American regrets ‘bad decision’ to travel to ISIS stronghold

Back in America, Khweis’ travel to Iraq to join ISIS is being investigated by the FBI, according to law enforcement officials.

Authorities expect to seek his return to the United States to face criminal charges, the officials said. Investigators are trying to to verify his account of the journey.

Investigators are concerned that the first time they knew Khweis had traveled to join jihadists was after his capture, law enforcement officials said. His family had not told law enforcement of any concerns — if they had any — after he left the United States in December, according to the officials.

In his interview with Kurdistan24, Khweis did not speak much about his life in America. He said he studied criminal justice in Virginia. He occasionally attended mosques. In December, he left for London, then Amsterdam. He later stopped in Turkey, where he met a young woman.

She invited him to Syria. Some time later they arrived in Raqqa, now the capital of ISIS’ self-declared caliphate. At some point, he said, the couple was split up and he ended up with a team of ISIS fighters.

Along the way, Khweis said he spent time at a house where ISIS kept foreign jihadists. The foreigners were ordered to hand over their ID and passports and take a Bay’ah, or oath of allegiance to ISIS, he said.

Later, at another house, Khweis said he met more foreigners — from Asia, Russia, Uzbekistan and other countries. Each man was given a nickname. Khweis was called Abu Omar. After a transfer to yet another house, he was joined by at least 70 other foreigners.

The Islamist extremist group has taken over large swaths of Iraq and Syria, and it has staged attacks elsewhere. It has done so with recruits from not only the Middle East, but other places, including Western countries such as the United States.

