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Andy Steves creates travel site

Kaitlynn Riely | Friday, February 20, 2009

Rick Steves has earned the following of Europe-bound budget travelers with his series of guidebooks, audio guides and television shows. His son, Andy, hopes to capture another market – the college student studying abroad and traveling in Europe.

Andy Steves, a senior at Notre Dame, launched the Web site www.andysteves.com last fall. The site showcases pictures and blog posts from Steves’ travels, as well as travel tips from Steves, who has been to Europe 23 times.

Visitors to the site can download 18 itineraries for free. Steves said these are meant to act as supplements for Rick Steves-type guidebooks. The one-to-two page itineraries offer tips on transportation options, where to eat and sleep for cheap and where to find the best nightlife destinations. Most of the itineraries are geared for weekend trips.

Want to spend a few days in Dublin? Steves recommends taking discount airlines RyanAir or AerLingus. Stay at Paddy’s Palace hostel and take advantage of their free airport shuttle service.

Steves wasn’t impressed with Irish food: “FYI, black pudding is fried blood. Just a heads up,” he writes on the itinerary. Walk 20 minutes from the city center to the Guinness Brewery, and “have a pint of the black stuff” in its Gravity Bar. The Irish Museum of Modern Art is worth seeing too, he writes.

And if students are in search of enjoyment, they should head to the Temple Bar area.

Steves said the site is meant to be a collaborative effort. He wants students who have spent time in European cities to e-mail him with tips on places to grab lunch or hostels at which students can stay.

Growing up as the son of a well-known European travel guide writer, Steves spent every summer touring the continent. But when he was younger, he didn’t enjoy the experience.

“When you’re just 12 or 13 years old, you are missing all of your friends’ birthdays going on back home, and the field days when we’d leave school a week early,” he said.

But looking back, all that travel experience was really “a blessing in disguise.”

“I didn’t realize how unique it was,” he said. “It was just something I did very summer.”

He went to Europe without his parents for the first time after he graduated from high school. Along with his best friend, he traveled the continent, stopping in cities like Amsterdam, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Nice, Switzerland, Rome, Sicily and Florence.

It was an experience that turned him into an enthusiastic world traveler.

“It just opened up a completely new continent to me, because you could do what you want, you could see what you wanted when you wanted to do it,” he said.

During the spring semester of his junior year, Steves, an industrial design and Italian major, went to Rome. He bookended his semester with 10 days in Prague, followed by a week on a 40-foot sailboat with five friends in Greece, a week in Istanbul and trips to Switzerland and Dublin.

During his semester in Rome, he realized there was not much advice available for college students about how to find food and lodging to fit a college budget.

“I realized at least half [the Notre Dame students in Rome] had brand new passports, never once used, so it was their first time abroad, let alone out of the country in several instances, so they would come to me and ask advice about how to get to different places,” he said. “I saw a huge void where there’s no information geared specifically to the college student abroad.”

Steves has posted itineraries, blog entries and photos for cities including Rome, Paris, Stockholm, Milan and London. He’s working on creating a forum for visitors to discuss their travel experiences and trade questions and advice. He also has a Facebook group to draw attention to the site.

When students study abroad, they have a limited number of weekends in which to visit other places in Europe, Steves said.

“Every weekend is an opportunity, but also there is a lot of pressure to make the most of your time everywhere,” he said.

The pictures and descriptions of activities to do and sights to see should help college students decide which destinations to visit while in Europe.

The site won the Colombo Award, which is granted to “outstanding person in the tourist sector” by an Italian tourism association earlier this year. Steves has been in contact with Notre Dame’s International Studies office, as well as programs at colleges around the country, to promote his site.

Everything on the site is free, but Steves is exploring business opportunities to expand the itineraries into tour packages for college students.

Traveling is something that has been a part of Steves’ life from the start, he said, and his philosophy is that traveling opens people up to accepting and respecting other cultures and beliefs.

“With understanding, you decrease the fear of other cultures and other people and other countries,” he said. “Traveling, not just in Europe, but traveling all over the world, is important to understanding these people, and with an understanding that me, a 21-year-old in Iran, a 21-year-old in Japan, and one in Argentina, are all just children of God, people of the earth.”