Thirty-five years ago, we licked the stamps, mailed out our first travel newsletter, and began the process of creating a community of travelers. It was 1982 — there was no Internet (or even fax machines), and travelers communicated with loved ones via “aerogram.”
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Back then, we had a few hundred people on our mailing list, we had published only one book, and we took about 50 travelers a year on tours (eight at a time, on a minibus with me behind the wheel). Now, we’re closing in on a half-million Facebook fans, we’ve published well over 50 guidebook titles, and over a hundred guides lead 22,000 travelers on Rick Steves’ Europe Tours every year.
In 1982, I was a piano teacher. I used my recital hall, Steves Studios, to share travel tips with 50 people at a time in my “World Travelers’ Slide Club.” Now we produce a weekly public radio show (Travel with Rick Steves) that airs on 400 stations across the country. We just produced show #498, and we’ve never charged a station a penny for the program. It is, in spirit, the direct descendant of the World Travelers’ Slide Club.
When I dropped these first newsletters into the mailbox, I never could have envisioned how, over the years, employing great people and embracing technology would so drastically expand our reach. But one thing hasn’t changed in 35 years: We still teach Americans to travel smartly — enjoying, as I liked to say even back then, “maximum experience for every mile, minute, and dollar.”