Credit: Richard Phibbs

I was having lunch at a favorite spot in London, the Wolseley, when one of our group asked me whether I had seen the obituary of the renowned French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss in the Financial Times a few days before. It led off with this quote: “Travel and travelers are two things I loathe,” a surprising assertion from someone who spent many years in situ researching native cultures, among them the indigenous peoples of the Brazilian highlands whom he described in his landmark book Tristes Tropiques. Lévi-Strauss was similarly outspoken about his aversion to the discomforts of far-flung exploration—the stress, illness, and fatigue: “The truths that we travel so far to seek are of value only when we have scraped them clean of all this fungus,” he wrote. Admittedly, the FT piece was a sketch rather than a fully drawn portrait, but it is clear that for this behemoth of 20th-century social science, travel was merely a necessary means of accessing his subjects. Yet Lévi-Strauss and such distinguished cohorts as Margaret Mead and Franz Boas played a key role in creating an understanding of—and respect for—indigenous cultures, which has greatly enhanced the experience of T+L editors and readers. In our annual trends forecast, we look at the many ways that connecting to people and place have been empowered by technology, social media, and a new consciousness that is at once global and focused on the authentic and local. Like travel itself, immersion has become immeasurably easier over time.

This month we also report on Fitzrovia, an emerging yet classic London neighborhood profiled by Mark Ellwood, where I stayed during a previous visit last June, as well as New Zealand and Peru. Adam Sachs recounts his real-time experience with social networking while traveling down under in what may be the friendliest place on earth, and Andrew Solomon details his adventures on the Amazon and in Cuzco and Machu Picchu. Not to be overlooked is one of our editorial mainstays, the T+L 500, a roundup of the World’s Best Hotels (repositories of contemporary culture—local and otherwise—in and of themselves).

Finally, we offer some important intelligence in our 2010 Trip Planner to help you navigate the fast-evolving travel landscape. You’ll find smart booking advice for airlines, hotels, and cruises, along with useful tips on loyalty programs and villa and car rentals, so you can make the most of the year ahead. The truths that we set out to discover through travel so often go hand in hand with infinite—and meaningful—pleasure.

Where to Find Me

Twitter: @nnovogro