Is this the year for time travel?

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By George Stone, TRAVEL Executive Editor

Whenever I’m on a plane—which is both a past memory and future goal—I wonder why passenger jet travel seems so slow. Although they cruise at more than 500 mph, commercial airliners have not gotten much faster in recent decades. An exception: about a year ago a Virgin Atlantic flight clocked a record-setting 801 mph—thanks to a 230 mph transatlantic jet stream. Fuel efficiency goals help reduce carbon emissions, but keep flights slower.

“What if you could zip through time at will, traveling forward to the future or backward to the past as easily as pushing buttons on the dashboard of a souped-up DeLorean?” (Pictured above, from Back to the Future II)

That’s what writer Dan Falk asks in our story about time travel. It’s a relevant topic, as we look to a New Year that promises not just a return to travel but the opportunity to improve the ways by which we see the world.

“Time travel has been a fantasy for at least 125 years—H.G. Wells penned his groundbreaking novel, The Time Machine, in 1895—and it’s something that physicists and philosophers have been writing serious papers about for almost a century,” Falk writes. “What really kick-started scientific investigations into time travel was the notion that time could be envisioned as a dimension, just like space. We can move easily enough through space—so why not time?”

And off we go, at least theoretically. Trouble is, our time machine currently exists only in our imaginations. Ironically, my wish to fly faster has to do with my dream of traveling slower—of spending more time and moving more intentionally in a faraway place in 2021.

In the New Year, I hope your travel aspirations take you anywhere you want to go—at any speed that suits you. Most importantly I hope you find peace, joy, and new discoveries at your destination.

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Your Instagram of the day

Deep: Crowned the Jewel of Siberia, Baikal is the world’s deepest lake, holding 20 percent of the world’s freshwater. In the winter, the lake surface is entirely frozen with ice averaging more than six feet thick. “The first time I went there,” photographer Justin Jin tells us, “I trekked across the frozen lake for three days, pitching a tent on the ice and gazing at the stars. I’ve since been back several times with better support to shoot this icy wonderland.” Like this image? So did more than 180,000 readers on our Travel page on Instagram.

Related: Drive across the deepest lake in the world

The big takeaway

Following the sheep: In many of our travel stories we think that getting there is half the fun, and we frequently feature destinations you might not think of right away. One of our “getting there” challenges involved hiking a 30-mile path cut around central Italy’s Apennine Mountains; this trail was traced for hundreds of years by shepherds and sheep making seasonal migrations. The pathway includes cresting a 6,561-foot-high plateau below Monte Greco. “Although less than a hundred miles from Rome, the plateau feels like a forgotten world,” Alexis Marie Adams wrote for May’s National Geographic magazine. (Above, on one end of the path, the hill town of Castropignano).

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

Off the beaten path: In South America’s biggest savannah, there is a place with sand dunes, sparkling waterfalls, and natural karst springs known as fervedouros. “Swimming in a fervedouro feels a bit like floating in a pool of champagne, as water from a subterranean river gurgles up from a rupture in the earth, pushing up a froth of fine pink sand,” Jamie DiTaranto writes for Nat Geo. We’re talking abut Jalapão State Park in central Brazil, once obscure but better known since a popular 2017 Brazilian telenovela set in the park. (Pictured above, Fervedouro do Ceica, the biggest karst spring known in Jalapão.)

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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