This year we took over 16,000 North Americans through Europe on more than 600 tours. But a few years ago, 100 travelers in one year was a goal hard to imagine. Here are a few photos from those days:
I escorted this small group along on a big tour, serving as an unofficial guide within the confines of a typical, 50-person bus tour. Our motto was, “If you feel the urge for an American-style breakfast, beat it to death with a hard roll.” It was during these early trips on mainstream, cheap, big-bus tours that I dreamed up my tour program–it inspired me to start leading my own tours.
In the mid-1970s –while my group was sitting through a waltz concert–I was having a drink in this Viennese cafeteria, thinking that this was lame travel. There’s got to be a more honest and experiential way for Americans to enjoy Europe. It was in moments like these that I compared the potential magic of travel to the standard experience most American tourists were getting. I decided there was a big need for a better option, and I wanted to provide it.
This was one of the first Europe Through the Back Door tours, back when I wore plaid in Europe. The standard breakdown: me and eight women.
For years my entire tour program consisted of me driving a series of minibuses around Europe. Picnics were a big part of our diet.
After leading tours for a few years, it occurred to me that I could take the strategies and skills I employed in leading tours and incorporate them into a guidebook. That way, independent travelers could travel smarter on their own. Glassy-eyed, like a mother embracing a newborn infant, I’m cradling the fourth edition of Europe Through the Back Door–still warm from the press. After three amateurish, self-published editions, this was the first done with a publisher.