The European Country Rick Steves Would Be Living In If He Couldn't Live In The US

What if you could no longer live in your home country and had to pick another one to call home? It's a fun hypothetical question one might ask of someone at a cocktail party or around the water cooler at work. In the case of legendary longtime travel journalist Rick Steves, he was asked that question at a virtual event held by KCTS 9, a PBS station in Washington state, where the guidebook author and television host lives. Without hesitation, Steves said, "I'd live in Norway."


It makes sense that he'd pick a European country since Steves has been helping travelers pick the best places to visit in Europe since his first guidebook to the continent was published in 1980. But why the Scandinavian country of Norway? "I really like their social sensibilities," Steves told the audience member who asked the question. "And I have Norwegian heritage, so I feel very at home there."

Steves' first encounters with Europe began with family trips to Norway

Steves' first trip to Europe was a family vacation to Norway when he was 14 years old. He didn't want to go. "I was a gangly 14-year-old, dragged to the old country by a conspiracy of grandparents and parents solely to visit strangers who happened to be Norwegian relatives," he wrote in a 2021 article for the Chicago Tribune. "It was teen culture shock: No Fanta. No Hamburgers. Far beyond the reach of my favorite radio station."


After the shock wore off, he began enjoying the new music and new soft drinks, among other things. "Noticing stunning women...with hairy armpits...I began to realize that our world is intriguing and exploring it can be endlessly entertaining."

That first youthful trip occurred in 1969. Other family trips to Norway followed in the ensuing years, with Steves more eager to go, learn about his family history, and take in the rich culture and breathtaking scenery. After graduating high school in 1973, he embarked on his first solo trip to Europe and has been back every year since, exploring every corner of the continent.

Norway stands out to Steves for a few reasons

Aside from Steves' familial roots, Norway stands out to him for a host of other reasons that would make any traveler want to at least visit, if not live there. In his guidebook on Norway via his website, Rick Steves Europe, he calls it "the most mountainous, most scenic, and most prosperous of all the Scandinavian countries ... a land of intense natural beauty." 


Perhaps the most famous of all of Norway's scenic natural attractions are its stunning steep fjords. Carved out by an ancient ice age, the fjords can be explored by car and rail and are also a top cruise destination. In fact, Norway's fjords saw a surge in cruise popularity in 2023, and that trend continues to rise. Plus, Norway is less complicated than other European countries on the language front, especially for English-speaking travelers. "I speak only English," Steves wrote in his Chicago Tribune article. "Of all the places in Europe I've traveled and worked, Norway has been the easiest to communicate." 

Norway sounds like a dream, but is there anything Steves would miss about the United States should he be forced to spend the rest of his life in Scandinavia? "I have to admit I would miss the free-wheeling business atmosphere that entrepreneurs enjoy here in the USA," he told the KCTS 9 crowd at the virtual event in 2020.