Photograph by DEAN C. WORCESTER, Nat Geo Image Collection
Photograph by DEAN C. WORCESTER, Nat Geo Image Collection
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How can travelers be as resilient as our planet?

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By George Stone, TRAVEL Executive Editor

The eruption of historically restive Taal Volcano in the Philippines (pictured above in 1904) sent a plume of ash nine miles high, shut down the country’s main international airport (which serves Manila), forced the evacuation of some 30,000 people, and blanketed towns in dust. We reported on what to do if you've planned a trip to the Philippines and how you can help communities affected by the eruption.

When we seek adventure we sometimes get more than we bargained for—especially when Mother Nature steps in. It seems that our planet has been plagued with a plethora of natural disasters in the past month (from bushfires in Australia to quakes in the Caribbean), as well as a new health threat (more on the deadly Coronavirus below).

Travel is not supposed to be a precarious pursuit. In some ways it's an antidote to a more pernicious problem—inaction. “If you think adventure is dangerous," quipped novelist Paulo Coelho, "try routine. It is lethal." Travelers can help destinations recovering from disaster, as chef José Andrés wrote for us in the midst of Puerto Rico's recovery from Hurricane Maria. When we write about sustainable travel, our mantra is travel slowly, spend locally, stay in homes, and go off-the-beaten path. Well-managed tourism can offer an economic lifeline to communities, especially those affected by the unexpected. We are committed to helping readers travel compassionately, safely, and sustainably.

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Today in a minute

Coronavirus spreads: Health authorities in Asia and around the world stepped up screening Tuesday at airports, railway stations, and on highways in an effort to stem the spread of the deadly Coronavirus virus, NBC News reports. The pneumonia-like disease, which can be transmitted among humans, was first reported in China's central Hubei province, home to the city of Wuhan, but cases have appeared in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

Philippines update
: Ninoy Aquino International Airport fully reopened on January 14, two days after the spectacular eruption of Taal Volcano, but airport officials continue to monitor the volcanic activity and will give advisories on its Facebook page. Though the air has cleared, visitors to Manila should consider bringing N95 dust masks, Aurora Almendral writes for Nat Geo.

Free is good: Mark down April 18, August 25, September 26, and November 11 on your calendar. Those are the four days this year in which admission to all U.S. National Parks is free, Afar reports. For early planners, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day next year (next January 18) also is free. For those who just want to go there, daily passes at the 111 parks that charge admission range from $5 to $35—and an annual pass is $80.

Is ‘forest bathing’ for you? Kelly DiNardo was skeptical of the health claims of the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku—or soaking up all your senses. For Nat Geo, she employed a “guide”—and tried to figure it out. In the end, without her guide, laying on a dock one night on a tree-rimmed lake in the Poconos, she glimpsed a shooting star disappear behind the trees. “It is an astonishing natural display,” she writes, “and I fully understand the need to soak it up."

Your Instagram photo of the day

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Like pancakes: Patagonia is known for its strong winds and beautiful lenticular clouds. Lenticulars are also called standing wave clouds because they’re associated with waves in the atmosphere. They develop when strong winds push air over a mountain. Though wind may move through the clouds, it doesn’t push them. Instead the clouds change shape by continually forming and dissipating around the crest of the wave of moisture. This picture shows huge lenticular clouds behind the silhouette of a guanaco, a llama-like animal native to South America.

See: The penguins of Patagonia

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The big takeaway

Finding space: In China, where acceptance of same-sex couples has progressed at a glacial rate and where censorship exists, quiet oases of freedom of orientation exist. In Beijing, the nightclub and cultural center Destination provides yoga, dance, and a third-floor art gallery, which gives a glimpse of current gay art in the capital. The paucity of gay art spaces, sculptor and painter Gao Jianxiang told The New York Times, means most artists have to “paint from the closet” to have their works gain wider acceptance. Censorship bans nearly all forms of nudity as well. Sculptor Zhao Keyuan expressed the hope that as the government leadership gets younger, “the situation will gradually improve."

In a few words

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The last glimpse

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Sunrise on the Kilala Plain: Photographer Ronan Donovan says Rwanda’s national parks, such as the Akagera National Park here, have been on the rebound. Lions, wiped out in the nation’s 1993-4 genocide that killed hundreds of thousands of people, have returned to Akagera, and roan antelope roam.

Read: When the lions returned to Rwanda

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.