Last year, I used the intro to the Uproxx Travel Hot List to write my love letter to travel. Then, just three weeks after the list launched, the pandemic hit and the whole world changed. Our 2020 entries were all immediately irrelevant.

For most of the past 18-months, our travel recommendations have been caveated with notes about safety and quarantine protocols. Those warnings clearly aren’t through. In fact, here’s another one for good measure: this list is intended for people who take Covid seriously, who vaccinate, who follow local protocols, and who have genuine regard for the health of the people living in the places they visit. It remains vital that you check the situation on the ground as you make travel plans and look at the vaccine numbers in the places you’re visiting. (This is why you’ll see links to COVID information accompanying every location-specific entry on this list.)

To take it even further, it’s important to think not just about if you can race off to a particular destination but if you truly should. Do the most vulnerable people living in these locales have vaccine access? Do they have health care infrastructure? Do they want inbound travelers? It’s heady stuff. But you can’t espouse that we’re all one global family on Instagram and then not when you’re buying your plane ticket. You have to grapple with big issues and recognize that situations can change so quickly that certain experiences or places on this list might quickly turn into “future travel inspiration” rather than acting as practical, “right now” guides.

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Facing a world in flux and with the 2022 Uproxx Travel Hot List rapidly approaching, we went into this project with a very specific question for our team of travel writers, influencers, TV hosts, musicians, chefs, scientists, and career vagabonds: “Why is this right, right now?” Their answers touched on massive issues of our times — showing respect for the natural world, celebrating historically marginalized voices, and rethinking worn-out travel narratives. But one idea surfaced over and over: the concept of “healing.” Whether it was Nicoletta de la Brown writing about the importance of self-care after lockdown, Danni Washington urging Black people to re-connect with the sea, or me hoping that travel can be part of Portland’s recovery, that theme is woven into many of this year’s most potent entries.

Perhaps that alone is the best possible testament to travel during these difficult times: that so many experts — folks who live and breathe this stuff — believe that leaving home to experience something new can be a vital part of how we all heal and move forward. That it can restore our connections and faith in one another. That it can be about more than just “I went to a place, saw some stuff, and ate some things…”

I hope this list helps you in your own process of restoration, in whichever ways you need. Whether it’s a palate-changing meal, a quiet escape, or a journey of discovery, may your adventures in 2021 bring you closer to your favorite version of yourself. And may you get there and back safely, doing no harm along the way.