Is joy the same in every language?

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By George Stone, TRAVEL Executive Editor

Joy is a little word with vast potential. How we interpret words, according to linguists, helps shape our worldview. “The lexicon of a foreign language is like a map of a country you’ve never been to,” says researcher Tim Lomas, who focuses on positive psychology.

Last week I asked readers to describe joy, a word that illuminates the human journey. “I define joy in one word: Service. The act of helping others In whatever capacity I can has never failed to fill me up from top to bottom with pure joy,” writes reader Rachel Rowley. “I define joy as being in the present without having to try,” says Lynn MacKenzie. (Pictured above, a delighted family drives through an animated Christmas light tunnel display in British Columbia.)

To many travelers, joy resides within the family. “Joy to me is sharing time with my children and grandchildren and seeing them having success and growing together as a family,” says Geri Foucher. “I felt the most overwhelming joy when I held one of my baby children or grandchildren in my arms and they looked at me with the love and trust only children are able to offer,” writes Conceição Brito, of Lisbon, Portugal.

After being at sea for months with the Merchant Marines, Timothy L. O’Neil recalls being invited to a home-cooked holiday dinner by a man in Toulon, France. “This was a joyous occasion to be with a family on Christmas Eve.”

Travelers are a resilient lot—especially little travelers. This week, Heather Greenwood Davis shares a few secrets from the travel world that will help you navigate the holidays. The key is finding hope wherever you go. “Opportunity and a sense of optimism are the best gifts a parent can give this holiday season,” she writes.

Making travel resolutions, finding ways to see the world from home, and actively planning your next trip are steps that will lead to a happy New Year. There’s something else you can do: “Playing loud music and spontaneously dancing” works for Jennifer Lefferts and her family.

Wherever you find joy, I hope you share it with the world.

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Today in a minute

Post-pandemic traveling: A new poll shows that just over half of Americans (53%) say they will travel more to see loved ones they did not see during the pandemic compared to nearly half of Americans who say they will travel less because they are cautious of being exposed to other people after the pandemic is under control. That’s according to the survey of 2,200 adults by National Geographic and Morning Consult. The survey (highlights below) also found 1 in 3 respondents expect to travel more to make up for not traveling as much during the pandemic.

Where to travel? Considering future travels, the poll found that Americans would feel safer traveling to wilderness areas, such as state parks (42%) compared to urban areas (22%). Curiously, people age 35–44 favored urban areas, but all other age groups opted for the wilderness. Americans also consider familiar places, such as destinations they have traveled before or which regularly host tourists (47%) safer than unfamiliar places, such as off-the-beaten path or remote destinations (19%). Men responded by a 7% margin over women that they would feel safer in familiar places. Based on income, more affluent respondents were even more likely to opt for familiar places over remote destinations.

How do you practice photography when you’re stuck at home? Nat Geo photographer Rebecca Hale is using pandemic time to brush up on portraiture (with the same three human subjects in her house, of course). She’s also experimenting with unconventional light sources; in the two images above, she is illuminates the scene with a smartphone (left) and a tablet (right). In her list of tips to get travel-hungry readers ready for the post-pandemic road, she writes. “Shooting these sorts of intimate portraits is a great way to understand how light behaves."

Your Instagram of the day

Spirited Away: Fans of legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki may like Jiufen, a mountainside village in Taiwan that resembles the setting of Miyazaki’s 2001 animated classic, Spirited Away. The village, once a gold mining hub when Taiwan was under Japanese occupation, is now attracting fans of Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli, which animated Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Princess Mononoke as well. Like this photo? So have more than 200,000 people on our Travel Instagram page.

The big takeaway

Prayer flags—and change: Much of Nepal’s remote Mustang region has remained unchanged for centuries: the soaring, snowy peaks, the rocky clefts, the vibrant Buddhist prayer flags (shown above), the burgundy-hued monasteries hugging the border with Tibet. But mile by asphalted mile, change is coming to a district that already has become a Himalayan trekking hub in the past three decades. Trekking leader Jamling Tenzing Norgay says locals want cars and the better roads, even if trekking tourism will evolve. “The moment you have cars going by, the whole charm of a trek is lost,” Norgay tells Michael Shapiro.

In a few words

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Tomorrow, Victoria Jaggard covers the latest in science. If you’re not a subscriber, sign up here to also get Rachael Bale on animals, Whitney Johnson on photography, and Debra Adams Simmons on history.

One last glimpse

Sea, sand, Denmark: Yes, you’ve got that right. We looked at 5,437 miles of coastline and another side to the land of Hans Christian Andersen. In this European country, made up of 406 islands, you’re never more than 30 miles from the sea. “Land divided people; water connected them,” Rikke Johansen, curator at Denmark’s Viking Ship Museum, told us for a National Geographic feature in June. “We take it for granted; it’s a way of life. For many of us, looking out at water every day is key.” (Pictured above left, friends climb at Rudkøbing beach; above right, coastal erosion endangers a now-abandoned house.)

This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard, and Jen Tse selected the photographs. Kimberly Pecoraro and Gretchen Ortega helped produce this. Have an idea or a link? We’d love to hear from you at david.beard@natgeo.com . And thanks for reading!

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