet and passionate about traveling. He travels 4 months of the year for the past 30 years and he had some great advice for seasoned and newbie travelers.
One of the first suggestions he made and I thought was odd because you don’t hear this often was to travel in peak season. I always assumed adults like to travel off-season because there are less crowds and cheaper prices (I personally like to travel in peak season as well), but he said go in peak season because that is when you get to interact with the crowds and locals bustling about. He did mention that hot Mediterranean places like Greece and Italy can be visited off-season because well, they get HOT! He was big on interacting with people and catching them unguarded and more intimately. His exact advice was, “be part of the party, not the economy”, in other words mingle with locals and tourists alike.
I have seen his travel shows many times before, but I was actually surprised to learn that he is against run-of-the-mill travel companies. A little surprising considering where we were, but he seemed to hate travel agents that sell tickets to places that everybody goes to on “promotional budgets”. Instead, he was a big proponent of taking the back roads or off the beaten path. That’s where his books come in. So if you would like to see touristy and not so touristy spots, purchase Rick Steves’ books because his distinction is mingling and chatting up locals about unique places such as little towns or ruined castles (which have a lot more character) and educating the world about those places.
Just because you are traveling in peak season doesn’t mean you have to feel like you are being corralled around. He had tips for those travelers who wanted to avoid the crowds. One of the recommendations was to get up early and get back late (I can personally vouch for that) to see more local action than tourist action. So in conclusion, it is better to do research than book through an agent which will sell you touristy stuff with an expensive price. “Don’t let the industry dumb you down!” he shouts.
He talks about his different books and what to buy for what reason. A great budget tip he gave was to “understand what you are looking at so it’s twice as exciting”. When he said that, it reminded me of my first Europe trip and how exciting it was to see all those wonderful buildings and museums I studied about. It provided a historical context which made the trip more meaningful and educational. So don’t avoid museums because you don’t like art, instead get to know different art movements and artists so you have a more unique experience when you visit Europe.
Some of his books include:
1. Europe 101: filled with art and monuments information, food and culture.
2. Best of _________
3. City Guide Books: everything for one week including guided tours and itineraries including city hopping for people on a budget.
During his last segment he talked about taking tours versus going on your own. One of the biggest mistakes a traveler makes according to him is to think he/she can’t do it on their own. He advised to get off that mentality and take chances and use public transportation or just walk around to see what you can discover. Tours offer no flexibility, but time is well spent. Tours are also limited as to where they can go with large groups so you miss a lot of unique local action. And most importantly going off on your own is cheaper! It’s all about planning wisely including flying in to a city and flying out from another.
His parting words were to travel as a political act. According to Steves, “travel can make you better citizens of the world”. He thinks people will be smarter if they are to travel before they vote. So true!
Day two’s keynote speaker was Patricia Shultz, author of “1000 Places to See Before You Die”. I can’t think of a single traveler who doesn’t have this book in their collection. I think I bought mine 10 years ago-Yikes! So she recently came out with another book “1000 Places to See in US and Canada Before you Die” and that is what she covered. Personally I wished she talked more about the book, how she researched for it, what went into selecting places that made the cut, and any traveling tips. Instead she focused on some highlights of US, which I will tell you.
One of the first recommendations she makes is to visit the national parks. Canada for example is having their 150th National Park Anniversary so all parks is free-yes free!
Her first focus in US was the North Eastern states. She said Maine has 3000 islands and also has the most lighthouses on the East Coast (didn’t know that!). If you want to see fall/autumn colors or Spring Cherry Blossom time, which North East is famous for, then go to Vermont. Besides the nature, there are towns that take you back 100’s of years.
She also mentioned New York, but nothing that stood out.
She covered Washington D.C. and informed us of the new Smithsonian Gallery that has opened. There are 19 Smithsonian museums and galleries and they are all free!
In North Caroline, she highlights the Biltmore State in Ashville. It is America’s largest home and is beautifully decorated with an amazing food scene.
In Charleston, South Caroline there is a wealth of Southern charm and history. There is the Draton Plantation which is beautiful in April and May when flowers are blooming. This is where “The Notebook” and Tara in “Gone with the Wind” were shot. Pretty neat!
New Orleans has musicians everywhere!
Chicago is fun not because of the beautiful architecture, but the food and music festivals they have.
Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming has rugged, rocky peaks and jewel-like lakes.
Lake Powell and Hoover Dam in Arizona and Nevada are an engineering feat. You can actually rent a house boat and spend your vacation taking in the beautiful landscape.
Bryce National Park in Utah is one of the “Big 5” and Monument Valley in Arizona and Utah are a must see, according to Schultz.
If you want to visit Las Vegas, Nevada then go during the winter months.
Pacific Coast Highway in California is a beautiful drive, especially the Big Sur area.
We ran out of time, but it was a nice glimpse of what is in the book. To learn about these places in detail, buy the book!
The Travel and Adventure Show was all in all a great investment. I learned a lot from the experts and wished I had time to attend the other lectures and talks. If you are interested then you can click on the link and see if it is coming in your town. Happy Learning!