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Forget about the song. Forget about the boat and the ride and all those cute little wooden munchkins dancing a jig. Forget about the time you ran into your college roommate’s ex-girlfriend while waiting in line to hear the song, ride the boat, and see the jig-dancing munchkins. Forget the words that came out of your mouth when you did, as you pointed out the irony of running into someone at a faraway theme park while waiting in line for a ride that points out that there is no irony in running into someone at a faraway theme park. Because the truth is, this world ain’t small.

It’s a big ol’ world, teeming with exotic life and natural splendor. Wondrous pockets of society encompass millions of acres of territory, where denizens of every walk of life go about the day to day in a manner that is decidedly different than the way you go about yours.

Problem is, because this world is so big, most of us will see but a portion of le monde in our lifetimes. This international-themed issue of American Way is designed to help you plan an overseas vacation. For those of you who just can’t break away from your daily responsibilities right now, we’ll alert you to amusing destinations for that ever-elongating bucket list.

Associate editor Jessica Jones puts you atop a frigid mountain in Jamaica (after recovering from all that jerk chicken), while in an online story, frequent contributor Jack Boulware takes you to Haiti to share an astonishing story about how one man is breathing new life into the local economy by exporting coffee beans. Boulware then heads further south to Mexico and teaches us an ecological lesson about monarch butterflies. His narrative follows the multicolored insects from the American Midwest to the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, where they hibernate during the winter. Photographer Sean McCormick does an extraordinary job of capturing the swarm in its natural state, which is no small task considering that the butterflies cover 80 miles a day.

As we reach Central America in our journey around the world, Miami-based journalist Dan Sweeney leads us to the heart of Honduras. Through the fields of tobacco leaves lies the Scandinavian Tobacco Group’s factory, and Sweeney takes us on a cigar’s journey from plant to harvest to the rolling process to market. This story (and the equator) serves as our gateway to South America and, specifically, to bountiful Ecuador. Renowned journalist and Nexos magazine editor Ana Cristina Reymundo makes a pilgrimage to that part of the world. Join her as she goes from the highlands to the lowlands and intricately details everything in between.

This month, the International Olympic Committee will gather in Copenhagen, Denmark, to announce the location for the 2016 Summer Games. Writer Chris Warren primes the residents of Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo -- the cities on the short list of finalists -- for what’s to come should their city be the winner. And while we’re on the topic of Tokyo, journey with Warren to that bustling metropolis in the Land of the Rising Sun, where jazz (yes, jazz) has become one of the greatest imports.

The international issue takes you around the world indeed, all from the comfort of your seat. We still encourage you to visit a Disney park, wait in line, ride the ride, and sing along. But for the love of Pete, don’t buy in to what the munchkins are selling.

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Adam Pitluk
Editor