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Have you booked your next 'microcation'?

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By George Stone, TRAVEL Executive Editor

New year, new journeys, new words! Welcome to the era of “microcations”—quicker vacations in backyard destinations that save time, money, and (ideally) reduce the environmental impact of travel. Is it anything more than an elaborate way to say "long weekend"? Time will tell. But microcations are among 2020’s top travel trends, as we report, and recent quakes, volcanoes, and massive Australian wildfires may make closer-to-home trips more alluring for the moment.

“We asked more than a dozen industry experts what travel will look like in 2020, and the overwhelming consensus is that this year—more than ever before—travelers will prioritize their journeys’ impacts: on the planet, on destinations and local communities, and on themselves,” reports Jessica Flint. Among the trending topics we cover: carbon offsetting, women-only trips, sound and forest therapy, and an uptick in consumer preference for eco-certified green hotels.

What does this mean about last year’s top travel trends? We were right that overtourism is drawing new maps, that sustainability is becoming more community-minded, and that travelers are embracing an explorer’s mindset. But our speculation that bucket lists will disappear? I’m sorry to say that mine only got longer. As for microcations: Did you know the quickest way to Basque country could be through Idaho (below)? Here’s to adventures near and far!

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Today in a minute

Volcano fallout: The main airport to the Philippines partially reopened on Monday, but authorities are urging caution following the spewing of red-hot lava from a volcano near Manila, the capital. Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes through heavy ash and frightening tremors, the AP reports.

Food drop: Officials have air-dropped more than a ton of carrots and sweet potatoes in areas affected by Australia’s massive bushfires. The hope is that the food will be eaten by brush-tailed rock-wallabies whose habitats were burned, CNN reports. Authorities say heavy rain and cooler temperatures forecast for this week will be unlikely to halt the bushfire threat.

Beyond herring: Try Siberian pelmeni, suggests the waiter in the old Russian imperial capital of St. Petersburg. Nat Geo’s Eve Conant, on a trip with her 12-year-old son, found the juicy, mild meat, in soft dough, a gateway food for an addiction to Russian cooking. Another gateway food: the fried, crispy smelt, heads and tails and all.

Read along with us: Our in-house Travel Book Club’s 100th monthly book is Meet Me at the Museum, from 70-year-old debut author Anne Youngson. The novel is set in Denmark and England, about a farmer’s wife and a museum curator seeking second chances. Here other reads that our book club has loved so far.

Oh, Madeira: It didn’t take long for Portuguese explorers to find the fertile soil of this Atlantic island suitable for wine. But beyond the drink that graced the tables of America’s Founding Fathers, this Portuguese island offers breathtaking mountain hikes—and glimpses of living fossils such as tree heather, Madeiran blueberry, and lily of the valley trees, writes Mary Winston Nicklin.

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Enjoying winter: Twilight falls over Innsbruck, Austria, as festive shoppers enjoy the markets beneath the Golden Roof (right), which was completed more than 500 years ago. The mountain city is known for skiing and for hosting the 1964 Winter Olympics.

While we’re here: Why Austrians light up the Alps each June

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The big takeaway

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The last glimpse

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Peace: A waterside garden flashes bright autumn foliage through an open pagoda frame in Kyoto. An important hub of Japanese culture, the ancient capital—particularly its temples and gardens—were recognized by UNESCO in 1994. The image is among our collection of photos that may inspire you to travel in 2020.

Related: Top 10 things to do in Kyoto

This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard, with photo selections by Eslah Attar. Have an idea or a link, a place where you find solitude? We'd love to hear from you at david.beard@natgeo.com. Thanks for reading!