The ISIS terror threat The ISIS terror threat Syrian pro-government forces gather at the site of a deadly triple bombing Sunday, January 31, in the lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/31/middleeast/syria-damascus-explosions/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;Damascus suburb of Sayeda Zeynablt;/agt;. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a statement circulating online from supporters of the terrorist group.Syrian pro-government forces gather at the site of a deadly triple bombing Sunday, January 31, in the lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/31/middleeast/syria-damascus-explosions/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;Damascus suburb of Sayeda Zeynablt;/agt;. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a statement circulating online from supporters of the terrorist group.Yemenis check the scene of a car bomb attack Sunday, December 6, in Aden, Yemen. lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/06/middleeast/yemen-aden-governor-killed/index.htmlquot;gt;Aden Gov. Jaafar Saad and six bodyguards died in the attacklt;/agt;, for which the terror group ISIS claimed responsibility.Yemenis check the scene of a car bomb attack Sunday, December 6, in Aden, Yemen. lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/06/middleeast/yemen-aden-governor-killed/index.htmlquot;gt;Aden Gov. Jaafar Saad and six bodyguards died in the attacklt;/agt;, for which the terror group ISIS claimed responsibility.Investigators check the scene of a mosque attack Friday, November 27, in northern Bangladeshs Bogra district. lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/27/asia/bangladesh-isis-attack-claim/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacklt;/agt; that left at least one person dead and three more wounded.Investigators check the scene of a mosque attack Friday, November 27, in northern Bangladeshs Bogra district. lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/27/asia/bangladesh-isis-attack-claim/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacklt;/agt; that left at least one person dead and three more wounded.Wounded people are helped outside the Bataclan concert hall in Paris following a series of coordinated attacks in the city on Friday, November 13. The militant group ISIS claimed responsibility lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/13/world/gallery/paris-attacks/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;for the attacks,lt;/agt; which killed at least 130 people and wounded hundreds more.Wounded people are helped outside the Bataclan concert hall in Paris following a series of coordinated attacks in the city on Friday, November 13. The militant group ISIS claimed responsibility lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/13/world/gallery/paris-attacks/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;for the attacks,lt;/agt; which killed at least 130 people and wounded hundreds more.Emergency personnel and civilians gather at the site of a lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/16/middleeast/beirut-explosions/quot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;twin suicide bombinglt;/agt; in Beirut, Lebanon, on Thursday, November 12. The bombings killed at least 43 people and wounded more than 200 more. ISIS appeared to claim responsibility in a statement posted on social media.Emergency personnel and civilians gather at the site of a lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/16/middleeast/beirut-explosions/quot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;twin suicide bombinglt;/agt; in Beirut, Lebanon, on Thursday, November 12. The bombings killed at least 43 people and wounded more than 200 more. ISIS appeared to claim responsibility in a statement posted on social media.Smoke rises over the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar on November 12. Kurdish Iraqi fighters, backed by a U.S.-led air campaign, lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/13/middleeast/iraq-free-sinjar-isis/quot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;retook the strategic town, lt;/agt;which ISIS militants overran last year. ISIS wants to create an Islamic state across Sunni areas of Iraq and Syria.Smoke rises over the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar on November 12. Kurdish Iraqi fighters, backed by a U.S.-led air campaign, lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/13/middleeast/iraq-free-sinjar-isis/quot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;retook the strategic town, lt;/agt;which ISIS militants overran last year. ISIS wants to create an Islamic state across Sunni areas of Iraq and Syria.Syrian government troops walk inside the Kweiras air base on Wednesday, November 11, after they broke a siege imposed by ISIS militants.Syrian government troops walk inside the Kweiras air base on Wednesday, November 11, after they broke a siege imposed by ISIS militants.Members of the Egyptian military approach the wreckage of a Russian passenger plane Sunday, November 1, in Hassana, Egypt. lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/31/world/gallery/russian-plane-crash/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;The plane crashedlt;/agt; the day before, killing all 224 people on board. ISIS claimed responsibility for downing the plane, but the groups claim wasnt immediately verified.Members of the Egyptian military approach the wreckage of a Russian passenger plane Sunday, November 1, in Hassana, Egypt. lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/31/world/gallery/russian-plane-crash/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;The plane crashedlt;/agt; the day before, killing all 224 people on board. ISIS claimed responsibility for downing the plane, but the groups claim wasnt immediately verified.An explosion rocks Kobani, Syria, during a reported car bomb attack by ISIS militants on Tuesday, October 20.An explosion rocks Kobani, Syria, during a reported car bomb attack by ISIS militants on Tuesday, October 20.Shiite fighters, fighting alongside Iraqi government forces, fire a rocket at ISIS militants as they advance toward the center of Baiji, Iraq, on Monday, October 19.Shiite fighters, fighting alongside Iraqi government forces, fire a rocket at ISIS militants as they advance toward the center of Baiji, Iraq, on Monday, October 19.Smoke rises above a damaged building in Ramadi, Iraq, following a coalition airstrike against ISIS positions on Saturday, August 15.Smoke rises above a damaged building in Ramadi, Iraq, following a coalition airstrike against ISIS positions on Saturday, August 15.Iraqi men look at damage following a bomb explosion that targeted a vegetable market in Baghdad on Thursday, August 13. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. Iraqi men look at damage following a bomb explosion that targeted a vegetable market in Baghdad on Thursday, August 13. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. In this image taken from social media, an ISIS fighter holds the groups flag after the militant group lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/07/world/syria-isis-al-qaryatayn-christians/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;overran the Syrian town of al-Qaryataynlt;/agt; on Thursday, August 6, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.In this image taken from social media, an ISIS fighter holds the groups flag after the militant group lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/07/world/syria-isis-al-qaryatayn-christians/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;overran the Syrian town of al-Qaryataynlt;/agt; on Thursday, August 6, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.An ISIS fighter poses with spoils purportedly taken after capturing the Syrian town of al-Qaryatayn.An ISIS fighter poses with spoils purportedly taken after capturing the Syrian town of al-Qaryatayn.Smoke rises as Iraqi security forces bomb ISIS positions in the eastern suburbs of Ramadi, Iraq, on August 6.Smoke rises as Iraqi security forces bomb ISIS positions in the eastern suburbs of Ramadi, Iraq, on August 6.Buildings reduced to piles of debris can be seen in the eastern suburbs of Ramadi on August 6.Buildings reduced to piles of debris can be seen in the eastern suburbs of Ramadi on August 6.The governor of the Asir region in Saudi Arabia, Prince Faisal bin Khaled bin Abdulaziz, left, visits a man who was wounded in lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/06/middleeast/saudi-arabia-mosque-attack/quot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;a suicide bombing attack on a mosquelt;/agt; in Abha, Saudi Arabia, on August 6. ISIS claimed responsibility for the explosion, which killed at least 13 people and injured nine others.The governor of the Asir region in Saudi Arabia, Prince Faisal bin Khaled bin Abdulaziz, left, visits a man who was wounded in lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/06/middleeast/saudi-arabia-mosque-attack/quot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;a suicide bombing attack on a mosquelt;/agt; in Abha, Saudi Arabia, on August 6. ISIS claimed responsibility for the explosion, which killed at least 13 people and injured nine others.Saudi officials and investigators check the inside of the mosque on August 6.Saudi officials and investigators check the inside of the mosque on August 6.Mourners in Gaziantep, Turkey, grieve over a coffin Tuesday, July 21, during a funeral ceremony for the victims of a suspected ISIS suicide bomb attack. lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/20/world/turkey-suruc-explosion/quot;gt;That bombing killed at least 31 peoplelt;/agt; in Suruc, a Turkish town that borders Syria. Turkish authorities blamed ISIS for the attack.Mourners in Gaziantep, Turkey, grieve over a coffin Tuesday, July 21, during a funeral ceremony for the victims of a suspected ISIS suicide bomb attack. lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/20/world/turkey-suruc-explosion/quot;gt;That bombing killed at least 31 peoplelt;/agt; in Suruc, a Turkish town that borders Syria. Turkish authorities blamed ISIS for the attack.Protesters in Istanbul carry anti-ISIS banners and flags to show support for victims of the Suruc suicide blast during a demonstration on Monday, July 20.Protesters in Istanbul carry anti-ISIS banners and flags to show support for victims of the Suruc suicide blast during a demonstration on Monday, July 20.People in Ashmoun, Egypt, carry the coffin for 1st Lt. Mohammed Ashraf, who was killed when the ISIS militant group lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/02/world/isis-egypt-expanding-reach/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;attacked Egyptian military checkpointslt;/agt; on Wednesday, July 1. At least 17 soldiers were reportedly killed, and 30 were injured.People in Ashmoun, Egypt, carry the coffin for 1st Lt. Mohammed Ashraf, who was killed when the ISIS militant group lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/02/world/isis-egypt-expanding-reach/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;attacked Egyptian military checkpointslt;/agt; on Wednesday, July 1. At least 17 soldiers were reportedly killed, and 30 were injured.Syrians wait near the Turkish border during clashes between ISIS and Kurdish armed groups in Kobani, Syria, on Thursday, June 25. The photo was taken in Sanliurfa, Turkey. ISIS militants disguised as Kurdish security forces infiltrated Kobani on Thursday and killed quot;many civilians,quot; said a spokesman for the Kurds in Kobani.Syrians wait near the Turkish border during clashes between ISIS and Kurdish armed groups in Kobani, Syria, on Thursday, June 25. The photo was taken in Sanliurfa, Turkey. ISIS militants disguised as Kurdish security forces infiltrated Kobani on Thursday and killed quot;many civilians,quot; said a spokesman for the Kurds in Kobani.Residents examine a damaged mosque after an Iraqi Air Force bombing in the ISIS-seized city of Falluja, Iraq, on Sunday, May 31. At least six were killed and nine others wounded during the bombing.Residents examine a damaged mosque after an Iraqi Air Force bombing in the ISIS-seized city of Falluja, Iraq, on Sunday, May 31. At least six were killed and nine others wounded during the bombing.People search through debris after an explosion at a Shiite mosque in Qatif, Saudi Arabia, on Friday, May 22. ISIS lt;a href=quot;http://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/22/middleeast/saudi-arabia-mosque-blast/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;claimed responsibility for the attack,lt;/agt; according to tweets from ISIS supporters, which included a formal statement from ISIS detailing the operation.People search through debris after an explosion at a Shiite mosque in Qatif, Saudi Arabia, on Friday, May 22. ISIS lt;a href=quot;http://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/22/middleeast/saudi-arabia-mosque-blast/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;claimed responsibility for the attack,lt;/agt; according to tweets from ISIS supporters, which included a formal statement from ISIS detailing the operation.Iraqi soldiers fire their weapons toward ISIS group positions in the Garma district, west of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, on Sunday, April 26. Pro-government forces said they had recently made advances on areas held by Islamist jihadists.Iraqi soldiers fire their weapons toward ISIS group positions in the Garma district, west of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, on Sunday, April 26. Pro-government forces said they had recently made advances on areas held by Islamist jihadists.A member of Afghanistans security forces stands at the site where a suicide bomber on a motorbike blew himself up in front of the Kabul Bank in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on Saturday, April 18. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. The explosion killed at least 33 people and injured more than 100 others, a public health spokesman said.A member of Afghanistans security forces stands at the site where a suicide bomber on a motorbike blew himself up in front of the Kabul Bank in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on Saturday, April 18. