I arrived back on the East Coast from California the Friday before Hurricane Sandy. While New Yorkers were consumed by preparations for the storm, I had been working on a talk on social media and travel. As is so often the case, to examine travel trends is to embrace, or at least acknowledge, contradictions. At the same time that trip-planning tools are shooting up the App Store charts, we see a greater emphasis than ever on “the hand of the maker”—that is, to quote Jim Taylor of the Harrison Group, American Express Publishing’s partner in our annual Survey of Affluence and Wealth in America: “...the question is becoming, ‘what is a particular level of craftsmanship worth to me?’” The use of expert travel advisers to carefully conceive and organize trips is on the rise—a tendency that Taylor points out is increasingly prevalent among affluent millennials. I, too, have been relying on a travel expert to make sure my flights are operating and arrange transportation back to New York’s recently reopened JFK Airport (a difficult assignment post-Sandy, as it turned out). This time I’m off to London, feeling sad to be abandoning my city in the aftermath of the devastation.
As to the pursuit of craftsmanship, I have lined up a number of plans in London, from dining at restaurants distinguished for their design as well as their food to a pre-opening tour of the Shangri-La Hotel on the upper floors of architect Renzo Piano’s Shard, London’s tallest building, and an introduction to super-luxe new suites at the Dorchester hotel. In Gary Shteyngart’s case, the holy grail, revealed in this issue, was uncovering uniquely flavorful expressions of place, among them delicious adaptations of pork products (“Pure Santa Fe”). Julian Rubinstein’s pursuit of both the wonders of nature and the comforts of inner peace led him to dramatic landscapes and, less pleasantly, a rather shocking encounter with a raw egg (“True Adventures in Ecuador”). This month, to aid in your own search for the well-crafted and sublime, we include our annual T+L 500, a listing of the top hotels and resorts in the world as chosen by you, our readers.
According to information I turned up in my research on social media and travel, it is estimated that 10 percent of all photos ever taken by humankind were taken in the past 12 months. Is it any wonder, then, that in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the destruction of Sandy will linger on in images as well as memory, alongside all those vivid pictures of vacations we don’t want to forget.
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