The Blog

12 Days in the Alps and Lots of My Way Fun

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

I absolutely love our My Way Alpine Europe Tour itinerary. Imagine enjoying the Alps in Austria, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and France -- all in 12 memory-packed days. (While My Way tours are officially un-guided, I took some liberties with the group I led this summer and threw in a few extras.)

I enjoyed surprising our group with fun ad-lib stops during our driving days. (The tour is designed to be a series of two-night stands, alternating between driving days with stops and days where we're set up and free to explore on our own.) We took a group shot at my favorite ruined castle with its new suspension bridge (Ehrenberg Castle, near Reutte in Austria's Tirol, just a few minutes over the German border from Neuschwanstein Castle).

Our Alpine Europe Tour group came ready to hike. Here we climbed to the hill-capping ruined castle of Ehrenberg. Trish and I snuck up bottles of beer and pop to surprise the group with a little party at the top. I "discovered" these castle ruins as a teenager. Ehrenberg was one of my original Back Doors, which I collected for the first edition of my first book, Europe Through the Back Door (in 1980). Back then, I never dreamed I'd be coming here with busloads of travelers. It's always a treat to show off my favorite little spots in Europe, and I'm thankful that my team of guides are just as enthusiastic as I am when it comes to sharing with their Rick Steves tour groups the countless magic moments Europe has to offer.

As the leader of our tour, I got to decide which of the summer luge rides we'd go on. They only run when the weather's dry. On this day, the sky was heavy with clouds loaded and ready to dump -- but we managed to get our luge rides in. Here's Trish barreling to the finish line -- huge smile blocked by her iPhone. By the way, Trish -- who took the photos in this post -- has her own blog, and is reporting on this tour from her perspective. For Trish's take on our My Way Alpine Europe experience, visit The Travelphile.

We rode the Biberwier luge ride (just outside of Lermoos, on the Austrian side of the Zugspitze). It's a fast one, and I always make a very strong point that you need to keep your limbs in tight, hold on to your stick, and be careful. Still, the thrill of the luge sometimes tempts kids-at-heart to go too fast. One man on our tour ended up with a very painful souvenir. What did he do upon finishing that tragic ride? He rode the lift up to do it again.

I am really nervous when leading a group through the Alps, because you can be seriously disappointed by bad weather. On this 12-day trip, we had about three rainy days. While the rain dampened our clothes, it didn't dampen our spirits. Here we are in Chamonix -- at the statue of the men who first climbed Mont Blanc back in 1786 -- looking up toward Europe's highest peak and seeing only clouds. The next morning, the sun came out...and so did Mont Blanc.

Leading a tour is more fun with a fun-loving group. And, because of the way we promote our tours, fun travelers are what we get. As I always tell my groups, "You're the most wonderful group of travelers I've had the privilege to lead." We really did have a wonderful group, with a wide range of ages and styles. Together, we were a lot like a family on the road.

My favorite kind of group shot is a group selfie. Twenty happy travelers can pack a lot of joy into one frame -- especially after having spent 12 days enjoying a Rick Steves tour itinerary covering the best of the Alps. Happy travels to each of my friends on our tour, and thanks for traveling with us.

The day after our tour finished, I found myself alone again (singing that old Gilbert O'Sullivan song...naturally). I was in Amsterdam, wearing my guidebook researcher hat. For me, it's rejuvenating to alternate responsibilities while working on the road. I normally toggle from guidebook research to TV production. This year, I'm adding tour guiding to the mix. I thoroughly enjoyed leading our group -- and am already looking forward to guiding our Best of Europe in 21 Days Tour in two short months. But for now, it's just me, the latest edition of my guidebook, and a list of things to check each day. Thanks for traveling with me.

This is Day 67 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I'm reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Vienna, the Alps, the Low Countries, England, and beyond. Find more on my travel blog.