"Vivid singular patterns of place" is a phrase that resonates in Guy Trebay’s story this month on Oman. Like so many once remote outposts, this Arabian Peninsula desert kingdom has seen a recent flowering of rather spectacular luxury resorts owned by international hotel brands. Trebay worries that an inevitable result is the grinding down of distinct local characteristics, making destinations "harder to pick out from the wallpaper of globalized culture." Anyone who sets out into the world knows exactly what he means: it’s the conundrum we travelers confront. With accessibility—and the promise of familiar comforts—comes sameness. Applause is due to CC Africa and the Taj Hotel group for their collaboration on Mahua Kothi, a tiger camp in central India’s Bandhavgarh National Park, which special correspondent Christopher Petkanas reports on in "Indian Safari". The first in a series of joint ventures, this African-style tented camp allows visitors to see the natural world in a low-impact and appropriate fashion—the sense of adventure has been heightened and preserved.

Celebrating the unique in travel is an essential part of the DNA of this magazine, and our role as advocates for the singular was much in mind when T+L’s editors launched the magazine’s annual Design Awards in March 2005. Once again this year we assembled a jury of widely recognized experts, including Robert A.M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture, and San Francisco-based product designer Yves Béhar, to review the hundreds of submissions. The winners and honorable mentions, ranging from cultural spaces to transportation to travel fashions, are revealed. "Vivid singular patterns of place" still abound in San Miguel de Allende, the colonial Mexican town that is a lure for increasing numbers of U.S. and international travelers—and expat homeowners as well, writes John Davidson, a Texas native and frequent traveler to Mexico ("Mexico Mágico"). Given the astounding growth in the vacation-home market, we look at destination clubs and other new projects that offer the benefits of ownership without all the hassles ("ClubLand"). Finally, we present a worldwide roster of 25 affordable beach resorts that are welcoming, individualistic, and regionally authentic.

A key question for any traveler: Just how much distinctive flavor are you after?The world’s a much larger place if you’re willing to tolerate the unfamiliar challenges and potential discomfort of exotic lands. But the good news for the luxury-loving among us is that a global infrastructure for tourism is developing at hyper-speed, and pampering awaits—in tiger preserves, and even in the middle of the desert.

Nancy Novogrod

Trip Tips: What I loved in Milan

La Vetrina Di Beryl Ultra-stylish shoes for women. 4 Via Statuto; 39-02/654-278.

Obikà Mozzarella Bar Amazing prosciutto, too—a great spot for lunch. Also in Rome. 28 Via Mercato; 39-02/8645-0568;