Richard Phibbs Nancy Novogrod
| Credit: Richard Phibbs

Travel changes everything are words my colleagues and I have been using to describe the mind-opening, eye-opening, and transformative potential of travel. You could say we’re going out on a limb at a time when the impact of mass tourism and mass transportation on both the natural and man-made environments has become extremely difficult to deny. But we are devoted to getting our readers out into the world, knowing that to experience its wonders is to become more keenly aware of their preciousness and their fragility, and more committed to guarding against a kind of global blending of the distinct features that draw us to destinations. It is extremely rewarding that so many of the outfitters we at Travel + Leisure most admire have adopted policies to ensure that their clients maintain a light footprint; many are also championing charitable and conservation initiatives that give back to the communities they visit. We are especially proud to be partnering with six forward-thinking travel companies on a series of exclusive, customized trips for T+L readers that we’re calling “Transformation Vacations.” You’ll find these, along with others we recommend, in “20 Life-Changing Trips.”

The best travel pieces always have an intriguing backstory—in the case of this month’s second annual Responsible Travel issue, one of the most compelling is intertwined with the making of the movie Australia, director Baz Luhrmann’s romantic epic about life in a remote part of the outback known as the Top End on the eve of World War II. T+L special correspondent Shane Mitchell, a devotee of the country since living there for a stretch in her twenties, had been planning to write a piece on this same area when the project first came to our attention. We are grateful to Baz Luhrmann for sharing his insights into the region—and to Hugh Jackman, who stars alongside Nicole Kidman, for offering his personal recommendations for nature escapes in his hometown, Sydney, in “Investigating Australias’s Top-End Outback.” In this issue you’ll also find an intimate account of a remarkable, and at times harrowing trip: Andrew Solomon’s “Adventures in Antarctica” describes his monthlong expedition in Shackleton’s footsteps and provides vivid testimony that even a bad trip can have extraordinary rewards—at least from the reader’s point of view. For our cover story, “Five Small-Town French Cafés,” special correspondent Christopher Petkanas reports on five Bistrots de Pays, authentic bistros that are the very heart and soul of village life in southern France. Often the largest business in town—and the meeting place, as well—they offer traditional regional food and an opportunity to experience local culture. As T+L’s own hometown, New York City, introduces a master plan to make it more bike-accessible and eco-friendly, we dispatched writer Swazi Clarity and photographer Christian Kerber to that pioneering European city, Copenhagen, where the bicycle is an integral part of everyday life. Motivated by a similar spirit, T+L contributing editor Karrie Jacobs crisscrossed the United States to scout out the country’s most outstanding sustainable buildings—from a baseball stadium and a skyscraper to a parking garage—which she has dubbed the “Must-See Green American Landmarks” of our environmentally conscious age. Once again, we salute the winners of our annual Global Vision Awards, which recognize the people and organizations around the globe that are dedicated to making the world we travel in a better place.

There’s so much more, of course: green guides to three European cities; a roundup of the best new green hotels; a selection of the top shops—from New York to Milan—for vintage fashion; a tour of sustainable design in the Netherlands; a driving quest for Spain’s best olive oil; and a pit stop at Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where regional American food is everything. All this just goes to show that responsible travel not only changes things, but can also be lots of fun.