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Mythbusting Travel: Goodness in Iraq with Doug Barnard (Episode #182)

In the realm of travel, there are individuals who are not just adventurers, but also champions of breaking stereotypes and fostering connections with others. Doug Barnard is one of those individuals. He is a seasoned YouTuber with over 500,000 followers, as well as a guide who takes people on wondrous journeys to places often maligned in mass media, like Iraq. Barnard has found the people there amazing in their generosity and goodwill towards Americans, and he embraces the opportunity to showcase the wonders of ancient lands that are completely untouched by tourism.



About Our Guest:

Doug Barnard’s journey to becoming a tour guide in the is a great example of how bad things that happen to us can be turned into opportunities to evolve and change in wonderful and life-affirming ways. 

Doug’s change of course began with the misfortune of being laid off from his job with Walmart, a turn of events that he used to create a whole new future for himself. Now, he is leading folks through tours to Iraq, a future he could never have imagined in the Walmart chapter of his life.  

Doug Barnard’s Journey

Realizing he had a passion for people, videography, and exploration, shortly before he was laid off, Doug created a YouTube channel that initially focused on sharing his adventures across Europe and Asia. Over time, as his channel grew, his content evolved from mere sightseeing to immersive experiences that delved deep into the heart of many diverse cultures. 

Barnard’s charismatic personality and genuine curiosity resonated with viewers, earning him a dedicated following. His videos weren’t just about ticking off tourist destinations; they were about connecting with locals, learning their stories, and appreciating the richness of human diversity. 

Then he started discovering the wonders of places like Somalia, Pakistan and Iraq: countries that are so heavily maligned in mass media that most don’t feel safe visiting them. Iraq, for instance, turns out to be wildly misrepresented in mainstream media as a place that continues to be marred by conflict. Doug’s experience, however, tells him it is quite the opposite. 

Modern, ordinary, happy lives are being led in these places, by people who want the same things we do: a better future for their kids, contemporary comforts, peace and tranquility.  In fact, Iraq has emerged as a beloved and delightful destination in Barnard’s itinerary. He does not see it as a war-torn land, but as a cradle of civilization with a vibrant past and a population of resilient, kind people.

Unveiling Iraq’s Hidden Gems

Motivated by a desire to challenge misconceptions and foster cultural exchange, Barnard embarked on a groundbreaking venture: leading group tours on immersive journeys through Iraq. His aim was not just to showcase the country’s historical treasures, but also to provide a platform for citizens to share their stories, dispelling misinformation and stereotypes one interaction at a time.

One of the cornerstones of Barnard’s tours is highlighting the country’s oft-overlooked cultural and historical sites. From the majestic ruins of Babylon to the ancient city of Ur, each location tells a story that predates modern geopolitics and transcends sensationalized headlines.

Another highlight? The opportunity to visit the marshlands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and home to the Maʻdān, an indigenous community with a unique way of life. By immersing people in the daily routines of the Maʻdān people, Barnard fosters a deep appreciation for the country’s diverse cultural tapestry.

It’s not monuments and landscapes, though, but the people who leave the most lasting impression on Barnard’s group members. Contrary to the stereotypes perpetuated by media narratives, the Iraqis they meet are not victims of conflict, but hosts, eager to share their warmth and hospitality with visitors.

A Call to Open Our Own Minds

Through homestays, community-led tours, and cultural exchanges, Barnard facilitates meaningful interactions between visitors and locals. Whether savoring traditional cuisine with a family in Baghdad, or learning the art of calligraphy from a master craftsman in Najaf, every experience serves to bridge the gap between cultures and forge genuine connections.

The sense of awe inspired by the country’s ancient heritage, the warmth of its people, and the camaraderie forged among fellow group members create memories that transcend borders and defy preconceptions. Each journey with Barnard becomes a testament to the transformative power of travel, and the universal language of humanity.

For those who dare to venture beyond the beaten path, Iraq awaits; not as a destination of danger and despair, but as a land of wonder and hospitality. In the words of Barnard himself:

 “To truly know a place, you must see it through the eyes of its people.” 

Those eyes are brimming with stories waiting to be heard, and experiences waiting to be shared.

References Mentioned:


  • 00:00 – Intro & Welcome
  • 02:39 – Doug’s Background
  • 06:38 – Going to Iraq
  • 12:00 – What Iraqis Think of Americans
  • 17:02 – Break
  • 19:18 – Tourist Experiences in Different Countries
  • 26:45 – Going to Pakistan
  • 30:08 – Going to Bangladesh
  • 31:15 – Hard Power & Soft Power
  • 35:00 – We’re All the Same
  • 44:40 – Doug Barnard’s Guide Experience
  • 55:07 – Closing

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