Fly Forward to Europe!

We are pleased to announce the first ever partnership of World to the Wise Cultural Tours with Fly Forward, an organic organization led by artist, author and spiritual director Jennie Schut. Jennie participated in our first joint adventure with Journey Arts Collective in 2016, which took us to Paris and the Tuscany region of Italy. She has a passion to come alongside creatives like herself, and to that end penned the book, Waking Up Grey. Like Brett Mabury, leader of the Journey Arts Collective, Jennie very much sees this trip to Europe as a pilgrimage, where the five senses and the spiritual senses meet to create a holistic, life-changing experience.

The dates for this adventure are Oct. 2-19, 2018. Our itinerary will begin in Rome, where ancient vestiges of one of the world's great civilizations help put things in perspective as the eye feasts on some of the world's greatest artistic creations.

We'll then head to Assisi in the lush region of Umbria, where St. Francis was born, lived, and changed millions of lives the world over by his message of simple faith.

Our next stop will be Tuscany, just to the north, home to Florence and the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. Our home base for several days is a retreat center half an hour outside Florence, overlooking a valley of vineyards and olive groves. We'll be treated to home cooking by our dear friends Caterina and Grazia, and spend our days either roaming the streets of Florence or the Tuscan countryside, stopping to take in the renowned Renaissance masters or the storybook hill towns of Volterra and San Gimignano.

Plans are tentatively for us to take a quick jaunt over to the magical area on the west coast called Cinque Terre ("Five Lands"), called so because of the five cliffside villages perched overlooking the Ligurian Sea. We'll then end our time in Italy with a brief stopover in the canal wonderland of Venice, in a category all its own.

And last but certainly not least, we'll take a night train to Paris. (How could we NOT go there?) Not only will we take in many of the sights one would hope to see in the City of Lights, but we'll also take time to breathe in, to reflect, and recenter, surrounded by one of the world's great world class cities. Our time will also include a day trip to the Norman village of Giverny, where famed Impressionist painter Claude Monet lived and worked for over forty years.

Sound like something up your alley? Just click here for further information on dates, prices, itinerary, and payment plan. A $100 refundable payment saves your spot. Just use email address at PayPal. Or head over to to get a feel for the ethos of Jennie's organization.

Ready to sign up? Awesome! Click here!

If you're not quite ready to commit but would like to receive updates, just leave us your email address below.

World to the Wise partners with Jennie Schut and Fly Forward

Announcing the 2018 World to the Wise Cultural Tour


Big news! We have decided to include GREECE as our first destination of the 2018 World to the Wise Cultural Tour! As you may know, Becky and I have had the opportunity to spend time there the last two summers, primarily in the context of the international refugee crisis. We fell in love with Athens and with many of the people we met, and we're looking forward to introducing our tour participants to one of the world's most ancient civilizations. Are you one of those?

This tour is open to the public, although it will primarily be students and some parents. Students under the age of sixteen must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

In addition to visiting the ancient sites in Athens, our time in Greece will also include a day trip to the ancient city of Corinth as well as a cruise to one of the fabled Greek islands.

From Athens we'll fly to Rome, where we'll kick off an 8-day adventure through one of the most popular destination countries of our tour alumni.

We'll finish the tour in Paris. How can we not?

For detailed information on the tour, including pricing and dates, click here.

To register for the tour, click here.

Not ready to commit but want to stay updated? Just leave your email address in the form below!

A Journey with Journey Arts


You may remember that October 2016 saw my wife and me leading a group of creatives from Journey Arts Collective to Europe. It was by all accounts a successful partnership. The Journey Arts leader, Brett Mabury, did a wonderful job of leading the group on a sort of reflective pilgrimage as we experienced some of the most inspiring sights Europe has to offer. We also discovered Brett makes a great co-leader and that we work well together. So last month he and I teamed up once again to lead a group of ten creatives, all from Journey Arts Collective, on a similar adventure. It was another great success, as we streamlined the itinerary here and there to make for more room to breathe and create. October is really a great time to travel in Europe, as the crowds are somewhat thinner and, at least in  Italy, the weather is more than pleasant. The weather in France and Switzerland even cooperated as well this time.Not only did we visit many of the iconic places you might expect, but we also spent time in almost every place with local creatives from Brett's and my network of friends and contacts. It's one thing to sight-see, quite another to actually connect with locals in a meaningful exchange.

2018 looks to have even more adventures in store, and one of them might just be right for you! Stay tuned for announcements! Better yet, leave your email address in the form below so you don't miss a thing!