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. The explosion killed at least 33 people and injured more than 100 others, a public health spokesman said.Iraqi counterterrorism forces patrol in Ramadi on April 18.Iraqi counterterrorism forces patrol in Ramadi on April 18.Thousands of Iraqis cross a bridge over the Euphrates River to Baghdad as they flee Ramadi on Friday, April 17.Thousands of Iraqis cross a bridge over the Euphrates River to Baghdad as they flee Ramadi on Friday, April 17.Yazidis embrace after being released by ISIS south of Kirkuk, Iraq, on Wednesday, April 8.lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/08/world/isis-yazidis-released/quot;gt; ISIS released more than 200 Yazidislt;/agt;, a minority group whose members were killed, captured and displaced when the Islamist terror organization overtook their towns in northern Iraq last summer, officials said.Yazidis embrace after being released by ISIS south of Kirkuk, Iraq, on Wednesday, April 8.lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/08/world/isis-yazidis-released/quot;gt; ISIS released more than 200 Yazidislt;/agt;, a minority group whose members were killed, captured and displaced when the Islamist terror organization overtook their towns in northern Iraq last summer, officials said.Kurdish Peshmerga forces help Yazidis as they arrive at a medical center in Altun Kupri, Iraq, on April 8.Kurdish Peshmerga forces help Yazidis as they arrive at a medical center in Altun Kupri, Iraq, on April 8.A Yazidi woman mourns for the death of her husband and children by ISIS after being released south of Kirkuk on April 8.A Yazidi woman mourns for the death of her husband and children by ISIS after being released south of Kirkuk on April 8.People in Tikrit inspect what used to be a palace of former President Saddam Hussein on April 3.People in Tikrit inspect what used to be a palace of former President Saddam Hussein on April 3.On April 1, Shiite militiamen celebrate the retaking of Tikrit, which had been under ISIS control since June. The push into Tikrit came days after U.S.-led airstrikes targeted ISIS bases around the city.On April 1, Shiite militiamen celebrate the retaking of Tikrit, which had been under ISIS control since June. The push into Tikrit came days after U.S.-led airstrikes targeted ISIS bases around the city.Iraqi security forces launch a rocket against ISIS positions in Tikrit on Monday, March 30.Iraqi security forces launch a rocket against ISIS positions in Tikrit on Monday, March 30.The parents of 19-year-old Mohammed Musallam react at the familys home in the East Jerusalem Jewish settlement of Neve Yaakov on Tuesday, March 10. lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/10/middleeast/isis-video-israeli-killed/quot;gt;ISIS released a video purportedlylt;/agt; showing a young boy executing Musallam, an Israeli citizen of Palestinian descent who ISIS claimed infiltrated the group in Syria to spy for the Jewish state. Musallams family told CNN that he had no ties with the Mossad, Israels spy agency, and had, in fact, been recruited by ISIS.The parents of 19-year-old Mohammed Musallam react at the familys home in the East Jerusalem Jewish settlement of Neve Yaakov on Tuesday, March 10. lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/10/middleeast/isis-video-israeli-killed/quot;gt;ISIS released a video purportedlylt;/agt; showing a young boy executing Musallam, an Israeli citizen of Palestinian descent who ISIS claimed infiltrated the group in Syria to spy for the Jewish state. Musallams family told CNN that he had no ties with the Mossad, Israels spy agency, and had, in fact, been recruited by ISIS.Iraqi Shiite fighters cover their ears as a rocket is launched during a clash with ISIS militants in the town of Al-Alam, Iraq, on Monday, March 9.Iraqi Shiite fighters cover their ears as a rocket is launched during a clash with ISIS militants in the town of Al-Alam, Iraq, on Monday, March 9.Displaced Assyrian women who fled their homes due to ISIS attacks pray at a church on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria, on Sunday, March 1. ISIS militants abducted at least 220 Assyrians in Syria. Displaced Assyrian women who fled their homes due to ISIS attacks pray at a church on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria, on Sunday, March 1. ISIS militants abducted at least 220 Assyrians in Syria. Safi al-Kasasbeh, right, receives condolences from tribal leaders at his home village near Karak, Jordan, on Wednesday, February 4. Al-Kasasbehs son, lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/03/world/gallery/jordanian-pilot-reaction/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;Jordanian pilot Moath al-Kasasbeh,lt;/agt; was burned alive in a video that was recently released by ISIS militants. Jordan is one of a handful of Middle Eastern nations taking part in the U.S.-led military coalition against ISIS.Safi al-Kasasbeh, right, receives condolences from tribal leaders at his home village near Karak, Jordan, on Wednesday, February 4. Al-Kasasbehs son, lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/03/world/gallery/jordanian-pilot-reaction/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;Jordanian pilot Moath al-Kasasbeh,lt;/agt; was burned alive in a video that was recently released by ISIS militants. Jordan is one of a handful of Middle Eastern nations taking part in the U.S.-led military coalition against ISIS.A Kurdish marksman looks over a destroyed area of Kobani on Friday, January 30, after the city had been liberated from the ISIS militant group. The Syrian city, also known as Ayn al-Arab, had been under assault by ISIS since mid-September.A Kurdish marksman looks over a destroyed area of Kobani on Friday, January 30, after the city had been liberated from the ISIS militant group. The Syrian city, also known as Ayn al-Arab, had been under assault by ISIS since mid-September.Kurdish people celebrate in Suruc, Turkey, near the Turkish-Syrian border, after ISIS militants were expelled from Kobani on Tuesday, January 27.Kurdish people celebrate in Suruc, Turkey, near the Turkish-Syrian border, after ISIS militants were expelled from Kobani on Tuesday, January 27.Collapsed buildings are seen in Kobani on January 27 after Kurdish forces took control of the town from ISIS.Collapsed buildings are seen in Kobani on January 27 after Kurdish forces took control of the town from ISIS.Junko Ishido, mother of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, reacts during a news conference in Tokyo on Friday, January 23. ISIS would later kill Goto and another Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa.Junko Ishido, mother of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, reacts during a news conference in Tokyo on Friday, January 23. ISIS would later kill Goto and another Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa.ISIS militants are seen through a rifles scope during clashes with Peshmerga fighters in Mosul, Iraq, on Wednesday, January 21.ISIS militants are seen through a rifles scope during clashes with Peshmerga fighters in Mosul, Iraq, on Wednesday, January 21.An elderly Yazidi man arrives in Kirkuk after being released by ISIS on Saturday, January 17. The militant group released about 200 Yazidis who were held captive for five months in Iraq. Almost all of the freed prisoners were in poor health and bore signs of abuse and neglect, Kurdish officials said.An elderly Yazidi man arrives in Kirkuk after being released by ISIS on Saturday, January 17. The militant group released about 200 Yazidis who were held captive for five months in Iraq. Almost all of the freed prisoners were in poor health and bore signs of abuse and neglect, Kurdish officials said.Smoke billows behind an ISIS sign during an Iraqi military operation to regain control of the town of Sadiyah, about 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad, on Tuesday, November 25.Smoke billows behind an ISIS sign during an Iraqi military operation to regain control of the town of Sadiyah, about 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad, on Tuesday, November 25.Fighters from the Free Syrian Army and the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units join forces to fight ISIS in Kobani on Wednesday, November 19.Fighters from the Free Syrian Army and the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units join forces to fight ISIS in Kobani on Wednesday, November 19.A picture taken from Turkey shows smoke rising after ISIS militants fired mortar shells toward an area controlled by Syrian Kurdish fighters near Kobani on Monday, November 3.A picture taken from Turkey shows smoke rising after ISIS militants fired mortar shells toward an area controlled by Syrian Kurdish fighters near Kobani on Monday, November 3.Iraqi special forces search a house in Jurf al-Sakhar, Iraq, on Thursday, October 30, after retaking the area from ISIS.Iraqi special forces search a house in Jurf al-Sakhar, Iraq, on Thursday, October 30, after retaking the area from ISIS.ISIS militants stand near the site of an airstrike near the Turkey-Syria border on Thursday, October 23. The United States and several Arab nations have been bombing ISIS targets in Syria to take out the militant groups ability to command, train and resupply its fighters.ISIS militants stand near the site of an airstrike near the Turkey-Syria border on Thursday, October 23. The United States and several Arab nations have been bombing ISIS targets in Syria to take out the militant groups ability to command, train and resupply its fighters.Kurdish fighters walk to positions as they combat ISIS forces in Kobani on Sunday, October 19.Kurdish fighters walk to positions as they combat ISIS forces in Kobani on Sunday, October 19.Heavy smoke rises in Kobani following an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition on October 18.Heavy smoke rises in Kobani following an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition on October 18.Cundi Minaz, a female Kurdish fighter, is buried in a cemetery in the southeastern Turkish town of Suruc on Tuesday, October 14. Minaz was reportedly killed during clashes with ISIS militants in nearby Kobani.Cundi Minaz, a female Kurdish fighter, is buried in a cemetery in the southeastern Turkish town of Suruc on Tuesday, October 14. Minaz was reportedly killed during clashes with ISIS militants in nearby Kobani.Kiymet Ergun, a Syrian Kurd, celebrates in Mursitpinar, Turkey, after an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition in Kobani on Monday, October 13.Kiymet Ergun, a Syrian Kurd, celebrates in Mursitpinar, Turkey, after an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition in Kobani on Monday, October 13.Alleged ISIS militants stand next to an ISIS flag atop a hill in Kobani on Monday, October 6. Alleged ISIS militants stand next to an ISIS flag atop a hill in Kobani on Monday, October 6. A Kurdish Peshmerga soldier who was wounded in a battle with ISIS is wheeled to the Zakho Emergency Hospital in Duhuk, Iraq, on Tuesday, September 30.A Kurdish Peshmerga soldier who was wounded in a battle with ISIS is wheeled to the Zakho Emergency Hospital in Duhuk, Iraq, on Tuesday, September 30.Syrian Kurds wait near a border crossing in Suruc as they wait to return to their homes in Kobani on Sunday, September 28.Syrian Kurds wait near a border crossing in Suruc as they wait to return to their homes in Kobani on Sunday, September 28.A elderly man is carried after crossing the Syria-Turkey border near Suruc on Saturday, September 20.A elderly man is carried after crossing the Syria-Turkey border near Suruc on Saturday, September 20.A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter launches mortar shells toward ISIS militants in Zumar, Iraq, on Monday, September 15.A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter launches mortar shells toward ISIS militants in Zumar, Iraq, on Monday, September 15.Kurdish Peshmerga fighters fire at ISIS militant positions from their position on the top of Mount Zardak, east of Mosul, Iraq, on Tuesday, September 9. Kurdish Peshmerga fighters fire at ISIS militant positions from their position on the top of Mount Zardak, east of Mosul, Iraq, on Tuesday, September 9. Displaced Iraqis receive clothes from a charity at a refugee camp near Feeshkhabour, Iraq, on Tuesday, August 19.Displaced Iraqis receive clothes from a charity at a refugee camp near Feeshkhabour, Iraq, on Tuesday, August 19.Aziza Hamid, a 15-year-old Iraqi girl, cries for her father while she and some other Yazidi people are flown to safety Monday, August 11, after a dramatic rescue operation at Iraqs Mount Sinjar. A CNN crew was on the flight, which took diapers, milk, water and food to the site where as many as 70,000 people were trapped by ISIS. But only a few of them were able to fly back on the helicopter with the Iraqi Air Force and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.Aziza Hamid, a 15-year-old Iraqi girl, cries for her father while she and some other Yazidi people are flown to safety Monday, August 11, after a dramatic rescue operation at Iraqs Mount Sinjar. A CNN crew was on the flight, which took diapers, milk, water and food to the site where as many as 70,000 people were trapped by ISIS. But only a few of them were able to fly back on the helicopter with the Iraqi Air Force and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.Thousands of Yazidis are escorted to safety by Kurdish Peshmerga forces and a Peoples Protection Unit in Mosul on Saturday, August 9.Thousands of Yazidis are escorted to safety by Kurdish Peshmerga forces and a Peoples Protection Unit in Mosul on Saturday, August 9.Thousands of Yazidi and Christian people flee Mosul on Wednesday, August 6, after the latest wave of ISIS advances.Thousands of Yazidi and Christian people flee Mosul on Wednesday, August 6, after the latest wave of ISIS advances.A Baiji oil refinery burns after an alleged ISIS attack in northern Selahaddin, Iraq, on Thursday, July 31.A Baiji oil refinery burns after an alleged ISIS attack in northern Selahaddin, Iraq, on Thursday, July 31.A Syrian rebel fighter lies on a stretcher at a makeshift hospital in Douma, Syria, on Wednesday, July 9. He was reportedly injured while fighting ISIS militants.A Syrian rebel fighter lies on a stretcher at a makeshift hospital in Douma, Syria, on Wednesday, July 9. He was reportedly injured while fighting ISIS militants.Children stand next to a burnt vehicle during clashes between Iraqi security forces and ISIS militants in Mosul on Tuesday, June 10.Children stand next to a burnt vehicle during clashes between Iraqi security forces and ISIS militants in Mosul on Tuesday, June 10.damascus isis bombingyemen isis attack 1206bangladesh mosque attack paris isis terror threat - RESTRICTED05 Beirut suicide bombings 111201 isis sinjar 111203 isis syria 111101 russia plane crash 110404 isis 102004 isis iraq 101902 airstrikes 081503 car bomb sadr city 081305 isis syria 080606 isis syria 080601 isis ramadi 080602 isis ramadi 08003 isis saudi mosque 080604 isis saudi 01 turkey ISIS funeral01 Turkey ISIS Protestisis in sinai 01 isis kurdish fighting 0625 RESTRICTEDfallujah airstrike 0531 - RESTRICTEDRESTRICTED 02 saudi mosque blast 052201 isis terror threat 042601 isis afgahnistan02 isis ramadi 03 isis ramadi - RESTRICTEDRESTRICTED 01 isis yazidis 040902 isis yazidis 0409RESTRICTED 03 isis yazidis 040901 isis 040601 Tikrit 040102 isis 040102 isis 031001 isis 030902 isis 030101 week in photos 020601 iraq isis 013003 isis 012802 isis 0128 RESTRICTED04 isis 0128 RESTRICTED05 isis 0128 RESTRICTED06 isis 012808 isis 0128 RESTRICTED09 isis 012831 week in photos 1107 RESTRICTED01 ISIS 103001 isis 102306 isis 102001 isis kobani 101805 syria 101402 syria 101401 syria unrest 100502 iraq 100227 week in photos 1003 RESTRICTED02 syrian refugees 092201 week in photos 0919 RESTRICTED02 iraq crisis01 iraq 082108 week in photos 0815iraq 0809 RESTRICTEDRESTRICTED 02 iraq 0807iraq 0731 RESTRICTEDsyria 070903 iraq unrest 0613 RESTRICTED

