Advice from a world traveler to a student: Keep an open mind

Andy Steves gives a book talk about his experiences in Europe at the Barnes and Noble bookstore on Wednesday October 19, 2016. He gives students tips and tricks about flying, avoiding scams and communicating with the locals. (Jason Jiang/The Daily Campus)

Andy Steves gives a book talk about his experiences in Europe at the Barnes and Noble bookstore on Wednesday October 19, 2016. He gives students tips and tricks about flying, avoiding scams and communicating with the locals. (Jason Jiang/The Daily Campus)

World traveler Andy Steves gave students advice on traveling abroad Wednesday night, sharing his experiences from his time in Europe and promoting his latest travel guide at the University of Connecticut Bookstore.

“It’s important to put yourself out there and make connections,” Steves said. “Be flexible and see what’s out there.”

About a dozen students attended, many of whom were preparing for a study abroad trip in their spring semester.

Steves gave tips on various aspects of traveling, including finding inexpensive flights, avoiding scams and experiencing local culture. His latest book, “Andy Steves’ Europe: City-Hopping on a Budget” includes attractions, activities and advice on local cultures.

Steves, the son of travel-guide writing and tour company owner Rick Steves, grew up visiting his father in Europe and helping to create travel guides and giving tours for the business.

While attending the University of Notre Dame in 2008, Steves went on a study abroad trip in Italy, where he learned Italian and connected with the locals. When he returned to the United States, he began planning a travel business venture that launched in 2010.

Weekend Student Adventures Europe offers guided tours and trips to students studying abroad in Europe. Destinations include cities such as Barcelona, Prague and Amsterdam, which he highlighted during the talk.    

Steves emphasized using careful planning and fact-checking to avoid wasting time while traveling.

“Don’t just save your money,” Steves said. “Save your time. Go in with an open understanding of the true costs of your options.”

Some of these ‘true costs’ can include extra time spent on transport, Steves said. The cheapest flight to Amsterdam may actually go to a regional airport that’s hours away from your destination city, he said, meaning that you spend extra time and money on getting to where you need to be.

Since traveling is becoming more popular with the growing middle class of many countries, Steves said, making reservations to popular tourist spots such as the Anne Frank House or the Coliseum can save a traveler time.

Steves recommended several apps as well, such as Hopper, which help travelers find cheap flights, keep track of their bookings and find accommodations. He also warned against tourist traps and locals who may try and overcharge for certain services, emphasizing the importance of experiencing a local culture.

“When you go to a [tourist spot], you’re just a statistic to the people selling there,” Steves said. “I try to find mom and pop stores who care about their quality. If you’ve found a shop where they don’t speak English, you’ve struck gold. That’s a cultural experience right there.”

Steves encouraged students to ‘go with the flow’ and travel with an open mindset. One of his most memorable experiences, he said, was seeing the Tour de France in the Alps with a group of Belgians and Korean travelers, in a spur-of-the-moment decision.

“It’s so rewarding to put yourself out there and make connections,” Steves said. “Test your boundaries and get out of your comfort zone. Embrace these unexpected experiences.”

Hostels, Steves said, are safe and an easy way to meet people as well.

Several students attended the talk in order to prepare for their own trips abroad.

“A lot of stuff he brought up, I didn’t know,” fifth-semester communications major Jess Muller, who will be studying abroad in Florence next semester said.

“We both thought it would be helpful,” Jess Morgan, Muller’s travel partner and a fifth-semester communications major as well said.

Some students came with queries about their upcoming trips.

“I had questions about traveling, and I found this to be really helpful,” Emily Dodson, a third-semester political science major, who has plans to visit Barcelona in the spring. “It’s helpful for people who’ve never traveled before.”

After the talk, Steves talked with students and signed copies of his book.

Despite the rising cost of tuition and school charges, Steves said that traveling is important for students to broaden their horizons and learn new things, even in an information-laden world.

“It’s so important not to be a passive consumer of news,” he said. “...go out and experience culture. There’s so many ways we can learn… and experience the differences. It’s a great way to get a new perspective on yourself and look at your culture and language in a new [way].”


Marlese Lessing is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at marlese.lessing@uconn.edu. She tweets @marlese_lessing.