An Unforgettable Journey


It was our privilege at World to the Wise Cultural Tours to partner recently with Journey Arts Collective in Brentwood, Tennessee to create a very special experience for a group of ten creatives from the greater Nashville area.

Led by Australian Brett Mabury, whose home town of Perth is where I started school as a five-year-old, the Journey group consisted of writers, poets, photographers, songwriters and musicians. At each stop along the two-week journey, Brett had prepared meditations and exercises for reflection that enhanced the already impacting experience of some of Europe's richest sights.


We began the adventure in Paris. Yes, we did take in many of the obligatory landmarks, but we also left space in the schedule for the travelers to explore on their own -- or sit and reflect or create. Our time also included a day trip to the Norman village of Giverny, where renowned impressionist painter Claude Monet made his home and painted his famous gardens for 43 years. We also enjoyed an evening with other creatives from the Paris area who are part of their own arts collective called La Fonderie.

Next stop was Lausanne, Switzerland, where I lived on two separate occasions for a total of six years. The weather that greeted us was unusually, incredibly mild and sunny, and we couldn't resist spending time by Lake Geneva (Lac Léman to the Lausannois). Over a traditional Swiss fondue in a restaurant overlooking the


lake and the Alps beyond, my good friend Luc Zbinden shared with the group a little about Swiss culture and the challenges facing today's Switzerland. The next evening was spent with yet another group of creatives, this time hosted by Psalmodia, a music school with multiple locations in Switzerland and France and where I taught voice at one time.

We then made our way by train to the Italian region of Tuscany, a land that has become dear to my wife and me over the years. We base ourselves at a retreat center a half hour's drive west of Florence, hosted by the Ammirabile family and the caretaker, Luca. Staying here in the heart of the Tuscan countryside, with home cooked meals and warm conversation, affords an experience that is simply not possible staying in a hotel in a city where we know no one. We make day trips to places like Pisa, the Tuscan hill towns of Volterra and San Gimignano, and of course the heart of the Italian Renaissance, Florence. Whether taking in the artistic genius of the Renaissance artists or simply admiring the Florentine sunset over the Arno River from the overlook at Piazzale Michelangelo, one comes away with few words and lots of sighs.


A True Craftsman


I didn't even catch his name.

But this gentleman left quite an impression on us, and I can't wait to see him again the next time we're in the Tuscan hill town of Volterra. We were making our way down a steep street toward an ancient Etruscan city gate when we saw him sitting outside his workshop. Both Becky and I were immediately drawn to his hands. They seemed unusually large and were white as alabaster. He has been working with this beautiful, porous stone for...wait for it...seventy years, and his hands have become a permanent reminder of his craft. He takes the four main colors of alabaster, mined in the surrounding hills for thousands of years, and carves figurines, eggs, wine stoppers, and more...all beautiful and worth their modest price. Volterra is considered the alabaster capital of the world, not to mention one of the most charming places I've been in all of Italy.

I engaged him in conversation, asking about his business, about the magical hilltop city he's lived in all his life...and he was only too happy to answer my questions.

If I am half that good-natured when I'm in my nineties, well, let's just say I'll be a joy to be around.

The next time we take a group to Volterra, you can be sure I'll get his name this time.

Announcing World to the Wise Academy!


You perhaps already know my blog, or my podcast, or maybe the cultural tours my wife Becky and I lead in the summers. In the same vein of promoting cultural intelligence, we are happy to announce World to the Wise Academy, where we will initially be offering courses on foreign language learning, and later various other aspects of cultural intelligence. Just click here to take a peek -- after you watch this video!

Immigrating to America, Take 2 (Season 2 final episode)

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You may remember hearing in the news about a family from the Kurdish area of Northern Iraq, who were on their way to make a new life in the United States when they were turned away at the Cairo airport as a result of President Trump’s executive order, in February 2017, banning immigrants from seven majority Muslim countries. Fuad Sharif Suleman had been employed by the US government, through a third party contractor, as a translator and interpreter in Northern Iraq, and was traveling to the US on a perfectly legitimate Special Immigration Visa.

Thanks to the work of a number of organizations and TN congressman Jim Cooper, Fuad, his wife, and three children were finally cleared to set out once again for their final destination of Nashville, where a crowd of around 200 were waiting for them at the airport with signs and chants of “Welcome home.” My wife Becky and I were in that crowd. A couple of months later, after numerous attempts to track them down, I was able to sit down with Fuad and all but one member of his family. I know you’ll enjoy meeting them.

This is the final episode of Season 2 of this podcast. We’ve had a great time taking you to people and places near and far, and look forward to much more in Season 3.

