I'm on a flight back from London as I write this letter, having just attended an international travel exposition. I never thought I'd pine for New York's Coliseum, site of the car shows and boat shows of my childhood, a venue Karrie Jacobs describes in appropriately non-nostalgic terms in her report on the redevelopment of Columbus Circle. But London's ExCeL center, in the Docklands, made me appreciate my city's lost behemoth, an eyesore with the virtue of having washed up in the middle of town. Unlike Columbus Circle, the Docklands is not at the epicenter of anything in that pulsing and stylish metropolis, except, perhaps, urban sprawl. I'd also like to say a word for New York City traffic. It's really not that bad; on the other hand, I wish I could transplant some of London's cabdrivers, particularly that pioneering and energetic woman Gill Sergeant—the perfect antidote to my jet lag—who are courteous and familiar with the route, no matter how clogged or winding the roads.
So here I sit in the middle section of row 11, feeling tired but content until—take note, William Norwich ("Missed Manners")—it becomes impossible to ignore that my nearest neighbor has a whopping cold: there are balled-up tissues encroaching on my personal space. I try to put up an invisible (if permeable) shield by thinking pleasant thoughts. During my four days in London, I met a broad range of people from emerging markets for tourism—Rwanda, Nepal, Honduras—and the optimism that was so plainly in the air was exhilarating. As we look ahead to the new year, we at Travel + Leisure share that positive spirit, and in this issue we celebrate the changing but enduring nature of travel with our "Special Report 2004: Travel Now". Though the world has finite borders, its frontiers are always shifting as cities like Beirut and Kolkata reinvent themselves in vitally modern ways, and a classic stretch of American highway, a precursor to the four-lane roadways that now take us far beyond our cities, serves as a reminder of the significance of car travel and exploration. Development also claims its victims—whether the former TWA terminal at JFK or, more dramatically, China's Yangtze River delta—demanding our attention and producing urgency in our own itineraries so we can get there fast.
That Travel + Leisure readers are habituated to and passionate about travel is unassailably true—just look at the T+L 500, our annual listing of the greatest hotels in the world, chosen by the magazine's subscribers. How on earth could anyone ever consider staying home?