Twenty years ago last Friday I arrived at Travel + Leisure. I had been the editor in chief of House & Garden; a book editor at Clarkson Potter; and, fresh out of college, an assistant and then a reader in the fiction department of The New Yorker. I thought of myself as reasonably well traveled, though outside of what I’d read and edited, the closest I had come to South America was Mexico and the Caribbean, and to Asia, Hawaii. The world I entered in the summer of 1993 extended far beyond these boundaries to places that remain tagged in my memory for qualities that were then entirely new to me. My mental notes from a trip to Hong Kong in the fall of that year still remain: East-meets-West glamour; bamboo scaffolding; crossing Victoria Harbour on the Star Ferry. From Auckland, New Zealand: green-lipped mussels for lunch on Queen Street; Waiheke Island sheep; grass; New Age shops. And so on, from Botswana (sandstorm; hippos) to Japan (textiles; ceramics; lacquerware), and from Buenos Aires to Tromsø in Norway’s Arctic Circle.
As I listened yesterday to the roll call of 9/11 victims’ names, reflecting so many vastly different places of origin, so many different families and cultures, I was thinking about travel in its broadest sense. Despite 9/11, or perhaps even in some ways because of it, America’s connections to the world have broadened and deepened over the past decade. Though we are a country of immigrants, we are also a country known for turning inward, and for staying within our shores. Despite the fear of terrorism, the ongoing economic crisis, the challenges of airport security, and the wages of wars and geopolitical strife, Americans have fanned out beyond our borders in greater numbers and with a greater spirit of exploration than ever before.
We go farther off the beaten path, to China, India, Russia, and Brazil—economies that not entirely coincidentally are rapidly expanding—and to Africa, Bhutan, and Patagonia. This is the best response to those that have us in their sights: an open mind, an open heart, and the thirst for new experiences of the world.
Nancy Novogrod is the editor-in-chief of Travel + Leisure.
Photographed by Richard Phibbs.