Here I am, the stoner in question, ironically not stoned, at the Blarney Stone in Ireland in 2008. (Photo courtesy of myself)

My name is Sara and I smoke pot.

Ahh. I feel so much better.

And if Initiative 502 passes next month, there’s going to be a lot more people coming out of their smoky closets.

Our state looks to be on the verge of legalizing pot for recreational use, so it’s about time we start to talk about it openly and work out whatever anxiety we have around this wacky weed.

There’s a lot we can learn from places in the world where marijuana looks different than the lazy-teenager-sinking-into-a-couch image it has in the U.S.

From the shores of the Indian Ocean to the long sunset on the Irish horizon, I’ve compiled stories of pot-infused travel from friends, colleagues and my personal experience.

Names have been changed to protect sources from the social stigma and even more serious repercussions.

So be forewarned reader, this is not your grandmother’s travel guide. (…but it might be for your really cool aunt who you know laces her cigs with pot.)

I spent my first night in Kazakhstan at a punk show in the hills surrounding the capital, Almaty.

There were 22’s of local beer, calf tattoos, bikes, a guy named “Joy” bragging about his small family farm and French Screamo music. It could have been a late summer evening in Seattle – well, minus the presence of heavily bribed park guards and bored-looking horses.


Globalist video on Zhanaozen shooting and interview with survivors. Contains graphic imagery.

It could have been Olympia.

Audio/Visual Postcard by Jessica Partnow, Sarah Stuteville and Alex Stonehill

Zombie Fest could have taken place in a sunny mountain meadow somewhere in the Northwest. It just so happened it was in Kazakhstan.

But that didn’t change the homebrew hairstyles and patched jean jackets, the unhinged, angsty music, or the enthusiastic welcome we got showing up as total strangers asking questions about music, life and politics.

It did mean it was harder to communicate across an English/Russian/Kazakh language barrier.

But when it comes to Screamo, I don’t think you’re supposed to be able to understand the words anyways.

The iconic sign welcoming visitors to Portland. Globalist writer Simona Trakiyska explores this northwest city with a global perspective. (Photo by Sara Stogner)

For those bitten by an international travel bug but stuck with a modest budget, a weekend trip to Portland could be the cure.

Some may call it a city with a laid-back pace, but in reality Portland pushes its guests to be open to new adventures from savory Thai dishes to the Japanese Gardens.

The first pick for my group of friends was to have dinner at a Thai restaurant called Pok Pok, rated one of the top three places to dine on Yelp. However, the wait time was two hours, so we opted for our second choice, another Thai restaurant, called Khun Pic’s Bahn.

(Photo by Rachel Alexander)

The illegal border crossing from Mexico to the U.S. can be dangerous, expensive and terrifying for thousands of Mexicans walking across the Arizona desert each year. Facing possible sexual assault and death from dehydration, the most devastating turn comes when they are picked up by border patrol and sent back over the border. Rachel Alexander reports from Mexico in a small border town where deportees wait in limbo.

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Deric Gruen poses with a fan during a stint with Lebanon’s pro-am basketball league. (Photo courtesy of Deric Gruen)

As the Seattle city council ponders a vote approving bonds for a new arena that could bring back men’s professional basketball, the summer Olympics proved the game’s popularity is still growing quickly overseas.

The U.S. men’s basketball team sped past Spain for a gold medal in the summer Olympics, but other countries showed burgeoning strength. Between the Olympic games and overseas leagues and tournaments, international basketball serves as both a professional and cultural landing pad for Seattle-area players and a recruiting pool for U.S. teams.

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(Photo by Bhamati Sivapalan)

Chandni Gautam, above, is one of the first of her kind; a female cab driver in India. Gautam works for a company employing and training women to become cab drivers and chauffeurs. But the job is about more than getting a license. It means going to work in openly hostile field, where road rage, physical threats and sexual violence are often sparked by the sight of a woman behind the wheel. 

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Mendhi, Ramadan, South Asian, henna, Eid
Girls showing off their henna’d hands, a South Asian tradition for Eid, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan. (Photo by Daaniya Iyaz)

The scent of home-cooked food at three in the morning and the calm of utter silence as hundreds of people stand together in prayer can only mean one thing: it’s Ramadan.

In my mosque, people from Egypt, Tanzania, Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia, Denmark and countless other countries come together to commemorate this blessed month. While we may all speak different languages, our sole intention during Ramadan is the same: to come closer to God.

