This is an amazing story of a man who loved traveling in Europe.

In the past decade, Rick brought his love and experience in travel to the english speaking world in the form of guidebooks, apps, blogposts and much much more.

Bonus: Download this entire post in PDF so you can refer it again any time you like.

About this Site

If you ever travel to Europe and needed a guide book or googled online for travel tips, you'll definitely have come across Rick Steves.

In fact, some people (myself included) swear by Rick and his Europe travel tips, that his guide book is a must have traveling in Europe, since he shows you the nooks and crannies of them.

Rick Steves, currently 60 years old, started his travel business by publishing his guide book Europe Through the Back Door (ETBD) in 1980.

He has since transformed his business beyond just hardcopy guide books, but also free web content, mobile apps, tour groups, railpasses and other travel products.​


~ 1,900,000
Website Views / mth

Facebook Fans

Startup Story

Somewhere in the mid-1970s, Rick was giving talks on Budget Travel Skills at the University of Washington’s Experimental College.

Later on in 1979, he took all his knowledge from his lectures and put together the first edition of "Europe Through the Back Door".​

He took the precious 180 pages of the first edition and a check of $2,400 to Snohomish Publishing.

As with anyone starting out, the cover looked so simple, his book didn't have an ISBN and the book looked like pre-publication edition.

But it SOLD.

Such is the ​adventures of someone embarking on something new.

And that was the origins of Rick Steves, someone we know today to be the ubiquitous standard for Europe travel.

Adaptation to the modern world

Rick has come a long way from his early beginnings.

Even though Rick started his business in the 80s, adapting to the modern world is keenly important.

Since then, some of the noticeable online methods he does include:

  1. A website providing free travel information
  2. Online forum with active participants
  3. Smartphone apps with free audio tours
  4. Social media accounts (Facebook etc)

Now, some of these may seem really obvious and necessary to you given our day and age.

But bear in mind this is a business started in 1980, and Rick is currently 61 (sorry about that, Rick).

So this transition to the modern world is quite a feat in itself!

Free Website Content

Firstly, Rick Steves provides a TON of free information. When googling for travel information in Europe, you'll inevitably come across his pages on rail passes, forums and much more. 

One of the many ways people land on Rick Steve's site (other than word of mouth) is by searching for some travel related questions online.

Such as...

"what railpass should I get in Italy?"

"how do I find train schedules in Spain?"

"what day tours should I go for Madrid?"​

That's where Rick comes in to provide free content like the one below.

Thriving Forum Community

Again, Rick provides value to travelers by maintaining a thriving forum, where travel participants actively contribute to it.

On searching for tips in google, I often come across his forum posts.​

Free Smartphone Audioguide App

Rick also provides a companion audio guide app to Europe. Simply download the free app, and the city/sight pack before you embark on your travel.

I was sitting at the Roman ruins, listening to stories of the Vestal Virgins through this app.​

But if Rick is giving away so much information for FREE, how does he make money?

How it Makes Money


Custom Tours

Other Travel Products

He sells GUIDEBOOKS, remember?

Rick started his business selling guidebooks, and continues on this tradition.

These guidebooks are continually updated with the latest changes, and really entail the nooks and crannies of travel.

I remember that I was in Venice where I was able to avoid the long queue to enter San Marco by leaving my bags at a deposit area at some street - tip provided courtesy of Rick's book.​

Custom Tours - if you trust Rick's advice, wouldn't you trust his TOURS?

Now you may read his books and trust his advice and decide - "heck, why not just hop on to one of his tours instead, if he has one".

And indeed he has, in fact many tours going on.​

Travel Products on his store - if you're traveling, you're going to need travel goods

Again, he caters for travel related products with his travel products like luggages, shoulder bags and other travel related accessories.

Railpasses and other products - other travel conveniences, ties in nicely to his travel advice

He also provides recommendations on how to choose rail passes, which ones make the most sense in each situation.

I often find myself reverting back to his website for such advice, and have gone through his links to arrive at Rail Europe, one of the rail pass providers to get the rail passes (which Rick ties up with).

How It Is Doing

It's really difficult to ascertain how well Rick Steves is doing (other than very, very well), but here goes with a rough assessment based on his website traffic.

1900000 pageviews / mth

That's roughly the number of pageviews gets at the time of writing. This is really incredible!​

And it seems that the main source of traffic are the English speaking countries, predominantly the U.S.

And this doesn't even account for the actual revenue his receives from sale of guidebooks, tours and commission from railpasses.

And I just want to say - who doesn't enjoy traveling? To be able to build a business out of traveling, providing advice to others and making a living out of it sure sounds like fun!

Quote from Rick:

The key to becoming a travel writer is to travel for the love of travel, with lots of sniffing out maximum experiences and writing while on the road. Back home, get your writing out any way you can (for free). Your publicity stunt must be your commitment to smart travel. Impress people with the quality of your work by making it available widely and for free. Eventually, people will pay for your writing. (But keep your day job if you ever want to afford another plane ticket.)

Rick Steves

Love Rick Steves? Like his Facebook Page here:

My Biggest Takeaways...

I've always LOVED Rick Steves as a traveller. For me to read and research more into his startup story, how his passion for travel manifested into a business is nothing short of fascinating.

I also especially love the fact that he was able to keep up with the times, and transform it from a purely hardcopy guidebook business to one that included apps and other mediums, like blog posts, forums.​

Another key takeaway is from Rick's quote itself - to be a travel writer for the love of travel. 

And to impress people for the quality of your work by making it publicly available and for free.

If you enjoyed this story and want to read it again another time, click the download link below to save it to your computer.

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