Understanding the world through travel

Girl in San Pablo La Laguna, Guatemala. Sean White Photography.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

Rick Steves, the well-known European travel expert, PBS travel host, and best-selling guidebook author, is fond of extolling the social virtues of travel—especially how it offers people a broader perspective on the world.

That broader perspective is the greatest souvenir a traveler can bring back home with them, Steves says.

Last month, Steves spoke about those social virtues and other weighty issues to a packed house at Butler University in Indianapolis as part of WFYI’s Listen Up series. Bread for the World was an event partner.

“It’s people that make your experience vital,” Steves told the audience. “That’s the mark of great travel.”

Steves, a longtime Bread for the World member, has parlayed his love of travel beyond providing expert advice on packing for trips and creating itineraries. He encourages travelers to go beyond their comfort zone and truly experience countries and its people by venturing away from mainstream travel spots.

In doing so, Steves has found “that the world is filled with beautiful people.” But also, that too many people live in poverty and that daily hunger is a reality.

In February, Steves will release a new hour-long special, Hunger and Hope: Lessons from Ethiopia and Guatemala, which explores the issue of extreme poverty and its solutions, such as smart development aid, empowering women, child nutrition, and education.

Steves traveled to the two countries last year and spoke to locals and experts to better understand the challenges and solutions to the vexing problem of extreme poverty.

More than 700 million people remain in extreme poverty—struggling to live on less than $2 a day. But with the help of innovative solutions and smart development aid, world hunger has been cut in half in the last generation.

Steves is an ardent supporter of Bread. Every year, he challenges members to donate money—funds he matches so Bread can better do its works. Bread was also one of 11 organizations to receive a Climate Smart Commitment grant last year from Rick Steves Europe.

Bread will use its grant money to raise awareness of the connection between climate change and hunger and to push policies that address climate change and its impact on people struggling with hunger.

Bread members and donors got a chance to interact with Steves one-on-one during a special reception held after his Butler University appearance.

About 70 people attended the special reception, said Dave Miner, chair of the Bread for the World Indiana Leadership Team. Pictures were taken and people got a chance to speak with Steves directly.

Gail Geisler, who is also a member of the Indiana Leadership Team, said the event at the university “provided an opportunity to connect so many people in our community with Rick’s open-minded approach to thinking about others.”

“Rick is a very compelling speaker,” she added. “He offered a powerful endorsement for the work of Bread.”

Jennifer Gonzalez is the managing editor at Bread for the World.

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