Last summer, the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence reported that more than 25,000 foreign fighters have traveled to Syria, affiliating themselves with various groups to fight or support the conflict there. They came from more than 100 countries.

More than 250 ISIS fighters in Syria are Americans, according to the director of National Intelligence. Khweis said he did not meet one American during his journey.

Khweis told Kurdish television that he was eventually transferred to Mosul, a 10-hour ride in a packed van.

He described life during his monthlong stay in Mosul as “really, really bad.”

“There was an imam, who taught us … the Sharia, and the religion,” Khweis said. “I didn’t complete the whole Sharia. I didn’t agree with their ideology. That’s when I wanted to escape.”

Daily life centered on prayer and hours of religious education.

“It was pretty hard to live in Mosul,” Khweis told Kurdistan24. “It’s not like the Western countries. You know, it’s very strict. There’s no smoking.”

Khweis found someone to deliver him close to Turkish border.

Kurdish Peshmerga forces apprehended him on Monday near Sinjar “for attempting to enter the Kurdistan region from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul,” according to a statement from Kurdistan Regional Security Council.

“I wanted to go to the Kurd side because I know that they’re good with the Americans,” Khweis said.

U.S. officials said this week a man walked out of ISIS-held territory and approached troops in the same area.

Kurdish soldiers, evidently fearing he could be a suicide bomber, fired shots at the man before he said he wanted to turn himself in, according to the U.S. official.

Khweis said he is happy with the decision to surrender.

“My message to the American people is the life in Mosul, it’s really, really bad,” he said. “The people … controlling Mosul don’t represent the religion … I don’t see them as good Muslims.”

American regrets ‘bad decision’ to travel to ISIS stronghold

Back in America, Khweis’ travel to Iraq to join ISIS is being investigated by the FBI, according to law enforcement officials.

Authorities expect to seek his return to the United States to face criminal charges, the officials said. Investigators are trying to to verify his account of the journey.

Investigators are concerned that the first time they knew Khweis had traveled to join jihadists was after his capture, law enforcement officials said. His family had not told law enforcement of any concerns — if they had any — after he left the United States in December, according to the officials.

In his interview with Kurdistan24, Khweis did not speak much about his life in America. He said he studied criminal justice in Virginia. He occasionally attended mosques. In December, he left for London, then Amsterdam. He later stopped in Turkey, where he met a young woman.

She invited him to Syria. Some time later they arrived in Raqqa, now the capital of ISIS’ self-declared caliphate. At some point, he said, the couple was split up and he ended up with a team of ISIS fighters.

Along the way, Khweis said he spent time at a house where ISIS kept foreign jihadists. The foreigners were ordered to hand over their ID and passports and take a Bay’ah, or oath of allegiance to ISIS, he said.

Later, at another house, Khweis said he met more foreigners — from Asia, Russia, Uzbekistan and other countries. Each man was given a nickname. Khweis was called Abu Omar. After a transfer to yet another house, he was joined by at least 70 other foreigners.

The Islamist extremist group has taken over large swaths of Iraq and Syria, and it has staged attacks elsewhere. It has done so with recruits from not only the Middle East, but other places, including Western countries such as the United States.

