Simple and laid-back sounds especially good to me these days. Elaborate, crowded, formal—that’s another story. It’s amazing how fast the world economy has impacted not only the way many of us live but also the way we think. This runs deeper than taste, into core values. Like some of the vacation spots that stand out most in my memory, the global cross-section of places, from Tulum to Thailand, featured in our March cover story, “Best Affordable Beach Resorts,” have in common the promise of value, authenticity, and relaxation—all very of-the-moment aspirations. What I found at a hacienda in Antigua, Guatemala, on a trip with my husband, John, a couple of years ago, and farther in the past, at an inn on a Greek island with three generations of my family, was just that. (To lighten the mood, I will share with you that my mother interrupted the full extent of my escape by proudly broadcasting my professional role to the Greek proprietors; despite the language barrier, the staff was lined up to greet me when I returned from the beach, and room tours and an overabundance of service quickly followed.)

Also in this issue, there’s more that’s laid-back and extremely affordable in Kurt Andersen’s feature on Nicaragua, which he found reassuringly unchanged after 25 years (“Nicaragua Today: Affordable and Low-Key,”). The foregoing description cannot be applied to the iconic Fontainebleau in Miami Beach, in all its spanking new $1 billion splendor (“Fontainebleau Hotel’s Extreme Makeover,” by Tom Austin), but understated is a word that can easily be used to describe many among the diverse group of winners of our fifth annual Design Awards.

These days, whatever our personal preference in style or mood, we need getting away from it all to be a real escape.