The Rick Steves-Altona Connection

Ah, Rick Steves…money belt-sporting, eternally cheerful travel guide. Perhaps you’ve seen him on TV… or you’ve purchased one of his guidebooks. (I highly recommend them!) Andrew and I have enjoyed his show on PBS for quite some time. I mean, how could we not? He’s happy, hilarious, and genuinely helpful. And so, so optimistic!

His speciality is travel to European countries. He’s probably America’s foremost expert on European travel. So here’s the thing: we almost met him! Almost….

When we first started travelling, I remember joking about meeting Rick Steves. “Wouldn’t it be amazing if we bumped into Rick Steves in Europe one day!” Of course, the odds of this are pretty minimal. Even if you knew the exact time and city he’d be in, your odds are slight. But then it happened!

One day back in 2009, Andrew and I were leaving a restaurant in Helsinki, and Andrew suddenly stopped in shock and gasped a few expletives.

Seeing the stunned look on Andrew’s face, I asked in a panic, “What happened? Did you forget your wallet?”

“We just walked by Rick Steves. That was RICK STEVES!”

I quickly turned and saw a glimpse of Rick Steves as he ducked into the very same restaurant we had just emerged from. My goodness, Andrew is amazing at recognizing people.

We went directly to our hotel, and Andrew messaged Rick Steves’ travel website, asking if he was presently in Helsinki.. because we thought we just saw him. You know, just to double check. They responded that, yes, he was currently working in Finland. Well, that confirmed it for us. We were starstruck.

So you can imagine our delight when we stumbled across this post that Rick Steves made on his Facebook page in September 2014:

It takes a village to make a guidebook

Not only is Rick Steves a great guy (and a Lutheran, which is close enough to Mennonite. Ha, ha!), but his books are made by Mennonites in Manitoba!

I’ve heard about Friesen Printers all my life… but didn’t pay much attention until I was working on the yearbook in high school, and we went for a tour to Friesens, to see the printing process in person. Even back in the 90’s, the technology they used was impressive and efficient. I’m guessing they’ve continued to up their game in the time since then.

So, yes, Rick Steves’ guidebooks are printed at Friesens in Altona! I love that so much. And more than that, I love that Friesens presents a quilt to each person that prints a million books with them. A beautiful nod to their Mennonite heritage. And I love that Rick Steves was so appreciative. Just such a cozy situation all around. Thanks, Rick, and thanks, Friesens!