Backward glances have never much appealed to me. In my experience, feasting on the past inevitably leaves the present coming up short. However, I find myself at a moment that demands retrospection, as editor-in-chief of a magazine that has for 40 years thrived and steadfastly inspired travel among its legions of readers—more than 5 million in the U.S. and hundreds of thousands more for our editions in Southeast Asia, India/South Asia, China, Turkey, and Mexico.
My creed is quite simple: I believe in the power of travel—and I am most assuredly speaking for the distinguished editors who preceded me at Travel + Leisure as well. Travel can change the world, and it has: formerly inaccessible countries such as China have opened their doors to visitors, allowing culture to flow in and out. Travel transforms lives: during a recent trip to Lamu, in Kenya, my husband and I visited a shelter called Anidan that ensures children from the streets and from abusive families receive health care and education. Travel opens minds: it humanizes and personalizes the remote and foreign. It teaches us that the authentic, the exotic, and the genuine must be treasured.
Travel + Leisure’s 40th Anniversary Issue was a minefield of temptations to linger on the past—and why not? Launched in 1971, T+L is the world’s longest-running travel publication. Faced with the challenge to be forward-looking, the editors point out ways in which the magazine’s past was, in fact, a jump start on the future in “Top Travel Destinations: 1971–2011,” a four-decade time line of featured destinations, and “World’s Most Important Travel Innovations,” which celebrates the innovative individuals and products that have impacted the way we travel, from foam earplugs to loyalty points.
Given the the hyper-connected, digitized world we live in, the issue zooms in on today’s innovative new mode of storytelling, where Facebook users assemble a vast shared library of photographs tracing the passage of time in Rome, and an old-fashioned cross-country drive is documented with new technology. While futurists opine on what’s next in travel, a collection of writers discuss the classic problem of finding your way, and inspiring itineraries cut paths through the continents in “Best Life-Changing Trips.” T+L stalwarts, valued contributors all, Gary Shteyngart, Andrew Solomon, and Peter Jon Lindberg paint intimate portraits of Russia’s capital, Rio, and the Thai island of Ko Samui; and Guy Trebay considers the richness of the peripatetic life.
In travel, there are few immutable truths. The world changes as it spins, tossing out perceived notions about everything—even air travel. On my way home from Kenya I had what for me was a transcendent experience during a layover at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, where I dropped in on an exhibition of 17th-century Dutch flower paintings from the Rijksmuseum, shopped for tulip bulbs (it was Holland, after all), and rested my feet by a glowing fake fire in a seating area by Dutch design star Marcel Wanders. I was almost sorry to leave.
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