The ISIS terror threat The ISIS terror threat Syrian pro-government forces gather at the site of a deadly triple bombing Sunday, January 31, in the lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/31/middleeast/syria-damascus-explosions/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;Damascus suburb of Sayeda Zeynablt;/agt;. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a statement circulating online from supporters of the terrorist group.Syrian pro-government forces gather at the site of a deadly triple bombing Sunday, January 31, in the lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/31/middleeast/syria-damascus-explosions/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;Damascus suburb of Sayeda Zeynablt;/agt;. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a statement circulating online from supporters of the terrorist group.Yemenis check the scene of a car bomb attack Sunday, December 6, in Aden, Yemen. lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/06/middleeast/yemen-aden-governor-killed/index.htmlquot;gt;Aden Gov. Jaafar Saad and six bodyguards died in the attacklt;/agt;, for which the terror group ISIS claimed responsibility.Yemenis check the scene of a car bomb attack Sunday, December 6, in Aden, Yemen. lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/06/middleeast/yemen-aden-governor-killed/index.htmlquot;gt;Aden Gov. Jaafar Saad and six bodyguards died in the attacklt;/agt;, for which the terror group ISIS claimed responsibility.Investigators check the scene of a mosque attack Friday, November 27, in northern Bangladeshs Bogra district. lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/27/asia/bangladesh-isis-attack-claim/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacklt;/agt; that left at least one person dead and three more wounded.Investigators check the scene of a mosque attack Friday, November 27, in northern Bangladeshs Bogra district. lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/27/asia/bangladesh-isis-attack-claim/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacklt;/agt; that left at least one person dead and three more wounded.Wounded people are helped outside the Bataclan concert hall in Paris following a series of coordinated attacks in the city on Friday, November 13. The militant group ISIS claimed responsibility lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/13/world/gallery/paris-attacks/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;for the attacks,lt;/agt; which killed at least 130 people and wounded hundreds more.Wounded people are helped outside the Bataclan concert hall in Paris following a series of coordinated attacks in the city on Friday, November 13. The militant group ISIS claimed responsibility lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/13/world/gallery/paris-attacks/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;for the attacks,lt;/agt; which killed at least 130 people and wounded hundreds more.Emergency personnel and civilians gather at the site of a lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/16/middleeast/beirut-explosions/quot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;twin suicide bombinglt;/agt; in Beirut, Lebanon, on Thursday, November 12. The bombings killed at least 43 people and wounded more than 200 more. ISIS appeared to claim responsibility in a statement posted on social media.Emergency personnel and civilians gather at the site of a lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/16/middleeast/beirut-explosions/quot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;twin suicide bombinglt;/agt; in Beirut, Lebanon, on Thursday, November 12. The bombings killed at least 43 people and wounded more than 200 more. ISIS appeared to claim responsibility in a statement posted on social media.Smoke rises over the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar on November 12. Kurdish Iraqi fighters, backed by a U.S.-led air campaign, lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/13/middleeast/iraq-free-sinjar-isis/quot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;retook the strategic town, lt;/agt;which ISIS militants overran last year. ISIS wants to create an Islamic state across Sunni areas of Iraq and Syria.Smoke rises over the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar on November 12. Kurdish Iraqi fighters, backed by a U.S.-led air campaign, lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/13/middleeast/iraq-free-sinjar-isis/quot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;retook the strategic town, lt;/agt;which ISIS militants overran last year. ISIS wants to create an Islamic state across Sunni areas of Iraq and Syria.Syrian government troops walk inside the Kweiras air base on Wednesday, November 11, after they broke a siege imposed by ISIS militants.Syrian government troops walk inside the Kweiras air base on Wednesday, November 11, after they broke a siege imposed by ISIS militants.Members of the Egyptian military approach the wreckage of a Russian passenger plane Sunday, November 1, in Hassana, Egypt. lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/31/world/gallery/russian-plane-crash/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;The plane crashedlt;/agt; the day before, killing all 224 people on board. ISIS claimed responsibility for downing the plane, but the groups claim wasnt immediately verified.Members of the Egyptian military approach the wreckage of a Russian passenger plane Sunday, November 1, in Hassana, Egypt. lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/31/world/gallery/russian-plane-crash/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;The plane crashedlt;/agt; the day before, killing all 224 people on board. ISIS claimed responsibility for downing the plane, but the groups claim wasnt immediately verified.An explosion rocks Kobani, Syria, during a reported car bomb attack by ISIS militants on Tuesday, October 20.An explosion rocks Kobani, Syria, during a reported car bomb attack by ISIS militants on Tuesday, October 20.Shiite fighters, fighting alongside Iraqi government forces, fire a rocket at ISIS militants as they advance toward the center of Baiji, Iraq, on Monday, October 19.Shiite fighters, fighting alongside Iraqi government forces, fire a rocket at ISIS militants as they advance toward the center of Baiji, Iraq, on Monday, October 19.Smoke rises above a damaged building in Ramadi, Iraq, following a coalition airstrike against ISIS positions on Saturday, August 15.Smoke rises above a damaged building in Ramadi, Iraq, following a coalition airstrike against ISIS positions on Saturday, August 15.Iraqi men look at damage following a bomb explosion that targeted a vegetable market in Baghdad on Thursday, August 13. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. Iraqi men look at damage following a bomb explosion that targeted a vegetable market in Baghdad on Thursday, August 13. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. In this image taken from social media, an ISIS fighter holds the groups flag after the militant group lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/07/world/syria-isis-al-qaryatayn-christians/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;overran the Syrian town of al-Qaryataynlt;/agt; on Thursday, August 6, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.In this image taken from social media, an ISIS fighter holds the groups flag after the militant group lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/07/world/syria-isis-al-qaryatayn-christians/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;overran the Syrian town of al-Qaryataynlt;/agt; on Thursday, August 6, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.An ISIS fighter poses with spoils purportedly taken after capturing the Syrian town of al-Qaryatayn.An ISIS fighter poses with spoils purportedly taken after capturing the Syrian town of al-Qaryatayn.Smoke rises as Iraqi security forces bomb ISIS positions in the eastern suburbs of Ramadi, Iraq, on August 6.Smoke rises as Iraqi security forces bomb ISIS positions in the eastern suburbs of Ramadi, Iraq, on August 6.Buildings reduced to piles of debris can be seen in the eastern suburbs of Ramadi on August 6.Buildings reduced to piles of debris can be seen in the eastern suburbs of Ramadi on August 6.The governor of the Asir region in Saudi Arabia, Prince Faisal bin Khaled bin Abdulaziz, left, visits a man who was wounded in lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/06/middleeast/saudi-arabia-mosque-attack/quot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;a suicide bombing attack on a mosquelt;/agt; in Abha, Saudi Arabia, on August 6. ISIS claimed responsibility for the explosion, which killed at least 13 people and injured nine others.The governor of the Asir region in Saudi Arabia, Prince Faisal bin Khaled bin Abdulaziz, left, visits a man who was wounded in lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/06/middleeast/saudi-arabia-mosque-attack/quot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;a suicide bombing attack on a mosquelt;/agt; in Abha, Saudi Arabia, on August 6. ISIS claimed responsibility for the explosion, which killed at least 13 people and injured nine others.Saudi officials and investigators check the inside of the mosque on August 6.Saudi officials and investigators check the inside of the mosque on August 6.Mourners in Gaziantep, Turkey, grieve over a coffin Tuesday, July 21, during a funeral ceremony for the victims of a suspected ISIS suicide bomb attack. lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/20/world/turkey-suruc-explosion/quot;gt;That bombing killed at least 31 peoplelt;/agt; in Suruc, a Turkish town that borders Syria. Turkish authorities blamed ISIS for the attack.Mourners in Gaziantep, Turkey, grieve over a coffin Tuesday, July 21, during a funeral ceremony for the victims of a suspected ISIS suicide bomb attack. lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/20/world/turkey-suruc-explosion/quot;gt;That bombing killed at least 31 peoplelt;/agt; in Suruc, a Turkish town that borders Syria. Turkish authorities blamed ISIS for the attack.Protesters in Istanbul carry anti-ISIS banners and flags to show support for victims of the Suruc suicide blast during a demonstration on Monday, July 20.Protesters in Istanbul carry anti-ISIS banners and flags to show support for victims of the Suruc suicide blast during a demonstration on Monday, July 20.People in Ashmoun, Egypt, carry the coffin for 1st Lt. Mohammed Ashraf, who was killed when the ISIS militant group lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/02/world/isis-egypt-expanding-reach/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;attacked Egyptian military checkpointslt;/agt; on Wednesday, July 1. At least 17 soldiers were reportedly killed, and 30 were injured.People in Ashmoun, Egypt, carry the coffin for 1st Lt. Mohammed Ashraf, who was killed when the ISIS militant group lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/02/world/isis-egypt-expanding-reach/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;attacked Egyptian military checkpointslt;/agt; on Wednesday, July 1. At least 17 soldiers were reportedly killed, and 30 were injured.Syrians wait near the Turkish border during clashes between ISIS and Kurdish armed groups in Kobani, Syria, on Thursday, June 25. The photo was taken in Sanliurfa, Turkey. ISIS militants disguised as Kurdish security forces infiltrated Kobani on Thursday and killed quot;many civilians,quot; said a spokesman for the Kurds in Kobani.Syrians wait near the Turkish border during clashes between ISIS and Kurdish armed groups in Kobani, Syria, on Thursday, June 25. The photo was taken in Sanliurfa, Turkey. ISIS militants disguised as Kurdish security forces infiltrated Kobani on Thursday and killed quot;many civilians,quot; said a spokesman for the Kurds in Kobani.Residents examine a damaged mosque after an Iraqi Air Force bombing in the ISIS-seized city of Falluja, Iraq, on Sunday, May 31. At least six were killed and nine others wounded during the bombing.Residents examine a damaged mosque after an Iraqi Air Force bombing in the ISIS-seized city of Falluja, Iraq, on Sunday, May 31. At least six were killed and nine others wounded during the bombing.People search through debris after an explosion at a Shiite mosque in Qatif, Saudi Arabia, on Friday, May 22. ISIS lt;a href=quot;http://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/22/middleeast/saudi-arabia-mosque-blast/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;claimed responsibility for the attack,lt;/agt; according to tweets from ISIS supporters, which included a formal statement from ISIS detailing the operation.People search through debris after an explosion at a Shiite mosque in Qatif, Saudi Arabia, on Friday, May 22. ISIS lt;a href=quot;http://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/22/middleeast/saudi-arabia-mosque-blast/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;claimed responsibility for the attack,lt;/agt; according to tweets from ISIS supporters, which included a formal statement from ISIS detailing the operation.Iraqi soldiers fire their weapons toward ISIS group positions in the Garma district, west of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, on Sunday, April 26. Pro-government forces said they had recently made advances on areas held by Islamist jihadists.Iraqi soldiers fire their weapons toward ISIS group positions in the Garma district, west of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, on Sunday, April 26. Pro-government forces said they had recently made advances on areas held by Islamist jihadists.A member of Afghanistans security forces stands at the site where a suicide bomber on a motorbike blew himself up in front of the Kabul Bank in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on Saturday, April 18. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. The explosion killed at least 33 people and injured more than 100 others, a public health spokesman said.A member of Afghanistans security forces stands at the site where a suicide bomber on a motorbike blew himself up in front of the Kabul Bank in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on Saturday, April 18. