Keeping on top of cultural trends is easier than keeping up with nature. The tented splendor of Wilson Island on Australia's Great Barrier Reef--where you can spend three days in a private Buckminster Fuller-esque canvas­covered dome and share bathroom facilities with 11 other guests for $600-plus per night ("Reef Madness," Christopher Petkanas)--exemplifies a phenomenon observed among the luxury­seeking rich. We continue to document simplicity-at-a-price in this magazine. But, sadly, covering a story on natural disaster safety proposed by writer Chris Cox earlier this year has been like trying to keep up with a moving target. The piece, "Preparing for the Worst," was scheduled to coincide with the first anniversary of the tsunami in South Asia, examining the warning systems that have been put in place over the past year to protect residents and visitors alike from unpredictable natural events. The content kept evolving though, updated to include Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and, most recently, the earthquake in northern Pakistan and India, with its horrendous human cost. Our hearts go out to the victims' families and to all of those who were injured or deprived of their livelihoods. (For information on what you can do to help, visit our disaster updates page.)

There would have been no way to foresee 11 years ago, at the height of the Tutsi genocide, that Rwanda would now be attracting international visitors not just for the gorilla-viewing but for cultural tourism that embraces sites, museums, and memorials of the violence, as Melanie Thernstrom describes in "Rwanda (After)." And 25 years ago, pre-glasnost, it would have seemed highly unlikely that a Russian-born American novelist would be reporting on Christmas celebrations in St. Petersburg, where religion was long under wraps ("A St. Petersburg Christmas,"). The openness, however, went only so far: our photographer, Julian Broad, was sent away at the door of Triton, a stylish restaurant where New Russians play—and where our writer, Gary Shteyngart, had dined.

There's a fresh crop every year of promising restaurants in Europe, as Anya von Bremzen reports, and the same goes for Caribbean resorts ("Caribbean for Less"), but the colonial towns of Mexico ("The Soul of Mexico," by Susan Morgan) endure. Our job is to lead the way to the best of the recently created and the classic, and to recognize invention, loss, and ongoing renewal—the cycles that impact our lives and our travels.