The end of another year is here and we’ll soon wave ‘goodbye’ to one year and ‘hello’ to another. It’s a time to get drunk, spend way too much money on a night out and hope that the next twelve months will be some of our best. It’s also the perfect opportunity to take stock of our lives and plan what we’re going to do next year to make sure we’re living our best life.
And that’s where the tradition of New Year’s resolutions steps in. You’re not alone in making promises to yourself and resolving to do certain things better. People have been doing it for centuries! But if you’re an avid traveller then why not make some of those resolutions all about the thing you love? The thing you hope to do more of each year?
Here are some ideas of how you can be a better traveller with a few New Year resolutions to inspire you.
Tread lightly – be a greener traveller
Travel can be tough on the planet. There’s the air pollution caused by transportation and the increased pressure on natural resources. As awareness of our environmental impact increases, 2018 is the perfect time to consider ways in which we can reduce our footprint when travelling.
An easy eco win is to carry a reusable water bottle with you wherever you go. That way you can top up with water whenever you have access to sources of drinkable water. This saves on having to buy small water bottles, which creates plastic waste. In many developing countries, recycling systems are not as comprehensive and waste easily ends up in natural habitats.
Another simple way to make a small difference is to take your own towel and use it at hotels. Choosing not to use hotel towels saves on washing. And this means less water is used and fewer chemicals make their way into the water system.
There’s no getting away from the fact that air travel is a major contributor to carbon emissions. As is the agricultural industry. So if you’re keen to keep your individual contribution to carbon dioxide levels to a minimum, perhaps offset your flight with a reduction in meat consumption when you arrive at your destination.
And there’s always the carbon offset scheme that some airlines offer. You can add this at the time of booking with the proceeds funding projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Check out Huffington Post for more ideas on how to be a greener traveller.
“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.” —Jane Goodall
Be present – put the technology away
We all enjoy capturing photos of our travels and sharing these with the world on social media. But when the desire to capture every experience stops you from enjoying the moment, it’s time to put the technology away. If the first thing you do when you arrive at a new place is take a photo and post it straight to Instagram then you might be missing out.
Too often we seek to ‘capture’ memories before creating them. Getting proof before enjoying the events and activities that will eventually become a memory. We rush into the future, documenting what’s happening while it happens so we can look back on it later. Wouldn’t it be better if we were fully absorbed in the here-and-now?
This year, think of ways you can be more present while you travel. It could be as simple as committing to only reaching for your phone or camera once you’ve taken it all in. It could be more extreme with phones and cameras left in the hotel room for a day.
However you decide to handle your technology obsession, aim to be able to recall a place from memory and not just from a photo on Facebook. Wherever you go, take a moment to soak up the sights, sounds and smells that you can later summon at will and reminisce on at leisure.
“Travel is like a good, challenging book: it demands presentness—the ability to live completely in the moment, absorbed in the words or vision of reality before you. ” – Robert D. Kaplan
Say yes – be open to new experiences
There’s a great sense of satisfaction in doing something that scares you. It’s a way of pushing your boundaries and growing as an individual. Any challenge you set yourself and achieve makes you a stronger and even happier person. Perhaps travelling in the first place was your greatest challenge. Perhaps that was the greatest ‘yes’ you could ever say.
Well, once you’re in your chosen destination there will be plenty more opportunities to say ‘yes’ and open yourself to new experiences.
You might be petrified of heights but really like the idea of seeing a new place with a bird’s-eye view. Don’t let fear hold you back. Book that scenic helicopter ride or take the elevator up to the highest vantage point in the city. Whatever the opportunity is, if you’re usually one to hesitate, then resolve this year to just go for it.
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Be prepared – book in advance
Gone are the days when you could rock up at an airport and book a last-minute seat to somewhere exotic for just a fraction of the cost. That’s not to say that last-minute deals aren’t out there – it’s just that airlines know they can make more money selling sought after seats at much higher prices.
So save yourself money and book your flights in advance. Same goes for hotels too. Sign up for newsletters for details of special offers and sales so you can book your dream holiday at a bargain.
Make your annual leave work harder by mapping out the year’s public holidays. Arrange your holidays around these ‘free’ days off to maximise the time you have available for travel. And get in early as these times of the year will be popular amongst your colleagues too.
