The title of this article is likely on the minds of the majority of ITN readers. Before launching into this topic, however, I must note that this column is being written in late September 2021, and COVID conditions related to travel, specifically, can change significantly in a short period of time. With that said, here goes.

The first thing I must point out is that some international tour operators and other travel companies began running limited departures during the summer of 2021...

A rustic sauna in a workaday Helsinki neighbor- hood. Photo by Rick Steves

As we’ve had to postpone our travels because of the pandemic, I believe an occasional dose of travel dreaming can be good medicine. Here’s one of my favorite European memories from Finland — a reminder of the fun that awaits us at the other end of this crisis.

I’m in Helsinki, surveying the city from its fanciest rooftop restaurant. The setting sun glints off the cruise ships in the harbor as fish merchants take down...


The island of Iwo Jima wasn’t returned by the United States to Japan until 1968.

Christiania, an experiment in alternative living. Photo by Cameron Hewitt

Strolling through Copenhagen, I come upon a parade: ragtag soldiers-against-conformity dressed in black making their way through the bustling, modern downtown. They walk solemnly behind a WWII vintage truck blasting Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in The Wall.” I’ve never really listened to the words until now.

These “soldiers” are fighting a rising tide of conformity. They want to raise their children to be free spirits, not cogs. Painted onto their...

St. Sulpice’s organ, powering worship with music. Photo by Rick Steves

On Sunday mornings in Paris, I enjoy Mass in St. Sulpice, a church with perhaps Europe’s finest pipe organ. While I’m surrounded by towering vaults, statues of saints, and centuries of tradition, it’s the music that sends me. The spiritual sails of St. Sulpice have been filled for two centuries by its 6,600-pipe organ. Organists from around the world come to Paris just to hear this organ.

As the first Mass of the morning finishes, half the crowd remains seated as the...

The passeggiata, Italy’s ritual evening promenade. Photo by Rick Steves

I am terrible at foreign languages. Despite traveling around Europe four months a year since I was a kid, I can barely put a sentence together anywhere east or south of England. But with some creative communication, I manage just well enough to write guidebooks, produce TV shows, and enjoy Europe on vacation. And nowhere do I have more fun communicating than in Italy.

Because Italians are so outgoing and their language is such fun, interactions are a pleasure. Italians have an...

Guzelyurt (which means “beautiful land”) is a Turkish town that has changed little over the centuries. Photo by Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli

Guzelyurt, in the region of Cappadocia in rural Turkey, is a town that has changed little over the centuries. Exploring it, I hike steeply down into a ravine, winding through a community in the rough — where the chores of daily life seemed stuck in the Middle Ages. Then, climbing up to a hilltop perch marking the end of town, I survey the view and marvel how the honey that holds this architectural baklava together is the community of people who live here — and the traditions they...

Évora’s main square. Photo by Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli

Alentejo is a vast and arid land — the bleak interior of Portugal, where cork seems to be the dominant industry.

The rolling hills are covered with stubby cork trees. With their bark peeled away, they remind me of St. Bartolomeo, the martyr who was skinned alive. Like him, these trees suffer in silence.

The people of Alentejo are uniformly short. They seem to look at tourists with suspicion and are the butt of jokes in this corner of Europe. Libanio, my guide, circles the...