Full disclosure: 2019 was not my typical travel year. Where I traveled, how I got there, how frequently I hit the road—everything was different. In no small part, that’s because I spent the year either pregnant or caring for a newborn.

By January the globe shrunk down to places where the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had no active Zika classification—in other words, a handful of options outside Europe. In March it shrunk further, when I was no longer allowed to fly. (How does a travel editor survive?) Finally, in the first two months of my new daughter’s life—up until her first vaccines—I practically fenced myself into the neighborhoods around my home. It was an exercise in appreciating the treasures in my own backyard rather than the far-flung spots that have typically struck my fancy.

It was surprisingly lovely, but it didn’t last. My baby had her passport—and Global Entry—before she turned 4 months old. (Yes, she had to go to JFK for an “interview” screening. It was ludicrous.) And I’ve already broadened her world across the Atlantic. Next year will be promising for both of us; so far we plan to travel together every month until at least June, mostly internationally. One day, I hope, she’ll look back on this and realize how lucky she was. (Perhaps when she loosely retraces our footsteps in her own adulthood.) But right now, here are the five places that I’m most grateful to have explored in this life-changing year.

Brooklyn, N.Y.

Drop your eyebrows. People from all around the world come to see what the fuss is about my home turf, and it’s easy to take that for granted when life moves at a punishingly fast pace. But the six months I spent on maternity leave (thanks, Bloomberg!) were full of slow, leisurely days pushing a stroller up and down every block within a three-mile radius, from the old Italian neighborhood of Carroll Gardens to touristy Dumbo, from brownstone-filled Clinton Hill to the elevated waterfront promenade of Brooklyn Heights. And when I say every block, I mean it. After discovering a handful of tiny hidden streets flanked with stunning historic homes, I took to Google Maps and charted out every minuscule lane, place, or mews I could find, then beelined there while my kiddo dozed in her UppaBaby snug seat. (These adventures often included one-handed treats, like dirty chai lattes and croissants from Bien Cuit or chicken teriyaki onigiri from JuJu, a no-frills Japanese bodega in Cobble Hill.) What I found were troves of history, unique styles of architecture, and tons of secret gardens—an idyllic, picturesque, and little-known Brooklyn that’s so worth seeking out.

St. Barts

I’ll never forget what it felt like to sit down in the lobby of Villa Marie and look at photos of the same room in the same hotel, only months earlier, when it had no roof and wind-swept furnishings were strewn about. St. Barts is a place that I hold dear, and I’m hardly alone in the sentiment—it’s the rare island of which my sun-phobic husband approves, and its varied topographical charms give it far more dimension than your typical fly-and-flop beach retreat. This time around, my visit was equal parts sobering and inspiring. I mourned the loss of small beachside businesses that were literally blown away by Hurricane Irma and celebrated the rebirth of iconic spots like Nikki Beach and Eden Roc, which were all coming back better than ever. It was a first-hand lesson in resilience that left me feeling more optimistic and hopeful than any other trip I took all year.

The Bahamas

It feels especially ironic now, in hindsight, to compare the Bahamas to St. Barts in 2019. While the latter’s Irma-inflicted wounds didn’t become mainstream media fodder, the Bahamas took a far harder hit from Hurricane Dorian, and the damage to its tourism economy ended up fully in the public eye. Yes, $8 billion in damages were sustained as a result of the storm, mainly in the northwestern Abaco Islands. But the vast majority of the archipelago went unharmed—a fact that most travelers have failed to understand. As a result, tourism has plummeted, right when it’s needed most.

I visited in February, five months before the 185-mile-per-hour winds swept through. My destination: Kamalame Cay, a relaxed private island resort off the coast of Andros. Getting there negates the easy-access appeal of Nassau; after landing in the capital, you have to take another short flight, get driven to a ferry dock, then sail across a channel before arriving on property. But being there is one of the most relaxed experiences anywhere—luxury here means getting to know staff on a first-name basis, finding tidy breakfast baskets outside your room before sunrise, leaving your bungalow door unlocked, “hijacking” the resort puppies for in-room cuddles, and watching rays zoom through the clearest waters you’ve ever seen. It’s less like being at a fussy, five-star oasis and more like visiting your wealthy friends at their home away from home.

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