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Wild bears are kept in Syrian ‘zoos’ where they can be bought and transported in the exotic animal trade. (Photo courtesy of Animals Lebanon)

Grey parrots and vervet monkeys mingle with cats, dogs and hamsters in many of Lebanon’s pet shops, but if you want the really exciting animals, you have to ask behind the counter.

Lions, panthers and bears—in fact many of the mascots from the American sports franchises—are just a few of the animals you can buy here.

One pet store in Beirut—whose owner requested anonymity for fear of protests from animal rights groups—offers a chance at owning your own piece of the wild. The owner received a degree in veterinarian studies in Russia and, unlike many pet stores here, the six dogs strategically placed in the window are clean, healthy and vaccinated.

But these aren’t the only animals he sells. He can get you lion and bear cubs, leopards, even a baby crocodile. Sitting behind a tidy desk surrounded by bags of pet food, he describes the process of how a wild animal is ordered and smuggled into Lebanon.

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Brandi Finn, a student at Seattle Central Community College, hands out signs for the Student Debt Noise Brigade, a weekly protest of tuition increases at Seattle Central Community College. (Photo by Hallie Golden)

When students in Quebec heard earlier this summer that the government planned to raise college tuition by 75%, hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Montreal in massive protests.

If the increases go through, their tuition will be almost $4,000 per year.

University of Washington students, on the other hand, may soon be paying more than $20,000 per year, if the trend of tuition hikes over the past four years continues.

But throughout these yearly increases, protests with more than a couple hundred UW students have been all but unheard of.

Similar economic stresses and budget cuts have affected college students around the globe. The difference is how they are handling these changes.

As student protests have erupted from Chile to Canada, US college students have barely made a peep.

So why is it that the youth outside of this country seem determined and able to have their voices heard by those in power, while most in the US do not?

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vintage TWA airline timetable
Traveling While Arab can mean a whole different timetable. (Photo by Jeremy Keith via Flickr)

I waited too long to book a flight home to visit my family in Amman to be picky about my flights. The only option under $2000 was a four hour layover at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

The price and timing was fine.

The racial profiling and accusation that I might be a terrorist was not.

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Mourners cry outside the scene of a mass shooting at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. The shooter used a legally purchased 9mm handgun in the rampage. (Photo from REUTERS/John Gress)
Mourners cry outside the scene of a mass shooting at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. The shooter used a legally purchased 9mm handgun in the rampage. (Photo from REUTERS/John Gress)

Gun violence is an unfortunate and irrefutable part of American culture.

An American my age can almost mark years of their life by instances of extreme violence committed by armed nutcases, from Waco, to Columbine High School, to the DC Sniper, to Virginia Tech, to Tucson, to last month in Aurora, Colorado, and the shootings just yesterday at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

And of course, gun violence has taken its toll on Seattle, my former home, with the shootings at Café Racer in May.

I say my former home because, after growing up in the Northwest and living in Seattle for over 10 years, my partner and I immigrated to New Zealand two years ago.

And we are currently going through the process of legally obtaining firearms in New Zealand.

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import goods from China, import export, wholesale
Istanbul Imports is having a “closing” sale in preparation for a renovation that will close the store for the entire month of August and give the store the vibe of a Turkish bistro. (Photo by Allison Int-Hout)

With import stores across the country struggling with changing regulations and growing transportation costs, it’s easy to guess why Istanbul Imports in downtown Fremont might have a huge “STORE CLOSING” sign hanging above the door.

But the savvy import shopper might be surprised to find out that, unlike what the signs outside suggest, the owners aren’t throwing in the towel.

They’re expanding.

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Pago Pago, on the island of Tutuila, is the capital of American Samoa. The volcanic island chain is in the South Pacific and has a similar climate to Hawaii. (Photo from NOAA via Flickr)

Imagine being born in a country where you can work, travel freely and even join the military, but you’re not considered a citizen.

That’s the situation facing 56,000 residents of American Samoa, the only one of 14 US territories that does not allow an easy path to citizenship for people who move to the mainland US.

If you flipped open to the back page of an American Samoan’s passport, you would see a stamp that says: “This bearer is a United States national and not a United States citizen.”

But a new lawsuit with roots in the Pacific Northwest is looking to change that.

A girl practices reading the Koran in Jakarta. More than 1,400 children gathered at a park in Indonesia to read the Koran to mark the holy month of Ramadan, which starts Friday. (Photo from REUTERS/Supri)

Fasting for 17 hours a day is no walk in the park. But it’s that much harder when the person sitting next to you is eating a cheeseburger, or a succulent slice of pizza.

