OK, Maybe You Can't See the Elephants

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— Adam Lisberg

Awaiting the circus in New York City

But I swear they're there, right across the street, in the photo below.

Each March, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus leads its performing pachyderms through the Queens Midtown Tunnel and down the length of 34th Street in New York City, until they reach Madison Square Garden. It's tough to know exactly when they'll show up, so the crowd tends to gather around midnight, which is when my boyfriend and I arrived. I hopped up and down in his faux-fur hat for an hour, trying to stay warm, before the big and baby elephants finally made their entrance. But when they did, it was worth it to see the somewhat surreal sight of them in a single-file line, trunks and tails intertwined, sauntering past the Gap.

And it's just the sort of thing I'd love to share with an out-of-towner coming to visit—which brings me to one of my favorite features this month: "I'm Sleeping in a Stranger's House," a tale of one woman's adventures in house swapping. Swapping is not for the faint of heart, but with a little trust and a lot more e-mailing, it allows you to stay in any city you like for free. And, as Joanna Goddard discovers, staying "chez someone" has many benefits. You don't pay minibar prices if you raid the fridge, for one. But it's also the type of travel that's near and dear to us: taking a leap of faith on someplace (and in this case, someone) new in order to truly see how the locals live.

The truth is, even with fuel prices climbing, you don't have to stay home. But you may need to get creative about how you get away, which is why our fourth annual Extra Mile Awards couldn't come at a better time: This issue, we're thrilled to honor eight companies going the distance to make travel easier for you.

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