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

Video: Sevilla’s Spring Fair

Throughout southern Spain — a region so expert at fiestas and romance — locals greet each spring with a festival for all ages. In Sevilla, much of the city packs into its vast fairgrounds each spring for seven days of dancing, drinking, and socializing. The horses are nearly as dressed up as the people, a springtime flirtatiousness fills the air, and travelers are more than welcome to join in the fun.

In this clip from my new, one-hour Rick Steves’ European Festivals public television special, I explore the fair with my friend Concepción.

Want to be there, too? Start planning your trip now with my Rick Steves Spain 2018 guidebook.

Video: A Musical Tour Through Norway

Travel inspires musicians like Brian Kinler to compose.

Brian recently sent me a clip of music and photography he put together after traveling through Norway with my Scandinavia guidebook. Take four minutes and enjoy his musical tour. If you’ve been to Oslo and done the Norway in a Nutshell trip over the mountains and up the fjords to Bergen, this will rekindle all that travel joy for you. And it ends with a gut-wrenching finale atop Pulpit Rock. No words are necessary, as Brian’s video and music bring Norway home.

Has travel inspired you to create music or poetry? I would love to see it.

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Video: The World’s Most Insane Horse Race — Siena’s Palio

The Tuscan hill town of Siena is known both for its pride and for its independent attitude. And for five centuries, that spirit has shown itself in a crazy horse race — the Palio. Twice every summer, the entire community of Siena hurls itself into the traditional revelry of the event with abandon. In this clip from my new, one-hour Rick Steves’ European Festivals public television special, we get right into the thick of it all.

Want to check out the Palio in person? My Rick Steves Italy 2018 guidebook just hit the shelves.

Thoughts About My Immigrant Heritage

As a Norwegian American, Trump’s latest racist comments have got me thinking about my immigrant heritage. Sure, he would welcome Norwegians now — they’re about the whitest and richest people on the planet. But it wasn’t always that way. My great-grandparents immigrated to the USA from Norway back when it (except for the color of its people) was what our president would call a “shithole.”

My great-grandmother Amanda left Norway over a century ago because it was a miserable place to live…a land without promise. About the only thing I remember of Granny Amanda was that, because I had red hair like hers, she’d always put her arm around me and brag about me having “good stock,” and my other relatives would laugh.

Baby Rick Steves

On a recent trip to New York City, I visited Ellis Island, where I was inspired by the stories of tired and huddled masses finding refuge in the United States. I looked up another of my Norwegian relatives in their database: According to a ship’s register, exactly a hundred years ago John Romstad landed with a buddy, bound for Duluth, with $20 in their pockets. Anyone considering Duluth the Promised Land (with a net worth of $20) must have come from a pretty hopeless place.

These Steves ancestors left their homeland to escape and came to America because they wanted to work hard and contribute in a land of opportunity and justice. They toiled long and hard, as immigrants do, and two generations later I am as American as can be.

I recently learned that, a century ago, immigration to our country was based on the concept of “good stock.” The racist term my great-grandmother used to describe me was the term used to describe those coming from an acceptable heritage. That law was changed in the 1960s and today — true to our ideals (sorry, Granny Amanda) — we no longer consider good and bad “stock” when it comes to immigration. (Our president didn’t get that memo.)

It takes gumption to pick up and immigrate to a new country. And, in America, it takes hard work and character to succeed and become established. As a society of immigrants, we can shape our future. It can be angry, fearful, and white — hunkered down behind tariffs and walls, squinting at globalization as if squinting at bad weather. Or it can be open, positive, celebrating diversity, and embracing (rather than fighting) the reality of a global, integrated, and interconnected world. Our future can be determined by bully bargains, zero-sum calculations, and “me first” policies. Or it can be about sharing, caring, and win-win solutions. If our national direction is inspired by our president, we’re heading in a sorry direction. Thankfully, I believe America is more American than that — and that we’re waking up.

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Trip Planning? Follow the Fun and Head to a Festival

It’s winter — my favorite time for travel dreaming!

Video: thetravelphile.com

If you’re still deciding on your next destination, here’s a tip: Find a great local festival and build your trip around that. Festivals are filled with rich tradition, great food, and lots of fun with the locals.

While it can be hard to get tickets for some festivals, most are widely accessible. For the Highland Games, Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls, Bastille Day in Paris, or Munich’s Oktoberfest, your biggest challenge is booking a hotel room well in advance.

I take you along to all of my favorite festivals in my new Rick Steves’ European Festivals book — and once you have your destination pinned down, be sure to grab a 2018 guidebook.

Happy travels!

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