Video: Rick Steves’ 1990 Report on Terrorism — Still Relevant Today

I recently found this video of a talk I gave 27 years ago, with my two-minute, circa-1990 take on terrorism. While the eyeglasses may be dated, the message is timeless: Keep things in perspective, don’t turn a small terrorist event into a big one by overreacting, and keep on travelin’. The differences between then and now: More people were being killed by terrorists in the 1980s than in the 2010s; back then, only 8,000 Americans were victims of gun-related homicides annually, while now that figure is closer to 13,000; and today we have sensationalistic, fear-mongering 24/7 commercial news working overtime to keep us on edge.

Earlier today, I was being interviewed on a radio station that needed to cut away for breaking news: In a breathless voice, the announcer reported, “In London, pedestrians have been mowed down by a car and a masked man with a big knife is inside of Parliament. Stand by for more news as it breaks.” With only that information, it was easy to imagine unspeakable carnage unfolding in the House of Commons. The reality — while undoubtedly tragic — is turning out to be much less dramatic, as the police quickly took control of the situation.

There has long been terrorism, and there always will be terrorism. I like to say, “Terrorism is the new normal.” But as this video shows, it’s far from new. And something else that hasn’t changed: If our reaction to these events is exaggerated, we’re still richly rewarding the terrorists for their actions.

In my experience, the most fearful people are those who don’t get out much. But the flipside of fear is understanding — and we gain understanding when we travel.  As you watch this vintage clip, please remember: The best way to stay safe is to keep on traveling — and striving to better understand and better fit into our beautiful world.


14 Replies to “Video: Rick Steves’ 1990 Report on Terrorism — Still Relevant Today”

  1. Thanks for your pragmatic perspective on this topic. All forms of media seem to almost get excited when an act of violence (terrorism or otherwise) occurs. If it bleeds, it leads, I suppose…

  2. Believe me I don’t think any differently planning a trip to another country or planning a trip in the US. This is unfortunately the way the whole world works now. We have an angry relentless population, here and all over the world. In my 60 years I have never seen so many humans who for many reasons have no humanity. And as long as our leaders in America and all over the world keep promoting this mentality it will only get worse. The one thing we do not want to keep doing is isolate ourselves from the world. Whether we are being literally locked in America or locked out that cannot happen.

  3. Totally agree. I am catching bits and pieces of the audiobook ” the book of joy”. There are lots of inferences toward not letting negativity get magnified while positive things are minimized. Recommended to listen/read! The world is what WE make of it. Curious, which station were you on that was interrupted by the breaking news? My girlfriend and I have tickets to your event this sunday, really looking forward to it!

  4. So sad to see that this 27 year old message is still not recognized for the “facts” that they are. When you see the results in your last election “Trumping” the fear, loathing, & isolationism.The irrational popularity of guns in your society is truly horrendous, again, given the facts.

  5. I was on a Rick Steves Best of London tour July 7, 2005. Our group was attempting to board the Underground when the blasts went off. So we were quite close to the terrorist attack. We were planning on following up our Best of London with the Best of Europe tour. It somehow never really occurred to us to cancel our plans and of course the tours went ahead without problems and we all had a tremendously delightful travel experience. My wife and I also had taken along a niece and nephew with us, giving them memories which will last the rest of their lives.

    So should you change your plans because of a possible terror event? No person can or should try to make that decision for you, but you. We did not, but that might not be the best answer for someone else. Then again Rick did stop his tours of Turkey! What does that tell us?

  6. Rick, you are spot on as usual. After living in Europe for four years, traveling extensively throughout England, Germany and France I never felt in fear for my safety. I cannot say that since returning home to the U.S. The civility of the people in Europe is something to be emulated. While in Europe, blend in. Leave your shirts and hats emblazoned with “USA” at home. A friend of mine once pointed out, “You can always tell the American tourists”. “How”, I asked? He said, “they all have trainers (running shoes) on.” Blend in, be comfortable and enjoy. Save your fears for when you touch down here at home.

  7. As a result of the new president’s travel bans Rick’s Turkish tourism colleague has had to cancel a tour for the first time in 28 years. A group of us were to go to Iran in a couple of weeks – a trip that has been in the works for over a year. Iran has understandably declined to grant visas to Americans at this time.
    But, brilliantly, we were offered a trip to Kyrgyzstan instead. Once we found it on a map and learned to spell it we embraced the idea with gusto and today we are eagerly looking forward to 2 weeks in an area it never would have occurred to us to visit.

    Travel on, indeed!! Isolation can’t possibly help us. Let’s get out in the world, make friends and learn from them.

    P.S. Rick can weigh in on this but it is my understanding that Turkey tours were cancelled because no one was signing up for them NOT because of fear on Rick’s side of things.


  8. I travel abroad for business and pleasure about three months a year, and have lived and studied abroad for a dozen years. I’ve visited almost every Muslim country, and lived in three of them. People in all of them were great hosts and very friendly. Your chances of getting hit with a bread truck in an intersection are thousands of times greater than getting hurt in a terrorist attack. If you travel to learn and hear people’s stories, you’ll have a great time. If you go to instruct people why they should be more like you, you won’t. Don’t believe the “everyone is evil except for us” press. So go see as much of the world as you can.

  9. Other than the graying of the temples (don’t we all have that going on..) the message is still relevant. In a way, it’s quite frightening that times haven’t changed. Thanks for sharing and promoting a world where we can all understand each other better.

  10. Totally agree. How sad to let your fears proscribe your life and keep you shivering in your recliner while you flip between Fox and MSNBC. I got a better chance of being hit by a dirigible on my way to the post office than I do getting blown up in Siena.
    Stupid, stupid, stupid. Sad.

  11. If you are too scared to travel, then take a break from the news media and politicians. The news media exaggerates stories and dwells on tragedy because certain events drive ratings, sales, and profitability. It is the same with politicians who disingenuously use fear to demand greater government regulation to “protect” people from foreigners, businesses, other citizens, etc., etc. As a libertarian, I hope that conservatives will understand their desire for greater government protection from foreigners and immigrants is just as wrong as “progressives” desire for greater government protection from businesses and gun owners. You are both wrong. So travel and stop overdosing on the “news.”

  12. “The best way to stay safe is to keep on traveling — and striving to better understand and better fit into our beautiful world.”

    The best way to stay safe is to use a little common sense and learn to practice situational awareness. There are places I would not go to in every American city as there are places I would not go in every European city.

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