I'm sharing my travel experiences, candid opinions and what's on my mind. If you think it's inappropriate for a travel writer to stir up discussion on his blog with political observations and insights gained from traveling abroad, you may not want to read any further. — Rick

Oradour-sur-Glane, France: Remember.

For decades, I’ve gathered impressions about Europe’s experience with fascism in my travels. Like many of you, I have stood amid the physical remains of that dark period — the Anne Frank House, the WWII Normandy American Cemetery, the Valley of the Fallen — and I’ve been deeply moved.

Oradour-sur-Glane, France

The powerful narratives behind these sights were the inspiration for my new one-hour special, “The Story of Fascism in Europe,” airing now on public television (check your local listings) and streaming for free online. In the special, I travel back a century to learn how fascism rose and then fell in Europe, taking millions of people with it.

I was struck today by an article on Daily Kos. In the article, Ernest Bass shares his thoughts on my special and describes some of the lessons he’s learned in his own travels — including a stunning and sobering visit to one of the most moving Nazi sights in all of Europe: Oradour-sur-Glane.

In 1944, Nazi SS troops entered the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane and, with cool attention to detail, methodically rounded up all 642 townspeople. The women and children were herded into the town church, where they were tear-gassed and machine-gunned. Plaques mark the place where the town’s men were gathered and executed. Ultimately, the whole town was set on fire, leaving 642 victims under a silent blanket of ashes.

The ghost town of Oradour-sur-Glane has been left untouched for more than 70 years, its scorched sewing machines, pots, pans, bikes, and cars preserved as an eternal reminder of the reality of war. Visitors are greeted by a simple sign with just one word: Remember.

As history continues to unfold around us today, it’s important to acknowledge that freedom and democracy are not guaranteed. We are all participants, and we are all responsible — and the first step of that responsibility is, simply…to remember.

 

Video: Looking Back at my Response to Governor LePage About Pot

I was traveling through Michigan and North Dakota last week, on a mission to help legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana — and I felt like I was in a parallel universe, where this is still a controversial topic. Back home in Washington State, which voted to legalize six years ago, marijuana is old news. I don’t even bother going to Hempfest anymore. It’s just not the same. There’s nothing sexy about pot. Grandma’s rubbing it on her elbow.

Meanwhile, regressive politicians elsewhere are still mouthing the same “Reefer Madness” propaganda, as they fall farther and farther behind the public’s sensibility about the prohibition on marijuana. In 2016, I enjoyed rebutting drug warriors like Maine Governor Paul LePage, point-per-ridiculous-point — as you can see in this clip. And last week, I was doing the same in Michigan and North Dakota.

 

 

(By the way, Maine rejected LePage’s ideas…and legalized marijuana.)

 

 

Barnstorming My Way Through North Dakota and Michigan

Photo via the Forum News Service.

What am I doing toting my hemp bag through Fargo, North Dakota? Helping that state realize that our wrongheaded laws against marijuana are causing more harm to our society than the plant those laws were designed to protect us from.

 

rick steves holding a "yes on 3" pamphlet in front of a bronze statue that is of a newspaper boy who is hollering and holding a newspaper that has the word "TRUTH" written on it very largely

 

I spent last week in North Dakota and Michigan, barnstorming for campaigns to legalize marijuana — just as I did in 2012 in Washington State, in 2014 in Oregon, in 2016 in Massachusetts and Maine, and earlier this year in D.C., Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Vermont. And just like usual, I was met with opposition by what I call the “PPP,” or “Pot Prohibition Profiteers”: corporations that make money when pot is kept illegal (pharmaceutical companies, big beer conglomerates, and so on). They help fund campaigns that have goofy names (“Healthy and Productive Michigan”) and share messages that confuse and deceive voters.

 

anti-rick steves michigan ad marijuana

 

Even the name “Healthy and Productive Michigan” is deceptive, as it implies that states that legalize are less healthy and less productive — which makes no sense, when you consider that Washington and Colorado have two of the hottest economies in the USA. The group also claimed, dishonestly, that I’m representing the “Big Marijuana” industry. That’s simply a lie. I’m traveling on my own dime and promoting civil liberties, the end of a failed prohibition, and a non-racist public safety approach to drug policy. (I am no friend of “Big Marijuana.”)

And if you’re not convinced by the eight states that are happy they legalized marijuana for human beings…you can always point to the dogs and cats that might get high eating their owners’ edibles as a justification for locking up poor people and people of color for nonviolent marijuana possession “crimes.”

 

ad that says "I care for animals. I will vote no on legalizing recreational marijuana" and a boy is holding a dog

 

Video: Road-Tripping Through the Upper Midwest to Help Legalize, Tax, and Regulate Recreational Marijuana

I just spent a week in Michigan and North Dakota, advocating for the end of the expensive, racist, and counter-productive prohibition on marijuana.

Back in 2012, we voted to legalize recreational marijuana in Washington State. I’m proud of that vote and what it has meant for social justice, civil liberties, and public safety. And so, every election cycle since then, I’ve gone on a barnstorming tour to help other states end our country’s prohibition on marijuana. In 2014, it was Oregon. In 2016, it was Massachusetts and Maine. This past spring, I traveled to D.C., Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Vermont. And last week, I headed to the Upper Midwest.

I met a lot of good people in Michigan and North Dakota, and I worked very hard to share with them what we’ve learned in the six years since we legalized the adult recreational use of marijuana in Colorado and Washington State. In 2012, the governors of both of those states opposed the bills to legalize marijuana — but today, after six years of legal sales, both states are doing great, and those same governors (Hickenlooper and Inslee) support the laws. And that’s because we now have a track record. The numbers are in: When you legalize marijuana smartly, adult use stays roughly the same, teen use does not go up, DUIs do not go up, and crime does not go up. What does go up are civil liberties and tax revenue. In Washington State, we no longer arrest 10,000 pot smokers a year. And a billion dollars a year in illegal sales is now a billion dollars a year in legal sales — generating over $300 million a year for Washington State to use for education, health care, and drug treatment programs.  

My hope is that this November, the people of Michigan and North Dakota will see the sense in taking crime out of the equation and vote to end prohibition. It’s time to get smart on drug policy.

Keep on Travelin’: Celebrating Travel Joy with Tattoos

Last year in Milwaukee, I had an unforgettable experience. I had just given a talk to an energetic and positive crowd at the Pabst Theater, and I was enjoying a fun atmosphere of pandemonium in the lobby. It’s always a thrill to meet happy travelers — but this was a first: Three women greeted me with brand-new tattoos that shared the message to “Keep on Travelin’.”

 

rick steves selfie with three people who have "keep on travelin" tattooed on their arms

 

And recently I heard from another tattooed traveler. Annie, who owns the Little Annie Motel Tattoo Parlor in Los Angeles, just finished up a six-week trip to Europe — and she was celebrating her travel joy with a new tattoo, which she shared with me in this photo.

 

 

What about you? Have you ever gotten a tattoo on the road, or do you have any tattoos that celebrate your love of travel? Let me know in the comments here, on Facebook, or on Twitter.