In the meantime, in just over a week, my wife Becky and I will be leaving for the Greek island of Lesvos, where we will be leading a team from the US to work for a week in a refugee camp run by the UN and the Greek government. After that, we will be welcoming the 2017 World to the Wise cultural tour group in Rome for an unforgettable cultural feast through Italy, Paris, and Amsterdam. You can follow our experiences on the World to the Wise Facebook page (have you liked that page yet?) and here on my blog.

Post-Apartheid South Africa

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The Republic of South Africa has had a tumultuous history since its inception, dominated for so long by the cloud of apartheid. In 1994 Nelson Mandela, who had been imprisoned for 27 years, was elected as president of the first truly democratic South Africa. But in 2017, four years since Mandela’s death, many in South Africa feel the country has taken more than one step back, racially and economically speaking.

I sat down on Skype with Rolf Weichardt, a white Afrikaner who has spent the better part of his life working on behalf of racial justice and reconciliation. He shared very openly about his country’s steps forward as well as backward, and how he sees South Africa moving forward.

How do you see post-apartheid South Africa? Are you from there or do have experience there? As always, your comments are welcome below.

Thanks, as always, for listening.

Two Brits in Yankeeland

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241 years ago, this new country called the United States of America was regarded by many in Great Britain as nothing more than an ungrateful child. Today the relationship between the two nations is arguably the closest relationship the US has. But just because we speak the same language doesn’t mean the two cultures are identical, by any means.

I sat down this week on Skype with Dan and Rachel Wheeler, who have just recently made a big move from the county of Sussex in southern England to Nashville, Tennessee. We had a light-hearted conversation about their adjustment process, any surprises that awaited them despite the fact they had traveled to the States many times, how Brits view the British monarchy on this the Queen’s birthday, the Downton Abbey phenomenon... and we also had a few chuckles about the endlessly entertaining differences between British and American vocabulary.

I hope you enjoy meeting Dan and Rachel Wheeler.

You'll hear Rachel mention the recent book by Queen Elizabeth, entitled The Servant Queen and the King She Serves. You can find that book right here:

We’re nearing the end (already) of Season 2 of this podcast, but have some great interviews lined up before we take a break, so stay tuned. Thanks as always for listening … and please consider becoming a Patron of this podcast so we can continue to bring you great content!

Being Muslim in America

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I live in Nashville, which is in the middle of a boom. People are moving here in droves, cranes dot the skyline, and we currently bear the moniker of “It City.” In the trendy, extremely gentrified neighborhood called 12 South, among the hip restaurants, bars, and coffee shops, is a building some might consider out of place: the Islamic Center of Nashville.

This is where I met up with this week’s guest. I walked in the front door and took my shoes off, like everyone else, to the sound of prayers being chanted (in Arabic, of course), and a handful of men at the front of the carpeted main room standing with heads bowed. There was no way I was going to go unnoticed here. I sat down on a chair in the small lobby to wait for Rashed Fakhruddin, President of the Islamic Center. But before he came and ushered me into the office just off the lobby, a number of men invited me inside to where the prayer was happening. “It’s OK, please come in!”

Rashed, a mild-mannered brown-skinned man with an easy smile, arrived and we settled in for what I hope for you is an enlightening and interesting conversation on Islam, being a Muslim in America, and common misconceptions many non-Muslims have. Meet Rashed Fakhruddin.

If the end of the interview sounds a little abrupt, it’s because Rashed heard another call to prayer in the main room of the mosque and had to rush in to participate. I’m not sure whether that was because he is president, or just that as a faithful Muslim he is very committed to showing up for prayer five times a day. Whatever the case, I’m sure our paths will cross again, and I’ll likely have more questions for him. Do you have questions about Islam? Comments? Have we sent you running the other direction? Let us know by leaving a comment on this page.

And while you’re here, please consider becoming a patron so we can continue the work of fostering cultural curiosity.

Thanks for listening!

1st Anniversary Edition: the Top 7 Downloads

World to the Wise Podcast

This weekend marks the first anniversary of the launch of the World to the Wise podcast. For me personally, it’s been more fun than should be legal – to talk to so many fascinating people, hear their stories, and pass these stories on to you so we can all grow and be challenged together. Challenged to broaden our perspectives and travel vicariously to other parts of the world; or, as the case may be, to other subcultures within our own borders. To mark the occasion we’ve decided to do a roundup of the top seven downloaded episodes from this first year of our existence. We thought this would not only be a great way to celebrate, but also give you a chance to hear a synopsis of some episodes you might not have caught so you can go back and listen. It’s never too late to catch an episode because you can just click on the podcast tab on this website.

