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The Family Who Doesn’t Understand

Several times on the never-ending book tour, people came up to me with multiple copies of my book for signing. “My family doesn't understand me,” they said, “So I'm giving them your book.”

"Thanks," I always said ... although I worried a little about signing books for people who didn't necessarily want them. I learned to invent a specific inscription for these copies:

"To Barbara: I'm not sure you'll like this book, but your daughter isn't crazy."

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Contentment in Five Short Stories

In Northern Thailand I sit in the Udon Thani airport eating a custard pastry. It costs 20 baht (60 cents). Along with a cup of coffee ($1.10), it is my joy. I sit across from the Dairy Queen—hugely popular in this part of Asia—and reflect on my day. Getting here required a bit of soft adventure. In this case I paid $3 for a 30-minute tuk tuk ride from Vientiane, Laos to the Thai–Laos border, then $6 from the border to Udon Thani airport, another 30 kilometers away.

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Business Secrets from a Cambodian Tuk-Tuk

In Phnom Penh, Cambodia I met Mr. Rhet, who held up a copy of my book to greet me at the arrivals area. Mr. Rhet, also known as Rhett or just Ret, is a professional tuk-tuk driver. The open-air taxis of Southeast Asia, tuk-tuks serve as an interesting introduction to life in the region, and I've had both good and bad experiences with them. In Cambodia last weekend (and plenty of other places), all was well in tuk-tuk land, and I felt safe using them as my primary means of transport. In fact, I enjoyed my time with Mr. Rhet so much that I decided to learn more about the whole tuk-tuk industry.

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Worth Living For

When I was a kid, I sat in the back of a lot of dramatic, late-night church services. Often the preacher or evangelist would tell a story about our fellow Christians in Russia, China, or Cuba (communist countries were seemingly interchangeable) being surrounded by soldiers in a church and forced to recant their faith or risk execution. No matter the details, the story was always followed with a challenge: “Would you be willing to die for your faith?”

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Departure Morning

Once the bags are packed, a lot of decisions have already been made. The night before, you had to think through what to pack and what to leave behind. The morning of departure, you check again and again for the essentials: passport, wallet, journal, tickets, bus fare. Your itinerary, chosen from among countless options, is at least partially settled by now. You're going to _____, and as far as you're concerned, all of _____ is waiting for you. The road ahead may not be easy, but you have already overcome one big challenge as you carry those bags out the door.

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Kind of a Big Deal

In Austin yesterday I met Jodi, who was attending the panel I co-presented with Jonathan Fields. Jodi talked about recently taking her first trip abroad, to Europe. Some active travelers might say a trip like that is “no big deal”—but I understood exactly why she was excited. When you've never left home, your first destination is most definitely a big deal.

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Not Realistic

Realistic is the adjective of cynics. Wherever you encounter skeptics, naysayers, and charlatans, you will always encounter this word. I'm not saying it's a bad word, that there's no logic to it, or that it's completely irrelevant. I'm just saying... who cares whether something is realistic or not? You might as well leave this word to the cynics—let them have it. Let them own it. It won't do you any good anyway. Realistic is used to do two things simultaneously: one, to criticize. Two, to justify.

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Homecoming and the Adventure Detox

After your big adventure, you're looking forward to the homecoming. The adventure was fun and challenging, but toward the end you're ready for something familiar. You find yourself daydreaming of friends, family, and the comforts of home. Then the big day finally arrives, when you say farewell to _____, your base of foreign surroundings for some time.When you return, people are happy to see you, and you're happy to see them ...

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For the Love of Airports

There are those who say that airports are all the same; that travel has become standardized and sterilized. This view holds that airports exist merely to take passengers from one place to another, and that “real” travel begins only when you leave the terminal. That's one way to think of it. Another way is to embrace airports as a travel experience all on their own. An airport begins, continues, or ends a journey.

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