Rick Steves spends a third of every year in Europe. He’s been at this for a long time; his first guide book was published in 1979, and his first episode of Rick Steves’ Europe aired in 2000. Those familiar with his style and tone know him as a cheery, grandparents-friendly host, happy to take viewers into cathedrals and cafes. His show depicts exactly what Americans hope Europe to be, a sort of instructive/interactive postcard.
All these years on the job, though, and Steves is still learning things — about “the old continent” and about himself. According to a recent profile by Outside, the 66-year-old has recently taken to hiking.
As Outside reports: “Over the years Steves has seen adventure travel in Europe explode in popularity, but he didn’t write about hiking or biking trips because his expertise was in history and culture.”
It’s somewhat surprising that Steves didn’t fall in love with the outdoors sooner — he lives in Washington State, his sister races the Iditarod, he’s a champion of marijuana legalization — but he blames the delay on his “workaholic” tendencies. Steves doesn’t usually think of his trips to Europe as vacation. It’s work, and it requires an enormous amount of research. As he’s spent so much time in cities and on trains, he hasn’t really made time to engage intimately with Europe’s natural areas.
That changed recently, when he hiked a 60-mile route in the Chamonix region of the Alps with a group of friends. They walked up to 12 miles each day, covering thousands of feet of elevation gain. How did he manage it, just a few years from his 70th birthday? Lots of stretching, proper pacing and the promise of French cuisine at the finish line.
Steves is evolving on his own — for the first time, you can find hiking trails on his website — but he’s also reacting to shifts in tourism. He told Outside: “People have done the sightseeing and the Eurail trips, and they want to do something more active.”
Steves’ discovery sets a nice marker for a new goal at the beginning of this year: get in shape for Europe. You’ve tried just about every other motivation for getting in shape, why not zero in on a very specific approach? Hitting the elliptical now will help you hit the Tuscan foothills and Spanish Steps (why choose?) a little easier this spring.