52 Locations You Cherish – The New York Occasions
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On March 11th, after a short vacation in Brussels, I flew to New York and reached an incredibly quiet Kennedy Airport, where the fear of the spreading coronavirus felt palpable. We landed at 1:30 p.m. Less than eight hours later, the president was on national television announcing a travel ban between Europe and the United States.
As a traveler, I thankfully made it back under the wire; We have unwittingly avoided confusing and postponing travel restrictions and airport chaos on both sides of the Atlantic. But as the assistant tour guide for The Times, I began to have a different concern: how should we bring the world closer to readers if we weren’t allowed to travel? Nobody knew much about anything except that the travel industry was closing at an incredible rate.
For the nine editors, photo editors, and reporters that make up the small but resourceful travel department, our job was to develop articles, photography, and digital features to impress, delight, inspire, and transport. Alongside a growing branch of service journalism that offers travel strategies and solutions to reader problems, these features and images have always been published with one fundamental goal: to present a rich, compelling picture of the world, regardless of whether the reader intended to hop on a plane or enjoy it from an armchair.
Now we were almost entirely devoted to news and services that could help people get home and be safe. We focused our report on developments related to travel refunds and repatriation flights, reporting the growing and ever changing list of government and cross-border restrictions. We shed long-standing and popular columns (see: 36 hours 😳). We have discontinued our printing area.
When we made this painful decision in late April, many readers complained hotly. Others recognized the reasons for our decision and offered their condolences.
Jan. 14, 2021 at 12:11 AM ET
“While I understand that the Times must stop the weekly travel section, please keep telling stories about beautiful, interesting places in several parts of the world. They give me hope that at some point I will be able to hug friends and family, ”wrote one reader in an email.
To meet this demand, and without endangering the health of reporters and photographers, we launched World Through a Lens, a weekly photo essay about some of the most arresting places in the world. Realizing that many people needed escapes of all kinds, we gradually published articles on more humble alternatives: road trips, day trips, virtual travel, camping. We too have adjusted to this undesirable new normal.
But what to do with 52 Places to Go, our signature feature that is released every January? At a time when the loss of travel is so great, the loss of life and livelihood is so much greater, should we continue this annual tradition with our suggestions for the top spots in the coming year? In most years it is the biggest demonstration of our journalistic goal: to get our readers to think about an adventure – and maybe even begin it.
Our usual version of the list seemed to be doing wrong. But everyone needs hope. I hope that they will see friends and family again soon, that they will see sights and have experiences that will transform and broaden their horizons. That they will travel.
And we will travel again.
In a very different style, for a very different year, the list of 52 places returns in print this weekend. This is not just for you; it’s yours too.
Last fall, we asked readers to share their favorite spots and were overwhelmed by the response. We received more than 2,000 entries, from small hometowns in New England and towering peaks in Asia and seemingly everywhere in between. We made the selection – no easy task – through the power and passion of the prose and the beauty of the accompanying photos.
In remote and familiar places, travelers discovered their independence or a sense of comfort and home. They reflected cherished family relationships, the natural world, the events of history, and the hospitality of strangers. Along with their memories, many shared their gratitude.
The result does not correspond to the list of previous years. We hope you enjoy it. We couldn’t have done it without you.