Here are the top seven most downloaded episodes from the first year of this podcast adventure:

  1. Dr. Lee Camp, professor of theology and ethics at Lipscomb University. Lee discusses his insightful and incisive book, Who is My Enemy: Questions Americans Must Ask About Islam -- and Themselves. A great interview with a thoughtful man, and a must read!
  2. Drs. Eric and Rachel McLaughlin, an internist and OBGYN, respectively, at Kibuye Hope Hospital in the impoverished East African nation of Burundi. You'll find their work and their words inspiring.
  3. From the land of New Zealand, our dear friends Neil and Jill White are given the chance to brag on their fair country, where Becky and I enjoyed an unforgettable visit a couple of years ago. You should save your money (or miles, as we did) and go -- and stay at the Whites' Air Bnb!
  4. Author, entrepreneur and adventurer Chris Guillebeau talks about his quest to visit every country on the planet. Chris shares about lessons learned in all his travels, and he also has a lot to teach us about thinking outside the box -- entrepreneurially!
  5. Author and speaker Sarah Lanier is a long-time friend and former colleague who has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share in the area of cross-cultural dynamics and communication. In this interview we discuss her book, Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot- and Cold-Climate Cultures. Don't let the title intimidate you -- this is a short but powerful read, where Sarah leads us into a greater understanding of the basic cultural differences between people groups and the importance of this understanding. A must read -- in fact, it's required reading for our Global Studies students!
  6. If you haven't already, you'll fall in love with Eleni Melirrytou, of Athens, Greece. Nowhere is there a bigger heart to serve the displaced people of this world; they have come by the hundreds through the doors of her downtown Athens church, been fed by her, loved by her, changed by her. Her testimonial will stretch the corners of your heart and challenge your thinking about the worldwide refugee crisis -- and perhaps the refugees in your own city.
  7. Number seven comes from our series on American subcultures. Bill Moser was a successful architect living in an upscale suburb of Detroit when he met some people who changed the course of his life. Bill and his wife became Amish. The radical change in his belief system and, consequently, lifestyle is nothing short of fascinating, as told through his childhood friend, Jeff Smith, in the book Becoming Amish.

We could go on and talk about the next seven, and the next...but we'll let you discover those for yourself.

Thank you to those of you who have been faithful listeners over this exciting first year! We realize what a privilege it is to be "in your ears" every week!

The Last Three Feet


The world of international affairs is often seen as a shadowy one, full of intrigue, cloak-and-dagger, and posturing. Perhaps this is not far from the truth. One thing is certain: the larger the country, the more personnel is needed to staff the countless embassies, consulates, and other outposts who represent their country. A student of my wife's and mine recently gave an excellent report on American diplomacy and enlightened us on many aspects of this complex realm. The United States, at any given time, has approximately 15,000 personnel employed by the Department of State around the world, including at its 250 embassies.

Of the 15,000 to 25,000 who go through the battery of tests and applications for foreign service positions, only about 3%-5% make it all the way through to a salaried post.

In a high tech world of instant communication, is it really necessary to have all those people scattered across the globe? Perhaps there are some superfluous positions, and there is no doubt wasteful spending here and there. But as the late Edward R. Murrow, the great broadcast journalist who later became head of the US Information Agency said,

"...the real crucial link in the international exchange is the last three feet, which is bridged by personal contact -- one person talking to another."

And so it has always been, and so it will always be.

The Many Benefits of Study Abroad

World to the Wise Podcast

Study abroad is not a new concept, but it's possible that it has never been more important than now. In an age of polarization, stereotypes, and circle-the-wagons mentality, there would be very few college students I would NOT advise to spend at least a semester studying abroad. In this week's podcast episode, we speak with two exchange students to get perspective from both sides of the Atlantic: first, an American student currently studying in Paris. Hannah Kersey tells us what she loves about studying and living in the City of Lights, as well as all the other perks of living in Europe, such as weekend travel.

Then we speak with French law student Lena Touchard, who spent an entire school year studying at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. She now studies law at the University of Leicester in the UK. I think you'll enjoy her reflections on her time in the States, as well as on the things she has learned about herself as a result of her study abroad experience.

If you're a student -- or know a student -- who might be interested in finding out the countless benefits of study abroad, just leave your email address below and we'll send you a list of resources to get you started.

Confessions of a Humanitarian Worker

World to the Wise Podcast

From Nashville to Los Angeles to the Amazon to Brussels to South Sudan. Such is the journey — thus far — of humanitarian worker Corrie Cron, who sat down with me to talk about her experiences in each of these places.

