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

Reflections on Notre-Dame

The beloved Notre-Dame is like the needle upon which Paris spins — historically, culturally, geographically, and religiously — and it has been, for eight centuries. It was built by generations of Parisians who dedicated their lives to the project, knowing they would never live to see it finished. Sitting on the sacred ground of the earliest Parisians, upon the ruins of a pagan temple — and having survived wars, revolutions, and other fires through the ages — there’s no doubt it will be repaired and carry on.

This spot, the place of so many burials, coronations, and historic gatherings through the ages, is a part of what it means to be Parisian — and to be French. My hunch is that when travelers visit this church a century from now, its story will be the same, with one little addition: the fire of 2019.

Today, I am celebrating Europe’s commitment to culture — and Europe’s resiliency.


Rick Steves reflects on Notre Dame

Optimism from world renowned Europe expert Rick Steves, who has "no doubt Paris will muster the resources to rebuild the cathedral." He also believes Notre Dame will be just as meaningful 100 years from now as it is today – and this fire will just be "one chapter of that story."

Posted by Will Ripley on Tuesday, April 16, 2019

A Ravine of Your Broken Dreams

I’m in Ethiopia with my crew, filming an upcoming hour-long special called “Ethiopia, Guatemala, Hunger, and Hope” — and I’ve been grateful for the chance to be able to incorporate scenes I’ve always wanted to share. For example, when poverty drives people from the countryside into a big city, they often end up living in ravines that the city considers unsafe. The desperate don’t have the luxury of living a bus ride away from their employment — that would eat up a big chunk of their meager income. So, they inhabit shantytowns in unsafe ravines. One violent rainstorm or mudslide, and their world collapses.

Here in Addis Ababa, I’ve been reflecting on the eerie uniformity that the look of poverty has throughout the world. Culture is stripped away, and it’s just bodies in tattered clothing under corrugated tin. Travel as a political act helps a privileged person be thoughtful — and appreciate.

Ethiopian Coffee?

I’m in Ethiopia, filming an upcoming special called “Ethiopia, Guatemala, Hunger, and Hope” — and I’ve been learning a lot about smart development. Coffee is the biggest export here, but it only generates $700 million a year — not much for a teeming country of 100 million people. Ethiopians would like to add a little value to their coffee by exporting it roasted, but the developed world makes it tough for the developing world to add value. We like our imported materials raw — so we can make the big bucks.

The industrialized world’s aggressive trade policies are part of the structural poverty that keeps what some call the “Two-Thirds World” underdeveloped. It’s thought-provoking — and a good example of travel as a political act.

Mountains of Sugar

We’re halfway through our shoot for an upcoming new special called “Ethiopia, Guatemala, Hunger, and Hope” — and I’ve been thinking about something that people in the developing world have told me: “Globalism is a big train. Get on it or get run over.”

With uniform quality, smart branding, and lots of infrastructure, countries like Guatemala are competing in the global market. And with that, comes development. Join me in this clip as I explore a giant sugar plant, filled with mountains of sugar.

Think About This the Next Time You Put Sugar in Your Cereal

I’m in Guatemala with my crew, filming an upcoming special called “Ethiopia, Guatemala, Hunger, and Hope” — and I’m learning a lot.

Sugar is big here. And it takes infrastructure, like this giant sugarcane mill, to mulch a 24/7 parade of truckloads of sugarcane and process it all into sugar. This is what progress and smart development look like.