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. The explosion killed at least 33 people and injured more than 100 others, a public health spokesman said.Iraqi counterterrorism forces patrol in Ramadi on April 18.Iraqi counterterrorism forces patrol in Ramadi on April 18.Thousands of Iraqis cross a bridge over the Euphrates River to Baghdad as they flee Ramadi on Friday, April 17.Thousands of Iraqis cross a bridge over the Euphrates River to Baghdad as they flee Ramadi on Friday, April 17.Yazidis embrace after being released by ISIS south of Kirkuk, Iraq, on Wednesday, April 8.lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/08/world/isis-yazidis-released/quot;gt; ISIS released more than 200 Yazidislt;/agt;, a minority group whose members were killed, captured and displaced when the Islamist terror organization overtook their towns in northern Iraq last summer, officials said.Yazidis embrace after being released by ISIS south of Kirkuk, Iraq, on Wednesday, April 8.lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/08/world/isis-yazidis-released/quot;gt; ISIS released more than 200 Yazidislt;/agt;, a minority group whose members were killed, captured and displaced when the Islamist terror organization overtook their towns in northern Iraq last summer, officials said.Kurdish Peshmerga forces help Yazidis as they arrive at a medical center in Altun Kupri, Iraq, on April 8.Kurdish Peshmerga forces help Yazidis as they arrive at a medical center in Altun Kupri, Iraq, on April 8.A Yazidi woman mourns for the death of her husband and children by ISIS after being released south of Kirkuk on April 8.A Yazidi woman mourns for the death of her husband and children by ISIS after being released south of Kirkuk on April 8.People in Tikrit inspect what used to be a palace of former President Saddam Hussein on April 3.People in Tikrit inspect what used to be a palace of former President Saddam Hussein on April 3.On April 1, Shiite militiamen celebrate the retaking of Tikrit, which had been under ISIS control since June. The push into Tikrit came days after U.S.-led airstrikes targeted ISIS bases around the city.On April 1, Shiite militiamen celebrate the retaking of Tikrit, which had been under ISIS control since June. The push into Tikrit came days after U.S.-led airstrikes targeted ISIS bases around the city.Iraqi security forces launch a rocket against ISIS positions in Tikrit on Monday, March 30.Iraqi security forces launch a rocket against ISIS positions in Tikrit on Monday, March 30.The parents of 19-year-old Mohammed Musallam react at the familys home in the East Jerusalem Jewish settlement of Neve Yaakov on Tuesday, March 10. lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/10/middleeast/isis-video-israeli-killed/quot;gt;ISIS released a video purportedlylt;/agt; showing a young boy executing Musallam, an Israeli citizen of Palestinian descent who ISIS claimed infiltrated the group in Syria to spy for the Jewish state. Musallams family told CNN that he had no ties with the Mossad, Israels spy agency, and had, in fact, been recruited by ISIS.The parents of 19-year-old Mohammed Musallam react at the familys home in the East Jerusalem Jewish settlement of Neve Yaakov on Tuesday, March 10. lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/10/middleeast/isis-video-israeli-killed/quot;gt;ISIS released a video purportedlylt;/agt; showing a young boy executing Musallam, an Israeli citizen of Palestinian descent who ISIS claimed infiltrated the group in Syria to spy for the Jewish state. Musallams family told CNN that he had no ties with the Mossad, Israels spy agency, and had, in fact, been recruited by ISIS.Iraqi Shiite fighters cover their ears as a rocket is launched during a clash with ISIS militants in the town of Al-Alam, Iraq, on Monday, March 9.Iraqi Shiite fighters cover their ears as a rocket is launched during a clash with ISIS militants in the town of Al-Alam, Iraq, on Monday, March 9.Displaced Assyrian women who fled their homes due to ISIS attacks pray at a church on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria, on Sunday, March 1. ISIS militants abducted at least 220 Assyrians in Syria. Displaced Assyrian women who fled their homes due to ISIS attacks pray at a church on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria, on Sunday, March 1. ISIS militants abducted at least 220 Assyrians in Syria. Safi al-Kasasbeh, right, receives condolences from tribal leaders at his home village near Karak, Jordan, on Wednesday, February 4. Al-Kasasbehs son, lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/03/world/gallery/jordanian-pilot-reaction/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;Jordanian pilot Moath al-Kasasbeh,lt;/agt; was burned alive in a video that was recently released by ISIS militants. Jordan is one of a handful of Middle Eastern nations taking part in the U.S.-led military coalition against ISIS.Safi al-Kasasbeh, right, receives condolences from tribal leaders at his home village near Karak, Jordan, on Wednesday, February 4. Al-Kasasbehs son, lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/03/world/gallery/jordanian-pilot-reaction/index.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;Jordanian pilot Moath al-Kasasbeh,lt;/agt; was burned alive in a video that was recently released by ISIS militants. Jordan is one of a handful of Middle Eastern nations taking part in the U.S.-led military coalition against ISIS.A Kurdish marksman looks over a destroyed area of Kobani on Friday, January 30, after the city had been liberated from the ISIS militant group. The Syrian city, also known as Ayn al-Arab, had been under assault by ISIS since mid-September.A Kurdish marksman looks over a destroyed area of Kobani on Friday, January 30, after the city had been liberated from the ISIS militant group. The Syrian city, also known as Ayn al-Arab, had been under assault by ISIS since mid-September.Kurdish people celebrate in Suruc, Turkey, near the Turkish-Syrian border, after ISIS militants were expelled from Kobani on Tuesday, January 27.Kurdish people celebrate in Suruc, Turkey, near the Turkish-Syrian border, after ISIS militants were expelled from Kobani on Tuesday, January 27.Collapsed buildings are seen in Kobani on January 27 after Kurdish forces took control of the town from ISIS.Collapsed buildings are seen in Kobani on January 27 after Kurdish forces took control of the town from ISIS.Junko Ishido, mother of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, reacts during a news conference in Tokyo on Friday, January 23. ISIS would later kill Goto and another Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa.Junko Ishido, mother of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, reacts during a news conference in Tokyo on Friday, January 23. ISIS would later kill Goto and another Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa.ISIS militants are seen through a rifles scope during clashes with Peshmerga fighters in Mosul, Iraq, on Wednesday, January 21.ISIS militants are seen through a rifles scope during clashes with Peshmerga fighters in Mosul, Iraq, on Wednesday, January 21.An elderly Yazidi man arrives in Kirkuk after being released by ISIS on Saturday, January 17. The militant group released about 200 Yazidis who were held captive for five months in Iraq. Almost all of the freed prisoners were in poor health and bore signs of abuse and neglect, Kurdish officials said.An elderly Yazidi man arrives in Kirkuk after being released by ISIS on Saturday, January 17. The militant group released about 200 Yazidis who were held captive for five months in Iraq. Almost all of the freed prisoners were in poor health and bore signs of abuse and neglect, Kurdish officials said.Smoke billows behind an ISIS sign during an Iraqi military operation to regain control of the town of Sadiyah, about 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad, on Tuesday, November 25.Smoke billows behind an ISIS sign during an Iraqi military operation to regain control of the town of Sadiyah, about 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad, on Tuesday, November 25.Fighters from the Free Syrian Army and the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units join forces to fight ISIS in Kobani on Wednesday, November 19.Fighters from the Free Syrian Army and the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units join forces to fight ISIS in Kobani on Wednesday, November 19.A picture taken from Turkey shows smoke rising after ISIS militants fired mortar shells toward an area controlled by Syrian Kurdish fighters near Kobani on Monday, November 3.A picture taken from Turkey shows smoke rising after ISIS militants fired mortar shells toward an area controlled by Syrian Kurdish fighters near Kobani on Monday, November 3.Iraqi special forces search a house in Jurf al-Sakhar, Iraq, on Thursday, October 30, after retaking the area from ISIS.Iraqi special forces search a house in Jurf al-Sakhar, Iraq, on Thursday, October 30, after retaking the area from ISIS.ISIS militants stand near the site of an airstrike near the Turkey-Syria border on Thursday, October 23. The United States and several Arab nations have been bombing ISIS targets in Syria to take out the militant groups ability to command, train and resupply its fighters.ISIS militants stand near the site of an airstrike near the Turkey-Syria border on Thursday, October 23. The United States and several Arab nations have been bombing ISIS targets in Syria to take out the militant groups ability to command, train and resupply its fighters.Kurdish fighters walk to positions as they combat ISIS forces in Kobani on Sunday, October 19.Kurdish fighters walk to positions as they combat ISIS forces in Kobani on Sunday, October 19.Heavy smoke rises in Kobani following an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition on October 18.Heavy smoke rises in Kobani following an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition on October 18.Cundi Minaz, a female Kurdish fighter, is buried in a cemetery in the southeastern Turkish town of Suruc on Tuesday, October 14. Minaz was reportedly killed during clashes with ISIS militants in nearby Kobani.Cundi Minaz, a female Kurdish fighter, is buried in a cemetery in the southeastern Turkish town of Suruc on Tuesday, October 14. Minaz was reportedly killed during clashes with ISIS militants in nearby Kobani.Kiymet Ergun, a Syrian Kurd, celebrates in Mursitpinar, Turkey, after an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition in Kobani on Monday, October 13.Kiymet Ergun, a Syrian Kurd, celebrates in Mursitpinar, Turkey, after an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition in Kobani on Monday, October 13.Alleged ISIS militants stand next to an ISIS flag atop a hill in Kobani on Monday, October 6. Alleged ISIS militants stand next to an ISIS flag atop a hill in Kobani on Monday, October 6. A Kurdish Peshmerga soldier who was wounded in a battle with ISIS is wheeled to the Zakho Emergency Hospital in Duhuk, Iraq, on Tuesday, September 30.A Kurdish Peshmerga soldier who was wounded in a battle with ISIS is wheeled to the Zakho Emergency Hospital in Duhuk, Iraq, on Tuesday, September 30.Syrian Kurds wait near a border crossing in Suruc as they wait to return to their homes in Kobani on Sunday, September 28.Syrian Kurds wait near a border crossing in Suruc as they wait to return to their homes in Kobani on Sunday, September 28.A elderly man is carried after crossing the Syria-Turkey border near Suruc on Saturday, September 20.A elderly man is carried after crossing the Syria-Turkey border near Suruc on Saturday, September 20.A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter launches mortar shells toward ISIS militants in Zumar, Iraq, on Monday, September 15.A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter launches mortar shells toward ISIS militants in Zumar, Iraq, on Monday, September 15.Kurdish Peshmerga fighters fire at ISIS militant positions from their position on the top of Mount Zardak, east of Mosul, Iraq, on Tuesday, September 9. Kurdish Peshmerga fighters fire at ISIS militant positions from their position on the top of Mount Zardak, east of Mosul, Iraq, on Tuesday, September 9. Displaced Iraqis receive clothes from a charity at a refugee camp near Feeshkhabour, Iraq, on Tuesday, August 19.Displaced Iraqis receive clothes from a charity at a refugee camp near Feeshkhabour, Iraq, on Tuesday, August 19.Aziza Hamid, a 15-year-old Iraqi girl, cries for her father while she and some other Yazidi people are flown to safety Monday, August 11, after a dramatic rescue operation at Iraqs Mount Sinjar. A CNN crew was on the flight, which took diapers, milk, water and food to the site where as many as 70,000 people were trapped by ISIS. But only a few of them were able to fly back on the helicopter with the Iraqi Air Force and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.Aziza Hamid, a 15-year-old Iraqi girl, cries for her father while she and some other Yazidi people are flown to safety Monday, August 11, after a dramatic rescue operation at Iraqs Mount Sinjar. A CNN crew was on the flight, which took diapers, milk, water and food to the site where as many as 70,000 people were trapped by ISIS. But only a few of them were able to fly back on the helicopter with the Iraqi Air Force and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.Thousands of Yazidis are escorted to safety by Kurdish Peshmerga forces and a Peoples Protection Unit in Mosul on Saturday, August 9.Thousands of Yazidis are escorted to safety by Kurdish Peshmerga forces and a Peoples Protection Unit in Mosul on Saturday, August 9.Thousands of Yazidi and Christian people flee Mosul on Wednesday, August 6, after the latest wave of ISIS advances.Thousands of Yazidi and Christian people flee Mosul on Wednesday, August 6, after the latest wave of ISIS advances.A Baiji oil refinery burns after an alleged ISIS attack in northern Selahaddin, Iraq, on Thursday, July 31.A Baiji oil refinery burns after an alleged ISIS attack in northern Selahaddin, Iraq, on Thursday, July 31.A Syrian rebel fighter lies on a stretcher at a makeshift hospital in Douma, Syria, on Wednesday, July 9. He was reportedly injured while fighting ISIS militants.A Syrian rebel fighter lies on a stretcher at a makeshift hospital in Douma, Syria, on Wednesday, July 9. He was reportedly injured while fighting ISIS militants.Children stand next to a burnt vehicle during clashes between Iraqi security forces and ISIS militants in Mosul on Tuesday, June 10.Children stand next to a burnt vehicle during clashes between Iraqi security forces and ISIS militants in Mosul on Tuesday, June 10.damascus isis bombingyemen isis attack 1206bangladesh mosque attack paris isis terror threat - RESTRICTED05 Beirut suicide bombings 111201 isis sinjar 111203 isis syria 111101 russia plane crash 110404 isis 102004 isis iraq 101902 airstrikes 081503 car bomb sadr city 081305 isis syria 080606 isis syria 080601 isis ramadi 080602 isis ramadi 08003 isis saudi mosque 080604 isis saudi 01 turkey ISIS funeral01 Turkey ISIS Protestisis in sinai 01 isis kurdish fighting 0625 RESTRICTEDfallujah airstrike 0531 - RESTRICTEDRESTRICTED 02 saudi mosque blast 052201 isis terror threat 042601 isis afgahnistan02 isis ramadi 03 isis ramadi - RESTRICTEDRESTRICTED 01 isis yazidis 040902 isis yazidis 0409RESTRICTED 03 isis yazidis 040901 isis 040601 Tikrit 040102 isis 040102 isis 031001 isis 030902 isis 030101 week in photos 020601 iraq isis 013003 isis 012802 isis 0128 RESTRICTED04 isis 0128 RESTRICTED05 isis 0128 RESTRICTED06 isis 012808 isis 0128 RESTRICTED09 isis 012831 week in photos 1107 RESTRICTED01 ISIS 103001 isis 102306 isis 102001 isis kobani 101805 syria 101402 syria 101401 syria unrest 100502 iraq 100227 week in photos 1003 RESTRICTED02 syrian refugees 092201 week in photos 0919 RESTRICTED02 iraq crisis01 iraq 082108 week in photos 0815iraq 0809 RESTRICTEDRESTRICTED 02 iraq 0807iraq 0731 RESTRICTEDsyria 070903 iraq unrest 0613 RESTRICTED