As Corrie herself says, she’s a straight shooter, and she gets very honest about the challenges as well as the joys of her chosen path. Because of the sensitive nature of her work in South Sudan, the world’s youngest country currently embroiled in civil war, she wasn’t able to go into much detail about the work itself; but she speaks candidly about being thrown in the deep end and the challenges of daily life in Juba, the South Sudanese capital. You’ll also hear her talk about how travel has changed her life, and finally, some advice to young people considering a career in humanitarian work.

I hope you enjoy the interview…

Interested in continued stories of crossing cultural bridges? Why not consider becoming a Patron of the World to the Wise podcast? Find out how below.

Do You Have "Ubuntu"?


Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of Africa’s great leaders and known as the “conscience of South Africa,” said the following about ubuntu:

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“Ubuntu [...] speaks of the very essence of being human. [We] say [...] 'Hey, so-and-so has ubuntu.' Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, 'My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.' We belong in a bundle of life. We say, 'A person is a person through other persons.'" Kind of flies in the face of individualistic American culture, that’s for sure. After hearing today's guest, I think you'll better understand why that open-source computer operating system was given that name.

Today we talk ubuntu and other things African with Dr. Lloyd Mulenga, who, along with his wife, Priscilla, practices medicine in the Zambian capital of Lusaka. Dr. Mulenga talks about the challenges facing 21st century medicine in southern Africa, as well as a couple of his observations of American culture as a frequent visitor. I hope you enjoy listening to him as much as I enjoyed speaking with him.

Some Fun Facts on St. Patrick's Day


- The color originally associated with Patrick was "St. Patrick's blue," not green.- The first St. Patrick's Day parade was not in Ireland, but in the American colonies, when the Irish who were fighting in the British army marched through the streets of New York City in 1762. - The Irish haven't always been so popular -- in the years following that first parade, St. Patrick's Day in the US was mostly about unity and strength among persecuted Irish-American immigrants. The party didn't go global until 1995, when the Irish government started touting St. Patrick's Day as a way of advertising the beauty of the Emerald Isle to the rest of the world. - Only recently has the general public started once again paying more attention to the actual Patrick, the man, the missionary, the hero.

Happy St. Patrick's, wherever you are!

Facing That Foreign Language


Sometimes there are myths that take root and become really difficult to dispel. One of them is the notion that Americans -- and English speakers in general -- are simply not capable of learning a foreign language well. Oh, we all know someone who has done it with some degree of success, but most of us have bought into the idea that "that will never be me." Perhaps I'm not the best person to dispel the myth, as I happen to be one of those foreign language freaks who thrive on tackling a new language. Maybe my wife would make a better spokesperson for the cause. She doesn't consider herself particularly gifted in languages, but when she married me, she signed up for a lifetime of exposure to any number of languages. Over the years we lived in Europe, she became conversant in both French and Dutch, and to this day we use both of these in our house on a regular basis. (Especially when grandkids are not intended to understand.)

I'm in the process of finishing up a brand new online mini-course to help people who are wanting to, about to, or have to study a foreign language. And I have new fodder: I've just undertaken Arabic, using video tutorials and weekly Skype sessions with a Syrian friend in Germany whom Becky and I met last summer when we were there.

The truth is, learning a foreign language is not a super power.

Hard work, yes. But all my years of speaking and teaching languages have given me many insights into how people learn languages -- but also some fundamental elements that are missing in a lot of language methods.

Hence this mini-course. If you're considering starting a foreign language, or have already started but find yourself a wee bit discouraged, this is for you. Just leave your email address in the form below and you'll be on your way to a more successful adventure in learning to speak another language. And believe me, there is nothing more gratifying than another person understanding you when you get up the nerve to practice your new words!

A Mexican, a Gringa and Six Children

Imagine you’re a single, white, American woman with a big heart to serve.

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Imagine you’re a single Mexican man with an equally big heart, and you’ve been designated to meet said American woman at the airport in Mexico as the two of you are destined to work together serving the poor.

This is the story of Martin and Karen Arroyo, who now, 26 years later, are the parents of six children, and have spent their lives serving the poorest of the poor — first in the metropolis of Mexico City, and more recently in the city of Juxtlahuaca, in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. We’ll hear them share from their hearts about the challenges of being a bi-cultural couple, about raising their family in some tough conditions in Mexico, and how racism is not just an American problem. And yet through it all they continue to serve, love, and inspire wherever they are. I hope you enjoy their story…

You'll hear Karen mention a book: Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans, which you'll find here: