Rick Steves spent the summer after high school backpacking through Europe on two dollars a day—sleeping on the floor, sneaking into museums, and subsisting on a diet of bread and jam. When he came home, he found people were hungry for tips on how to visit Europe on the cheap, so he began teaching classes, and was soon hawking a self-published guidebook out of his car. Eventually, he started leading minibus tours and hosting a travel show on Public TV, steadily growing his business even though he was giving away most of his content. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, his no-frills approach to travel has persisted as a powerful brand, with 70 guidebooks, an ever-popular travel show, and—in 2019—an annual revenue of $100 million.

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