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Editor's Letter: What the Pandemic Has Taught Us

Condé Nast Traveler logo Condé Nast Traveler 9/15/2020 Melinda Stevens
a group of people standing in front of a building: The brightly patterned Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque in Colombo, Sri Lanka. © Beyza Malkoç The brightly patterned Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

I was based in London during lockdown. And when it was lifted, my family and I traveled to Greece, to an island where my husband has been going since he was a boy. It's basic here; there's barely any hot water, certainly no air-conditioning. By day the cicadas hammer out their battery-gun drawl; at night dogs bark in the village. We wondered endlessly about how ethical it was to come at all. The Greeks have had few cases of COVID-19, and there is something distinctly unsettling about posing a threat in human form. At night I lay in bed and wondered about my place in the world, my ability to tread upon it with good conscience.

a woman sitting on a couch: Editor in chief Melinda Stevens © Condé Nast Traveler Editor in chief Melinda Stevens

The island itself, however, feels the same. It's a place Greeks go; out­siders have always been sparse. We wear our masks, we are aware of our distances. But as the days pass—swimming in the sea before breakfast; going to our favorite bookshop and vegetable store; eating suppers of feta salad and dripping peaches in the restaurant on the beach—I realize the pandemic is perhaps teaching us lessons that we may have lost as travelers at large, and need to reconsider, COVID-19 aside. Show respect to the locals, be aware of their sensitivities, support their businesses how and where we can, be mindful of how loud and brash we might appear in our holiday exuberance, tip meaningfully, seek out the people championing local crafts and communities, work toward providing—at every point of our journey—positive impact.

This is the new issue of Condé Nast Traveler. Learning to treat other places as if we are a guest in our best friend's house. For this is what our world is. Our best friend's house, and we are lucky to be here.

—Melinda Stevens, editor in chief @melindalp

On the Cover

Spituk Monastery, in northern India's Ladakh region. Photographed by Øivind Haug

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Above: The brightly patterned Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

This article appeared in the October 2020 issue of Condé Nast Traveler. Subscribe to the magazine here.

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