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Top Travel Trends of 2010

Blasius Erlinger

It's true—we travel to relax, to see new places, shop in hot design cities, and eat and drink till we drop. But we also travel to connect—to people and to places, to history, landscapes, food, and traditions. And in 2010 the desire among travelers for authentic experiences is stronger than ever.

At the same time, we find ourselves bound together in new and unpredictable ways by technology—by the always-on, real-time, status-updating frenzy of social media, backed by the power of our smartphone cameras and iPhone apps. So this is the way we travel now: in search of connection, and yet already connected.

But is connectivity always a good thing? Yes, you can ask your friends and followers for restaurant advice and travel tips for your vacation in Barcelona, and yes, you can look at a million photos and video clips on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Street View. A detailed itinerary has its appeal, but we are also losing touch with the magic and mystery of travel. One of the reasons we travel, after all, is for the thrill of discovery.

In counterpoint to high-tech social networking is the enduring appeal of the book fair, places where readers and authors meet face-to-face. Literary festivals, like music, theater, and other live events, are thriving not in spite of the Internet but because of it—more and more, travelers are seeking out real connections, real people, and one-of-a-kind experiences.

While more and more shopping experiences are moving online—including trunk shows and even sample sales—there are still those items that you can find only in person, on the road. We catalogued unusual keepsakes—real discoveries around the world, items found in street markets, hardware stores, and pharmacies rather than gift shops. They're not necessarily pretty or kitschy but are old-fashioned and solid. More than anything else they reflect the places they're from—and therefore are truly authentic souvenirs.

This year's trend report also includes our picks of emerging destinations and new places to stay, including an easygoing new beach hotel in Florida, the Postcard Inn on the Beach; the new Hotel Le Corderie in Triste, Italy; and Keswick Hall in Virginia, where guests can help make wine, and bring a bottle home. Plus: a 3-D simulation of Florence and Venice, a new green city in India, and the enduring appeal of French cooking.

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