Three hours to go till Turkey. As long as thunderstorms don't ground the plane, I'm gone.
Here's the final (but flexible) itinerary:
- -Turkey till November 5.
- -Lebanon till Nov 20.
- -Mystery Country till December 5.
- -Philippines till Dec 25.
- -South Korea till January 10.
- -Colombia till Jan 20.
- -Venezuela till Feb 5.
- -Mexico till Feb 25.
My editors and I picked these countries because they all have strong, specific ties to the United States, either through their history, foreign policy, or people. They're politically relevant, and different enough from one another (religiously, geographically, politically and culturally) to offer unique angles on America: its Middle East interventions, the effects of labor migrations (Mexico and the Philippines), the impact of the web and pop culture (South Korea and Lebanon), and the critique of American-style capitalism (Venezuela and Mexico). I hope you'll propose many other themes along the way.
I'm reaching out to the best journalists in each country from across the political spectrum, picking their brains for tighter connections to draw between the U.S. and their country. In Turkey, Soli Ozel brought up some obvious ones like the impact of the Armenian Diaspora in America, U.S. arms sales, support for the Kurds, and the Iraq War. Then a young reporter named Afsin Yurdakul also put me in touch with new filmmakers, underground movements, and rockers to check out.
So I narrowed down to the very different cities of Istanbul, Diyarbarkir and Trabzon to visit, along with small towns nearby. And as soon as I arrive I'm meeting a brain trust of bloggers to give me some sense of the word on the street, nooks and crannies to explore, and people to meet. I develop a long list of contacts, pick the most intriguing places to start, and then hit the road.
On the streets, serendipity takes it. One contact leads to the next; a rhythm builds. And soon I get lost to the world -- that's the thrilling part. I'm looking forward to your company, and your thoughts, as I go.
If you want more on my thoughts behind the project, I talk about it here on video, and have a map for you to browse.