Photograph by Jane Hahn
Photograph by Jane Hahn

Have your journeys made you more empathetic?

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By George Stone, TRAVEL Executive Editor

Travel is a quest for diversity, the very diversity—cultural, spiritual, geographical—that defines the destinations we set out to discover. But why does it sometimes feel easier to embrace diversity the farther we get from home?

Openness has a lot to do with it. So do intention, vulnerability, and the kindness of strangers. I’m always impressed when I perceive in travelers a willingness to be gentle, empathetic, and curious abroad...a willingness that might not be quite so pronounced back home. And I wonder: What would it take to apply a traveler’s curiosity to our everyday lives?

Last week we published a story about how a new travel movement is forging ancestral links in West Africa. We reported on how Ghana’s 2019 “Year of Return” (above) dramatically increased travel to sites associated with the trans-Atlantic slave trade (last year marked 400 years since enslaved Africans first arrived in colonial Virginia). For many black Americans, Ghana’s tourism initiative offered a chance to look back as well as forward. Whether travelers could trace their lineage to Ghana became less important than connecting with a diverse global group embracing a shared cultural history. Curiosity became community.

Feeling at home in the world is one of the rewards of travel. The next step is to bring that same warmth and openness back home. What lessons have your learned on your journeys that have enriched your life every day? I would love to know—share your wisdom here.

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Your Instagram photo of the day

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Pacific sunset: “The colors just take your breath away,” says photographer Dina Litovsky, describing one of her favorite spots around Los Angeles: Venice Beach. Particularly at sunset. More than 142,000 of our Instagram readers liked the image, too.

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Today in a minute

Coronavirus update: Travel restrictions have not stopped the spread of the virus, reports Nat Geo's Nsikan Akpan, who takes a look at previous failures to control outbreaks like the Spanish influenza a century ago. "History has shown that stemming the spread of an infectious disease becomes more difficult when...control methods are deployed inappropriately or unevenly," Akpan writes.

Saved: A poet helped keep the wrecking ball away from London’s St. Pancras International train station, and now it’s the heart of a revitalizing section of north London, write Nicola Trup and Anne Kim-Dannibale for Nat Geo. Sir John Betjeman led the campaign to save the 1860s Victorian Gothic structure, and it has become the world-class station he envisioned.

Travel to read? A company is pairing books with upscale hotels in hopes that anxiety-ridden, tech-addicted travelers might be induced to unplug. The company, Bedside Reading, now curates a selection of books to place in 28 luxury and lifestyle hotels, with visitors able to take the book home after their stay. ASAP says some hotels are bringing in authors for chats with guests, and the books, often taken by guests to a pool, inspire conversation and connection.

Not stopping: Sylvia Longmire traded in her cane for a wheelchair 5 1/2 years ago. Since then, she has visited 49 countries. “I get twitchy if I’m home too long,” the former Air Force captain, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005, tells the Washington Post as she rides the Amtrak Auto Train north from Florida. Here’s Longmire’s blog of her travels.

Mellow: The Caribbean island nation of Dominica is definitely not glitzy and it limits the number of tour operators leading snorkeling adventures along sperm whales or hikes to Boiling Lake. It is “a land where wilderness rules,” writes Gina DeCaprio Vercesi for Nat Geo.

The big takeaway

Looking for Beethoven: Writer Michael Cooper’s prowled the Austrian capital for signs of Ludwig von Beethoven, who spent the last 35 of years there and premiered his nine symphonies there. On the year of Beethoven’s 250th birthday, Cooper traces the composer from Bonn to Vienna for the New York Times, writing of moments of wonder, such as: “Standing in the frescoed hall of the Viennese palace where his revolutionary Third Symphony, the ‘Eroica,’ is believed to have had its first run-through, and imagining how shocked those first listeners must have been."

A tip for the road

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The last glimpse

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Lake effect: The weather may not be for everyone, but brisk winters have produced waves of a lifetime: That’s how Aaron Gulley, writing for Nat Geo, describes winter surfing on the Great Lakes. Yes, the Great Lakes. From November through March, high winds and storms can push big, consistent waves topping 20-30 feet and rides that last a minute and a half. Two threats to the niche but growing sport: industrial pollution and warming temperatures that accelerate beach erosion.

Read: Can winter surfing survive climate change, pollution?

This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard, and Eslah Attar selected the photographs. Have an idea, a link, a wintertime surfing story? We'd love to hear from you at . And thanks for reading!