52 Places for the New York Times

Those of you who read the New York Times may be aware that they send a travel journalist to the top 52 places to visit for that year, and publish weekly travelogs from that person. Here’s the new guy for 2019, Sebastian Modak.


Before you swoon over how wonderful it would be to travel the world on someone else’s dollar, think about being in a new place every week, and having to endure the travel to get from one place to another. This is not an easy job.

Something Modak said rings true for me: you could only do this successfully if you have a fluid sense of “home” and the ability to make yourself comfortable very quickly in new places.

I do feel like I’ve been working toward doing something like this my whole life. I was born in the United States to a Colombian mother and an Indian father, but we left for Hong Kong when I was 2 years old and continued to move every few years. My brothers and I didn’t really grow up with the concept of “home,” because we understood every place was temporary. It made travel the only real constant in our lives. January marks five years in New York City, though, and that puts it in a joint first-place spot for the longest I’ve stayed anywhere — tied with Indonesia and India.

For me, travel is all about immersing yourself in the unfamiliar, and embracing the feeling of humility that comes with that: There’s always something to learn from someone else, from somewhere else. That’s what made me choose a career in multimedia storytelling. I was a Fulbright-mtvU fellow in Botswana, where I spent a year documenting the local hip-hop scene. I was a producer on an MTV series that looked at the role of the arts in protest movements around the world. Most recently, I was an editor and then a staff writer at Condé Nast Traveler, where I was often sent on assignment to find and report stories that resonate with a global and globally curious audience. I think the thread that connects all of these experiences is an insatiable sense of wonder at the world around me.”

When Matt rode his bike across country the year after Jerry died, completing his father’s goal to celebrate the 60th birthday he never reached, Matt called me from a little town in the heartland where his biking group was spending the night. He said, “Mom, do you know there are people who’ve never been more than a half hour from where they were born?” I said I did know that. A job like Modak’s would be torture for such a person, stressful and not fun at all.

I don’t think I’d manage a year of travel very well, although, like Modak, I enjoy travel for the delight of new places and for the experience of finding strangers unexpectedly kind. But I’ll follow his journey, and wish I could also follow his steps.

2 thoughts on “52 Places for the New York Times

  1. What an adventure. Modak is certainly suited for this from his childhood.

    I love traveling and experiencing culture and people. But after 3 weeks I am happy to go home. I miss my family and my house.

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