Or, for Mohammad Ismail, there’s that tempting looking Starbucks on the way to work.

Born in Pakistan, this is the second time that Ismail will celebrate Ramadan in Seattle. He says on the one hand it’s slightly easier celebrating it here, since it’s much cooler, but it can also be difficult when the majority of people aren’t fasting.

The Farm Bill is a classic democratic-process-headache: a 1,000 page piece of legislation that takes on all things food and agriculture related.

It covers everything from food stamps to farmland conservation to nutrition programs to farm subsidies.

Past versions have mostly benefited big farmers of soy, corn, and other commodity crops, along with large corporations who control most of the food industry (see infographic at right for more).

With the interests of nutrition experts, anti-hunger groups, small and large farmers, agri-business, and politicians vying for their once-in-every-five-year shot at staking claims in the Farm Bill, it comes as no surprise that it stirred up a bipartisan food fight in the House of Representatives last week.

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The 32nd annual Seattle to Portland (STP) Bicycle Classic is coming up this weekend.  Ten thousand riders will set out from the University of Washington and, after some 200 miles and 43,000 energy bars, end up in northeast Portland.

Looking for a unique way to experience a new country? Try it on two wheels. Above, Deric travels with his bike on a trip to Bahia, Brazil. (Photo by Deric Gruen)

Sadly, the trip has been sold out for months, so if you didn’t register way back in March, I’m afraid you are out of luck until next year.

Not to worry. There’s an entire world of road (or off-road) for intrepid cyclists to choose from. Traveling internationally with a bicycle is a low impact way to get a little bit closer to people, land and places you might never visit by any other mode.

As you ponder your first overseas experience with a bicycle, consider the following questions in planning your ride.

The author interviews Rwandan women about the impacts of a volunteer implemented bee keeping project. (Photo by Bryan Kopp)

Every year, more young westerners are traveling to places like Africa, India, and South America in search of meaningful volunteer experiences.

And why not? There’s plenty of valuable work to be done, travel and living expenses are low, and even the most challenging volunteer position might look easy compared to trying to find a job right out of college these days.

At best, it’s opportunity for a broadened perspective on a vast and complex world, and a chance to empower others.

But at worst, it is an overseas frat party gone horribly wrong.

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A woman outside the former U.S. embassy in Tehran, which is now abandoned and covered with anti-American Murals (Photo: REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl)

This election season Washington has an unprecedented number of candidates who are of Iranian heritage.

Sahar Fathi and Cyrus Habib for are running for State Representative (in the 36th and 48th districts respectively), and Shahram Hadian is running for Governor. Though Hadian isn’t likely to make it past the primary, Fathi and Habib both have decent chances to win and become the first Iranian-American to hold statewide office in Washington.

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A historic picture from pre-internment Japantown, on display in the Panama Hotel. (Photo by Sihanouk Mariona)

In 1942, in a fervor of wartime paranoia, President Roosevelt ordered Japanese-Americans into internment camps for the duration of WWII.

The internment had an especially large impact in Seattle’s Japantown, where Japanese-Americans, many of them US-born citizens, were forced to abandon their homes and businesses almost overnight.

Before they were led away to the camps, some stashed their belongings in the basement of the Panama Hotel for safekeeping. At the time, the hotel served as communal gathering place, guest house, and sento (Japanese-style bath house).

Amazingly, many of those trunks and suitcases are still there and on view, waiting for owners that never came back.

In The Dictator comedian Sascha Baron Cohen once again uses a foreigner's viewpoint to comment on America.

Telling the stories of others is a fraught endeavor.

It’s hard enough when you’re doing it in your own city or community, but interpreting cultures and places that are not your own is especially problematic.

International journalists and travel writers take (often deserved) criticism for superficiality, ethnocentrism or exoticizing their subjects. Not a day has passed since I wrote my first article in another country that I haven’t spent at least some time thinking about this inherent problem of journalism.

During those moments I often return to a conversation I had with a friend and colleague – a Kenyan journalist that had spent years in Ohio writing about everything from the economics of the Rust Belt to the rise of farmer’s markets.

Rattling against each other in the back of a pickup truck headed from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Nairobi on a reporting project about water resources, we were pondering the value of journalism (that was a very long ride – there wasn’t much we didn’t ponder) when Ernest said, “If nothing else, remember that the visitor always brings the sharpest knife.”