Last summer, the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence reported that more than 25,000 foreign fighters have traveled to Syria, affiliating themselves with various groups to fight or support the conflict there. They came from more than 100 countries.

More than 250 ISIS fighters in Syria are Americans, according to the director of National Intelligence. Khweis said he did not meet one American during his journey.

Khweis told Kurdish television that he was eventually transferred to Mosul, a 10-hour ride in a packed van.

He described life during his monthlong stay in Mosul as “really, really bad.”

“There was an imam, who taught us … the Sharia, and the religion,” Khweis said. “I didn’t complete the whole Sharia. I didn’t agree with their ideology. That’s when I wanted to escape.”

Daily life centered on prayer and hours of religious education.

“It was pretty hard to live in Mosul,” Khweis told Kurdistan24. “It’s not like the Western countries. You know, it’s very strict. There’s no smoking.”

Khweis found someone to deliver him close to Turkish border.

Kurdish Peshmerga forces apprehended him on Monday near Sinjar “for attempting to enter the Kurdistan region from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul,” according to a statement from Kurdistan Regional Security Council.

“I wanted to go to the Kurd side because I know that they’re good with the Americans,” Khweis said.

U.S. officials said this week a man walked out of ISIS-held territory and approached troops in the same area.

Kurdish soldiers, evidently fearing he could be a suicide bomber, fired shots at the man before he said he wanted to turn himself in, according to the U.S. official.

Khweis said he is happy with the decision to surrender.

“My message to the American people is the life in Mosul, it’s really, really bad,” he said. “The people … controlling Mosul don’t represent the religion … I don’t see them as good Muslims.”

Women defend solo travels after murder of backpackers in Ecuador

The post written in their name has now had more than 730,000 shares over the past two weeks.

It’s also sparked a social media debate over victim-blaming and women’s right to safely travel alone.

The post was written to protest against those who implied that the two young women had invited trouble and their own brutal deaths through their own actions.

“But worse than death was the humiliation which came after,” the post continues.

It criticizes the “useless questions” of people who blamed the women for “traveling alone.”

The hashtag #viajosola, meaing “I travel alone,” has since been picked up by thousands of people, mostly women, who are using it to share pictures of themselves on their solo travels, defending their right to explore the world without discrimination or harassment.

Many make the point that the victims weren’t traveling alone, since they were together and were only seen as “alone” because they were unaccompanied by men.

“Here I am backpacking with my best friend, but for society I actually traveled alone.”

Ecuadorian authorities have arrested two men allegedly linked to the murders.

Poll: Are ‘ridiculous’ airline fees grounding your travel plans?

Ticketing fees. Baggage fees. Cancellation fees.

What used to feel like airport incidentals now seem like a routine part of air travel. And if any of these fees have you feeling fed up, well, you’re not alone.

The Forbidding Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous Fees Act — yes, that’s really what it’s called — aims to keep those in check.

The bill, introduced this week by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), calls out the fees airlines can charge for checked baggage, ticket changes and cancellations.

“Airlines fees are as high as the planes passengers are traveling on, and it’s time to stop their rapid ascent,” Markey said. “Airlines should not be allowed to overcharge captive passengers just because they need to change their flight or have to check a couple of bags.”

“This measure will ground the soaring, gouging fees that contribute to airlines’ record profits and passengers’ rising pain,” Blumenthal said.

People look at the United Airlines timetable in Newark International Airport, New Jersey July 8, 2015. United Airlines resumed flights at all U.S. airports on Wednesday after they were grounded due to computer issues, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.  The FAA issued the order to prevent all United Airlines flights from taking off following a systemwide computer glitch, which was resolved, the agency said. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz - RTX1JKUJ

People look at the United Airlines timetable in Newark International Airport, New Jersey July 8, 2015. Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

According to government statistics, Airlines like United, Delta, American and Southwest netted more than $5 billion in the first three quarters of last year in extra fees on checked bags, flight changes and cancellations.

“That’s a large amount of money that goes directly to the bottom line, so fees have become a very critical aspect of airline profitability these days,” Bloomberg travel reporter Justin Bachman said in an interview.

Congress hasn’t been involved in airline pricing since it deregulated the industry in 1978 under the Airline Deregulation Act, which intended to remove government control over fares, routes and market entry from commercial aviation.

Photo via Getty Images

Photo via Getty Images

In response, airline industry advocates belittled the legislation as an effort to re-regulate air travel by disposing of the fees that they say give travelers more flexibility.

“These fare structures also help to reduce passenger ‘no-shows’ and the need for airlines to overbook,” Melanie Hinton, the communications director for Airlines for America, told PBS NewsHour in a statement.

“Customers have choices today…they can purchase nonrefundable fares that are highly affordable. If they would like the flexibility to change their ticket at the last minute, they can do so as well,” she said.

Bachman said chances of the bill passing in its current form appear to be slim, but the fact it is being discussed at the congressional level does signal that lawmakers are listening to “the growing chorus from the public who’s sitting at the back of the airplane that things are getting a little tight and a little bit uncomfortable.”

“It’s a long shot,” he said.

What do you think? Weigh in on the issue by voting in our poll below.

Do ‘ridiculous’ airline fees prevent you from traveling?

Why I Don’t Have a Travel Bucket List

Nope, you won’t find a bucket list in the “about” section of my blog. And you definitely won’t find one tucked away into any of my social media channels, real-life conversations, or silent daydreams.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have dreams. Places I’d love to see someday, people I’d like to meet, and adventures I’d love to experience. The distinction is that I treasure these dreams because they remain just that: dreams. I refuse to transform them into some sort of obligatory checklist. Goals are great. To-do lists, well…

To-do lists suck the freedom from activities.

To-do lists confine your opportunities for spontaneity.

To-do lists layer on the expectations.

To-do lists value quantity over quality.

And let’s face it: a travel bucket list is a glorified, Instagram-worthy to-do list. It’s much more fun to read than a grocery list or your workday checklist, but at its core, it remains the same. Something to do, rather than something to enjoy.

To-do bucket lists suck the freedom from activities.

To-do bucket lists confine your opportunities for spontaneous travel.

To-do bucket lists layer on the expectations (and we all know how I feel about expectations and travel . . .)

To-do bucket lists value travel quantity over travel quality.

As a recovering perfectionist, I can safely say I’d rather keep my travels as something fun and enjoyable than something to accomplish and finish. Sure, there’s pride and feelings of satisfaction in that, but what about simple relaxation?

 

2016-03-09-1457546500-8583596-bucketlistroad.jpg

 

Travel remains one of the best ways to learn and expand one’s perspective, yet most of that learning comes from being open to new possibilities and perspectives. While I’m sure vagabonds completing a long-awaited bucket list journey will learn from and enjoy the experience, for me there’s something lost in the checklist nature of the event.

I want to travel because I want to learn. Because I want to have fun. Because I want to make memories I’ll cherish my whole lifetime. I don’t want my passion for adventure to turn into another to-do requirement in which I travel because it’s another thing on my list.

I have a lot on my list already. And a lot of lists. As I mentioned, I am that type-A, get-it-done-a-week-early, ace-the-test recovering perfectionist. When I started this travel blog many of my loved ones worried it would be one more “to-do” on the expanding list of things I sign up for.

And they were right, in part, to worry. Thankfully by this point in my life I’ve learned to take the advice of those who know me best (okay, mostly, give a girl some slack!). So I try to carefully examine my own heart and soul before adding obligations to my task list.

Although parts of the great myriad of activities I call “blogging” have become, and always were, to-do’s (no, I don’t actually get off on tweeting 10+ times a day), there are many aspects of the trade I refuse to transform into to-do’s.

One of these is writing, the heart and soul of my work. Another, no less central, is traveling. These are among the sacred things that I will absolutely not allow to become another obligatory task.

And that, dear vagabonds, means no travel bucket list for me.

Airlines expect record numbers for spring travel

WASHINGTON – Airlines are projecting a record spring travel season, the trade group Airlines for America said Wednesday

The group forecast 140 million passengers during March and April, a 3% rise compared to the same period a year ago. That total would be the highest ever for spring travel, topping the 136.2 million passengers who flew during March and April of 2015, the group said.

“The continued growth in passenger volumes can be attributed to the accessibility and affordability of air travel today,” said John Heimlich, the group’s chief economist. “To meet the extra demand, airlines are deploying new and larger aircraft on many routes.”

Ten publicly traded airlines reported a combined $23.2 billion in pre-tax earnings during 2015, which led to complaints about fares not dropping along with fuel prices.

But fares are generally lower during the last decade when factoring in inflation. Airlines invested $17 billion on improvements such as new aircraft, in-flight entertainment and ground equipment, Heimlich said.

“They are reinvesting improving cash flows to benefit customers, employees and investors,” Heimlich said. “With more reliable operations, lower airfares, more seats in the marketplace and a steady stream of new and larger aircraft, airlines are seeing a record number travelers,exceeding 790 million last year.”

The estimated spring increase of 63,000 passengers per day is comparable to what the Transportation Security Administration projected for spring break.

