Writing my First Guidebook, 1979

In 1979, a little battle was waging in my mind: Should I build a log cabin or write a travel book? I had the wooded lot in the Cascade Mountains, had picked the spot for the cabin, and took a log-cabin building class. I even had a line on the trailer I’d live in while constructing the cabin. But when the reality of peeling and aging logs set in, the competing big project — writing a travel book — won out.

Here’s a peek at the original manuscript of my first guidebook. I wrote it by simply writing out my lectures. (As you can see, I have always been evangelical about packing light!) I sweet-talked my girlfriend into typing it on a rented IBM Selectric, and my college roommate sketched the illustrations with a ball-point pen. Corrections were typed, carefully cut out, and glue-sticked onto the pages. Then I drove the precious bundle of pages to Snohomish Publishing, and — on my 25th birthday — returned to pick up 2,500 bound copies of the first edition of Europe Through the Back Door.

Click to enlarge.


I was so green, I didn’t know to put on an ISBN. And the cover was so simple, people in the media thought the finished product was a pre-publication edition. But it sold. What a long, strange trip it’s been since then!


The first edition of Europe Through the Back Door.

rick steves at piano