The day started early—eight hours before my plane would cross the Alps, hover over Turin, and zero in on Milan. I was up at 6 a.m., to pack my bags and to get ready for a roundtable discussion, at the Lanesborough hotel in London, on a subject that's always before me: What's Next in Travel. The representatives of U.K. hotels and tourism offices wanted to know how to attract more U.S. visitors. They start from an advantage: according to a recent Harris Interactive poll, nearly half of all Americans have very positive feelings about the quality of life in Great Britain. In this magazine's tabulation of destination searches at travelandleisure.com over the past six months, London ranks third; England, 13th. The message of the U.S. elections in November is that the powerful force driving American decisions—more important than the preference for Republicans over Democrats or for Fox News over the New York Times (to paraphrase Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman)—is the quest for values. I believe a similar motivation is driving travel.
And why shouldn't we Americans be seeking experiences we can grab onto, given the complexities and uncertainties of the world? This thought was running through my mind yesterday, as CNN was broadcasting reports on Yasser Arafat's final hours and the horrors in Fallujah and I was filling time while trying to catch up with my luggage, which had been picked up by another car and was circling Hyde Park, with all its draconian traffic restrictions against stopping anywhere other than at a light. I had 90 minutes to make it to Heathrow for my flight. Is it all worth it? I asked myself.
The answer—of course—is yes. Like my luggage, at least for a short interlude during this rigidly choreographed business trip, the traveling American public is going its own way. This month, in T+L Forecast 2005, we consider a broad spectrum of emerging destinations, from Putrajaya, the $5 billion-plus Malaysian administrative capital under construction for almost 10 years, scouted out by architecture writer Karrie Jacobs ("Urban Utopias"), to the unexplored frontier of space, with its gravity-defying possibilities, described by author M. G. Lord ("The Outer Limits"). The rewards are distinctly values-based at places like the Native American-owned Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa near Phoenix, visited by contributing editor Shane Mitchell ("Living Culture"), or at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York's Westchester County, where even choosing what to eat has become a moral decision, as editor-at-large Peter Jon Lindberg discovers ("Food for Thought").
In this issue, we also celebrate our annual roster of the T+L 500, an informative and entertaining global guide to the world's best hotels. We shop our way through the south of France on a spree with contributing editor Alan Brown and illustrator Christopher Corr ("The French Connection"), and take the measure of Jordan—both the bedouin-inhabited desert and the worldly precincts of Amman—through the eyes of writer Lee Smith ("The Middle of the Middle East"). For an experience that's decidedly more relaxing, there's the new Raffles Resort Canouan Island, in the Grenadines—the first resort in the Western Hemisphere to be managed by those Singapore-based luxury experts. The value here is perhaps more human than moral: much-needed rest, from whence good judgment springs. But it's midnight now in Milan, or 6 p.m. in New York—and I'm just back from dinner. My window of opportunity is the seven hours of sleep I can get if I go to bed now—before it all starts up again, in this highly sophisticated and pasta-filled city that I have come to love. Who knows what adventures the new day will hold?