Sharon Pinkerton, senior vice president for legislative and regulatory policy at Airlines for America, urged TSA to reduce wait-times in the short term through better staffing assignments during peak travel times and additional canine teams.

“We need to make sure they’re going to the right spaces,” Pinkerton said. “We urge TSA to focus on short-term wins to try to make sure that we keep those wait-times reasonable.”

6 travel apps for people who trust strangers

For most, the prospect of making yourself vulnerable to strangers is terrifying. This list is for the minority that has no problem depending on the kindness of strangers.

Although one of the best parts of traveling is meeting new people and making new connections, recent advances in technology walk a fine line between informative and just plain creepy.

SEE ALSO: I joined an app that paired me with a stranger for life. Now to find them.

These six apps can either be a great resource for learning about a city from friends you haven’t met yet or a horror film in the making.

So just be smart out there, guys — and don’t say nobody warned you about stranger danger.

Overnight

Image: overnight

Made for people who love waking up in the morning and trying to remember where they are, Overnight is the Airbnb for spontaneous (and trusting) people.

Users drop a pin where they are, and nearby hosts can offer to put them up. As the list of available pads pours in, users choose where they want to stay and make the booking for that night. 

Overnight only works in Los Angeles and Austin right now, but the company is planning expansion to New York and San Francisco.

Wingman

Wingman started off as a tongue-in-cheek way to find like-minded people on your flight and maybe join the mile-high club. But the idea has expanded to help travelers “meet people at your airport, on your flight, and at your destination.” 

If pre-travel, you’re swiping through people on your flight and someone looks cute, you can arrange to sit next to them for the entirety of your voyage. Maybe that person will shower regularly, not be racist and understand the rules of sharing armrests on the plane. Or not.

The app doesn’t officially launch until this summer, but eager travelers can sign up to be one of the first people onboard on the Wingman’s website.

Findery

Image: screenshot / findery

Findery advertises itself as a sort of virtual treasure hunt, using people’s real life experiences as clues along the way. It’s a solid resource for finding out about new restaurants or hidden bars, but it can get creepy fast. 

While swiping through nearby locations, one woman’s blind date popped up. From there, it was easy to access all of her other favorite spots. It didn’t take long to figure out where she hangs out regularly, what times she goes there and what she does while there.

However the creepy feeling took a long time to wash away.

Follower

If you’re looking for a truly authentic travel experience, why not just stalk a local?

The app Follower is an art project by Lauren McCarthy, and doubles as a travel app for either following someone else or being followed.

Following someone else is a great way to discover new parts of a city that you normally wouldn’t explore (like outside of a stranger’s apartment or office building!). And for those that are followed, the app aims to help you enjoy each moment more thoroughly, knowing that someone is watching everything you do.

It’s also a great option for someone who is traveling alone and can’t afford a photographer: The person following you will secretly take pictures of you and then send one to you via the app!

Follower is only available in New York City. 

TripWire

Image: screenshot / tripwire

Tripwire allows adventurous travelers to get the lowdown on the best things to do, places to go and who will be there. The app features a live feed of content that is tailored to each user’s routes.

It all sounds like fun and games until you start exploring and realize that you’re able to see who else is in town and how far away they are. But the creepiest feature is a map that tracks each user’s path. Once you become friends with someone, you can see their past and future paths and they can see yours. Choose your friends wisely. 

However, via the app, it’s possible to find really cool events. (We got invited to a secret ramen pop-up that looked really cool.)

Winston Club

Share your hotel room with a stranger! Save money! Maybe don’t make it out alive!

This is the premise of Winston Club (minus that last bit). The app lets users split hotel rooms with strangers. When the app officially launches in March, it will work in Las Vegas, Portland, Seattle and San Francisco.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

5 Simple Tips for Saving on Holiday Travel

It’s almost that time of year again and while many of us can’t seem to see past Halloween, we should be conscious of the rapidly approaching holiday season and with that, increasing travel costs. Check out these simple tips to save you money on your travel this holiday season.

1. Book early and save.

If you’ve figured out your family’s travel plans for the season, the time to book is now. The earlier you book, the better your chances are for getting a great deal on holiday travel plans. It is recommended that you book at least three weeks in advance when purchasing a flight. You’ll see the lowest fares debuting in early November. If you have to wait to book your travel plans, then try waiting to book on days when travel is typically cheaper, such as Tuesdays and Wednesdays, instead of booking on a Friday or Saturday.

When booking early, you may be worried about missing out on a cheaper fare price. However, travel sites such as Orbitz, Expedia and Priceline all offer Best Price Guarantees, which can help you get refunds if a lower fare price is found. Make sure to read each companies’ fine print and list of flight qualifications in order to receive your refund.

2. Fly the day of the holiday.

Often times, the most expensive days to travel are the days before and after the holiday because that is when most people travel. Take the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as an example. If you can rearrange travel plans to fly on the day of the actual holiday, it will increase your odds of scoring a better deal. Your in-laws or other family members may not be the happiest about it, but your wallet definitely will be.

3. Look for coupons and deals.

Nowadays there is a coupon or deal for nearly everything, especially travel. The business of travel is very competitive, so you will find deals on anything from rental cars, hotels and flights. Try booking all three together for a package deal. If you’re looking only for a hotel, try looking for exclusive deals like 10 percent off Best Western Room Rates to guarantee you’re getting a great rate.

4. Get there early.

The last added piece of stress you need when traveling for the holidays is missing your flight and having to pay extra in flight change fees. These are the busiest travel times of the year so be prepared when getting to the airport; lines will be long and patience short. Getting there early will ensure you’re on-time to your gate (now let’s just hope the plane is on-time, too).

Parking can add an extra amount of time to your travels. From trying to navigate through the overly packed parking lot, finding what seems like the last spot and catching the shuttle to the terminal, your well-prepared travel plans could quickly change. Instead of parking, find a friend to take you to the airport. Not only will this save you on time, but also money on the inflated parking fees at the airport. If you find that all your friends are also traveling, try using a coupon code for a free Uber or Lyft ride.

5. Ship your extra luggage and gifts.

Depending on how many days you’re traveling and how many are in your family, shipping your extra luggage and gifts is a great way to cut costs this season. Many airlines are charging extra fees for checked baggage and sometimes even for carry-on bags. Almost all airlines will have an overweight bag fee as well. If it is feasible for you to ship any extra belongings ahead of your trip then you could definitely be enhancing your holiday travel savings. In addition, shipping any gifts you will be giving away is a great way to not only keep the packages looking freshly wrapped, but also avoiding any TSA inspections of wrapped packages which will cost you precious time.

Many people don’t think of October as a “holiday” month, but we all know after the end of Halloween comes Christmas music on repeat, the smell of apple pie and of course holiday shopping. You try to save money during the holidays by shopping on days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday but fail when it comes to saving on holiday travel. The key is to be aware and book early. Try using some of these tips when you travel this season and let us know how it goes. Safe travels, everyone.

Getting Started: Why you should book your flight early for travel in 2016

If you’re making travel plans for 2016, or even just thinking about taking a trip next year, it may be a good idea to book your airfare sooner rather than later.

Fare sales are raming up this month after a record number of airline deals in the fall, according to Hopper, an app that tracks airfare trends and predicts when to get the best price on a plane ticket.

“September was by far the strongest we’ve seen for sales,” said Patrick Surry, chief data scientist at Hopper. “In October, the number of sales was up about 50 percent from the same period last year, and December could be another good month.”

To take advantage of the discounts, here’s what you need to know:

��Book for winter or spring travel. According to Hopper’s Consumer Airfare Index, the average round-trip domestic airline ticket booked in December for travel during off-peak times – generally from January until just before the start of the summer travel season in May or June – is expected to cost just $205. Last year, the average was $245.

The index measures the “good-deal” price a consumer would typically pay for domestic travel (and so excludes last-minute ticket purchases for business travel that usually are far more expensive).

Surry said one reason for the greater frequency of sales has to do with the sharp decline in oil prices.

“Fuel costs have gone down a lot, so airlines have a little more room to fight each other on prices,” he said.

In addition, most flights for holiday travel are already booked by the start of December. With consumers focused on completing their holiday shopping at the mall, rather than buying plane tickets, airlines start cutting fares.

��Search midweek. You’re likely to find the best flash sales on Wednesdays and Thursdays. A flash sale is a fare drop of 20 percent or more below prevailing ticket prices.

“Sales are driven by people at the airlines,” Surry said. “As the workweek starts, they’ll decide if they need to run a sale in order to fill more seats.” As a result, Surry said, sales usually finish as the workweek wraps up and are all but nonexistent during holidays and weekends, when airline executives are not in the office.

��Pick a popular destination. The best deals will be found if you depart from a city that is served by more than a couple of competing airlines. Those cities include Atlanta, Chicago, Denver and Philadelphia. The same is true if you travel to popular destinations in the U.S., such as Las Vegas and Orlando, and for overseas trips to cities such as Cancun, Mexico; London; and San Jose, Costa Rica.

“You tend to find the best sales at airports that have multiple carriers,” Surry said. “So Boston, which is served by a lot of airlines, will have a lot more competitive price movement than a place like Detroit will.”

��Be flexible. Fare sales don’t last long, often ending the same day that they started. And the biggest discounts will be snagged by travelers who can be flexible about their travel dates and times.

“Our advice is to keep an eye on destinations that you might be interested in,” Surry said. “If you see a deal, act quickly.”

ABOUT THE WRITER

Carolyn Bigda writes Getting Started for the Chicago Tribune. yourmoney@tribune.com.