Credit: Richard Phibbs

For the second year running, “A vacation in a resort or spa destination” took the No. 5 spot on the Top Holiday Dream List in the latest results from the American Express Publishing and Harrison Group 2009 Survey of Affluence and Wealth in America. Once again, it looks like the emphasis will be on experientially oriented gifts, including “Tickets to an event” (No. 2) and “A particular book or video” (No. 3) over jewelry and portable electronic equipment. By the time this letter is in your hands, we will have a better idea of where hotel and airline bookings are this season—right now, I am beginning to hear some positive stirrings. I will also have returned from the first Pure Life Experiences travel show in Marrakesh, Morocco, and will know whether the international travel companies participating—a wide-ranging group of tour operators, outfitters, and far-flung retreats—have drawn as large a crowd as anticipated. At this point, every other person I speak to seems to be heading to Marrakesh. I take this as evidence of the groundswell of interest in adventure travel, a.k.a. getting out there and exploring unknown places and cultures. In her recent review of designer Marc Jacobs’s collection for Louis Vuitton, New York Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn linked the designer’s evocation of youth culture, a “mash-up of stuff—army jackets, tasseled duffel bags, fleece-tipped clogs,” with “a desire for travel and comfort that is often colored by some form of spiritualism.” I think she hit the nail on the head in describing the yearnings many people have these days to find meaning through travel.

So, accordingly, in our December issue, we offer a roster of stories intended not only to inform but also to resonate with opportunities for fulfillment this season. In search of traditional pleasures, we follow New York Times reporter Guy Trebay to Munich, a city known for its fervent embrace of all things Christmas. For a snow-covered escape, we visit Montana’s Paws Up lodge, where citified writer and T+L contributing editor Gary Shteyngart has various animal- and nature-filled encounters. Then there’s wine and spirits editor Bruce Schoenfeld’s quest to find the best vineyards in southern Australia and editor-at-large Peter Jon Lindberg’s account of his trip to St. Lucia, where a purposeful reinvention of this sleepy Caribbean island into a sustainable, prosperous, and forward-thinking nation is under way.

Because the universe of objects calls out to us, particularly this month, my editors and I have also included our annual package of gift ideas—from the experiential to the 100 percent material. And, for the technologically minded (that means almost all of us), there’s “Best New Travel Gadgets, ” our roundup of portable electronic devices to take with you, or to help you plan the experience—spiritual, athletic, or sybaritic—you’re dreaming of when you go out into the world.

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Twitter: @nnovogro