August 3, 2021

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What Are the Places in the World That You Love Most?

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Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 1, 2021.

For the past many Januaries, The New York Times has published a Travel section mainstay: a list of 52 destinations around the world, complete with gorgeous photography. Last year’s list has the tagline “We picked destinations to inspire you, delight you and motivate you to explore the world,” and that applies to all the previous lists, too.

But with the pandemic disrupting normal life for so many people, the Travel section decided to publish a different kind of list for 2021. Instead of sending a “a small army” of travel writers and photographers across the globe, they decided to ask readers “to tell us about the spots that have delighted, inspired and comforted them in a dark year.” The resulting list has the title “52 Places to Love,” not “52 Places to Go.”

What places would you add to the list?

In “A Very Different ‘52 Places,’” Amy Virshup writes about what she characterizes as a radically different approach to putting together this year’s list:

At this time of year The Times’s Travel desk usually publishes its lavish “52 Places to Go” list, a compendium of suggestions for the destinations that are especially worth visiting in the coming year, accompanied by showstopping photography.

But in this pandemic year, creating our usual list was out of the question. For one thing, there were the logistics: We usually deploy a small army of photographers in search of those perfect images. That was clearly impossible. Beyond that, our list is built on a journalistic imperative: What’s new? What makes a place so exciting and different — hotel openings, new museums, an expanding food or cultural scene — that it jumps to the top of the list of places to see now? But the pandemic has put a hold on most of those newsworthy developments.

Instead, in 2021, we face a year of uncertainty. With vaccines newly available, perhaps the travel industry — which supplies millions of jobs and is a crucial part of the global economy — will start to revive. But it’s hard to know when and where that rebirth will begin. And a list that seems to encourage people to rush back onto planes when so many are suffering felt unconscionable.

And yet, the world with all its stunning natural beauty and cultural richness remains. If 2020 has done anything for people who love to travel, it has reminded them that the world is not a checklist of places to tick off — Venice, been there, the Serengeti, done that — but something to explore, to savor and to love.

That became the animating idea behind this year’s 52 Places. Instead of turning to our contributors and correspondents, we turned to another group of passionate travelers, our readers, and asked them to tell us about their most beloved places, and why they deserved a place on our list, as well as to share their photographs.

More than 2,000 of them responded.

They told us about hometowns for which they’d gained new appreciation during the pandemic. Of countries where their family connections run strong, but which for the moment they can only view with longing. Of vacation destinations where they suddenly recognized something important in themselves. In reading through the submissions, it became clear that while our list usually focuses on what is changing in a place, people can be profoundly changed by the places they have visited — and isn’t that why we travel to begin with?

What are some of the places on this year’s list?

  • Montana’s “Golden Triangle”

  • Lake Michigan

  • East Haddam, Conn.

  • Ladakh, India

  • Malpaís, Costa Rica

  • Dakar, Senegal

  • The Scottish Highlands, Scotland

Students, look through the entire list of 52 places, and then tell us:

  • Based on your life experiences, what is missing from the list? Name a place that you love, and describe why it deserves to be included. Take inspiration from the descriptions in the interactive.

  • After reading through the 52 locations on the list, which places interest you most? Why? Have you been to any of them?

  • What do you think of Jody Greene’s statement that you can “let a place remake you” if instead of traveling to a new place every year, you visit the same one multiple times? Do you have any experiences with that? Have you, for instance, spent a lot of time in a city or town where relatives live, where a parent grew up or where your family goes for vacation? How, if at all, has that place shaped your life?

  • The caption by Morgan Charles that accompanies the photo of the Scottish Highlands at the top of this page reads in part, “This has been a distressing time, but I hope that we can all learn to really love and appreciate where we’re from.” Respond to that statement. Have your feelings about where you’re from changed over the last year? If so, what is different now? If not, describe how you feel about where you’re from anyway.

  • Do you miss traveling, whether nearby or far away? Why, or why not?


About Student Opinion

Find all our Student Opinion questions in this column.
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Learn more about how to use our free daily writing prompts for remote learning.

Students 13 and older in the United States and the United Kingdom, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

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