Booking well in advance not only means you’ll save money but it also means you’ll have plenty of time to organise visas, travel insurance and any gear you’ll need for your trip. And if you’ve got even a passing interest in the FX market, it also means you can buy your foreign currency at the ideal time.
Go solo – you don’t always need a travel buddy
If you’re over the age of 30 it’s more than likely that most of your friends are settled down and have a new travel buddy. Or perhaps kids have put paid to their days of adventurous wandering. If you suddenly find yourself bereft of your go-to travel buddy, don’t let that stop you.
Either pluck up the courage to hit the road independently or join a group tour where you’re guaranteed to meet others and be looked after from day one. Being on your own does not mean having to be lonely. Whether you’re backpacking or travelling with a bunch of strangers, there will always be the opportunity to meet new people.
There are plenty of good reasons to travel solo. You can travel in a way that suits you entirely, deciding the where, when and how. And you’ll learn so much more about yourself. So rather than putting your holiday plans on hold until you have someone to go with, book that dream trip as a solo traveller.
“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” – Henry David
Learn the lingo – grasp the basics before you go
Modern technology makes it easier than ever to learn a new language. Apps like Duolingo and Babbel make it quick, fun and free to to pick up the essentials of a new language with the convenience of your phone. And there’s always phrase books that you can carry around with you once you’re out there.
You only need to know a few words to make a positive impact once you get to your destination. The basic dictionary of ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’ is enough to show you’ve made an effort. Of course, you can go further than that, learning the numbers to help with your haggling. Or a few words of foods and dishes that you’ll find on a menu.
Whether it’s three words that you pick up or thirty, it will be appreciated by the local people you meet. It will distinguish you as a traveller who took the time to attempt communication in their language, rather than assuming everyone speaks English.
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela
Eat local – try the regional delicacies
It seems burgers, chips and pizza can be found in every corner of the globe. And it’s all too easy to stick to what you’re familiar with when you travel to new and exotic places. But if you do that you’re missing out on one of travel’s greatest pleasures – food.
In many countries, food is a central part of the culture. In India the 5,000-year-old medicinal system of Ayurveda inspires food choices to this day. While in Japan the concept of washoku dictates certain etiquette and ways of eating.
Wherever you go in the world, make it a point to try a new dish. Give the street food a go. Have lunch at a local canteen where workers fill up on cheap, hearty grub. And don’t pass up the offer of a home-cooked meal if you’re lucky enough to receive it.
On the flip side of that, if you’ve got the cash, see whether there are any Michelin star restaurants in town. Go check out what the country’s most talented chefs are doing that’s innovating the local cuisine.
“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.” – Cesar Chavez
Go back – revisit countries you’ve already been to
It’s easy to think that you’ve “done” a country after just one holiday. You’ve seen the classic sights and ticked off the best experiences. You’ve got a taste of the local culture and formed an opinion of whether or not you like the place.
It’s tempting to work your way through the list of countries and tick them off one-by-one. If only for the bragging rights of saying you’ve been to X number of countries in your lifetime. But that shouldn’t stop you from revisiting places you’ve already been.
There’s always so much more to learn. And countries are organic things – they grow and change with their people and environments. A destination is never static. Somewhere you went years ago won’t be exactly the same now.
So if the opportunity to go back to a country you’ve already visited presents itself, go for it. There are plenty of good reasons why you should. And consider where in that country you can go for something new, whether that’s new sights or new experiences. Make it just as exciting as if you were visiting for the very first time.
Travel at home – see the familiar with a traveller’s eyes
You may not be able to travel aboard as often as you’d like but you don’t ever have to stop being a traveller. Apply that desire to discover new places, meet new people and try new experiences to your home country. Or even home city.
Spend the weekend visiting somewhere you’ve never been. Check out a guidebook and see if you agree with their choice of top attractions in the country you call home. Or pick off the lesser-known gems and find ones of your own. At the very least you’ll soon become a handy travel guide for international friends and family when they come to visit.
If you see your native land as a traveller would, you’ll discover that it offers much more than you might have first realised. It also means you can satisfy the travel bug whenever it starts biting, regardless of budget or time constraints. If there’s one resolution you can start today, it’s this one. So what are you waiting for?
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller