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Sailors on shore leave take in the bright lights of Times Square. (Photograph by Theo Westenberger)

Thirty Years of Fabulous: Traveler Magazine

This image of sailors in New York (above) is one of my favorite photos to appear in Traveler (in November 2000). It’s by the late Theo Westenberger, the first woman to shoot covers for Newsweek and Sports Illustrated, who worked with me long before I arrived in Traveler‘s offices in 1998.

The shot captures the essence of what I would come to expect in these pages after I received my first subscription issue 30 years ago, in 1984. Billed as “an educational travel resource,” Traveler broke new ground with its arresting photography, essential travel information, and stories by such celebrated writers as Edward Abbey and Mordecai Richler.

In his written introduction, National Geographic Society president and former National Geographic editor Gilbert M. Grosvenor said that he wanted Traveler to “inspire members to go and experience [destinations],” complementing National Geographic, “which has taken its readers to places most of us will never reach.”

Traveler then focused on the U.S., Canada, and Mexico (the first issue included the Grand Canyon, Washington, D.C., and “Wisconsin: Say Cheese!”). Now we go farther afield because that’s what you, our readers, are doing.

We still cover home base: This year we featured the Berkshires, Wyoming, American beach towns, and Louisiana. But we also visited China, Ireland, Australia, India, France, Colombia, Portugal, and Botswana.

Over three decades, Traveler has undergone dramatic changes to reflect where, how, and why we travel. In 1984, we sought out the sights; now we want unique experiences. We traveled to vacation; now we want to be transformed. We relied on expert advice; now we seek local perspectives, too.

And while the magazine adapts to the times, it remains true to Gil Grosvenor’s vision. We want you out of the armchair and into the field.

In Traveler‘s anniversary issue, on newsstands around America now, we celebrate our 30th year through the camera lens, offering a chronicle of changing times. Since 1984 we’ve shot more than 3.4 million photos and published some 36,000. We’ve picked our favorites to feature in the magazine and online. Think of them as a travel time capsule.

Keith Bellows is editor in chief of National Geographic Traveler magazine. Follow him on Twitter @KeithBellows.