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Excerpts from Travel as a Political Act

1. Introduction
I enjoyed my most powerful travel experience ever on my first trip overseas. I was a 14-year-old with my parents, visiting relatives in Norway. We were in Oslo's vast Frogner Park — which, then as now, is filled with Gustav Vigeland’s great concrete statues of humans of all ages, shapes, and sizes... More

2. Travel as a Political Act—The American Dream, Bulgarian Dream, Sri Lankan Dream: Celebrate Them All
I fondly remember the confusion I felt when I first met someone who wouldn't trade passports with me. I thought, “I've got more wealth, more freedom, more opportunity than you'll ever have — why wouldn't you want what I've got?” I assumed anyone with half a brain would aspire to the American Dream... More

3. Lessons from the Former Yugoslavia: After the War—Bosnian Hormones and a Shiny New Cemetery
Exploring the city of Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina — with its vibrant humanity and the persistent reminders of its recent and terrible war — was both exhilarating and exhausting... More

4. Europe Unites: Successes and Struggles—European Flesh and the American Prude
Europeans' relatively open relationship with their bodies and with sex is an aspect of the cultural divide that titillates any American traveler to Europe who's window-shopped a magazine kiosk, gone to a beach or park on a sunny day, or channel-surfed broadcast TV late at night... More

5. Resurrection in El Salvador—Under a Corrugated Tin Roof with Beatriz
El Salvador provides the norteamericano with a hot and muggy welcome. After one day, I had settled in quite well. I was speckled with bug bites and accustomed to my frail cold shower, noisy fan, and springy cot. I knew to brush my teeth with bottled water and to put used toilet paper in the waste basket to avoid clogging the toilet. I was ready for some serious education...and I got it... More

6. Denmark: Highly Taxed and Highly Content—Danish "Social-ism" and the Free Rider Problem
Danish society seems to be a finely tuned social internal-combustion engine in a glass box: Highly taxed, highly connected, and highly regulated, with all the gears properly engaged. Their system is a hybrid that, it seems, has evolved as far as socialism can go without violating the necessary fundamentals of capitalism and democracy. It's socialistic...but, with its unique emphasis on society, it's also social-istic... More

7. Turkey and Morocco: Sampling Secular Islam—Turkish Village Insights in Güzelyurt
Güzelyurt, an obscure-to-the-world but proud-of-itself village in central Turkey, teaches me the richness and nobility of rustic village life in the developing world. Students of the world find that, in any country, remote towns and villages can be wonderful classrooms.
Güzelyurt was all decked out on my last visit. I happened to arrive on the day of everybody’s favorite festival: a circumcision party... More

8. Europe: Not "Hard on Drugs" or "Soft on Drugs"...but Smart on Drugs—The Swiss Approach to Hard Drugs
Even as some European countries are liberalizing their approach to marijuana, they draw a clear distinction between "soft" and "hard" drugs. Hard drug abuse — with an estimated two million problem users — is a concern in Europe, just as it is in the US. There is no easy solution. But the pragmatic European approach — based on harm reduction rather than punishment for an immoral act — appears to have had some success... More

9. Mission: Understand Iran—Friday: Let us Pray
Esfahan, Iran’s “second city” with over 3 million people, is a showcase of ancient Persian splendor. One of the finest cities in Islam, and famous for its dazzling blue-tiled domes and romantic bridges, the city is also just plain enjoyable. I’m not surprised that in Iran, this is the number-one honeymoon destination... More


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