You could commit to working out more, or reading more books instead of watching television, or not eating lunch in front of your computer (all of which we should be doing regularly) but we all know that a few weeks after the clock hits 12:01 a.m. on January 1, resolutions tend to go straight out the window.
To keep resolutions, we have to set goals that we really want to achieve, and when we search deep down, what do we really want for a new year? To be happy. To feel better. To live more. To celebrate the present. All those standard things that we say to ourselves every year.
You know what lets you do all of those? Traveling. And unlike putting yourself on a restrictive diet and grueling workout schedule, traveling is the full body, holistic plan to feeling better.
But we have to go beyond, “This year, I want to travel more.” That is vague and open ended, and ultimately, doesn’t give you a set goal. You need concrete resolutions that will get you not only thinking about travel, but also doing it.
No matter your destination, these are resolutions to encourage you to experience all that travel has to offer, to take advantage of every situation that you’re in and be more than just an average tourist. Your challenge for 2013 isn’t to just travel more, it’s to travel better.I will commit to carry-on only.
Yes, you can manage to have your bags checked across to the other side of the world, but isn’t it nicer to have everything with you and the peace of mind that you’re not going to ever have to deal with a moderately helpful luggage officer and a store bought tri-pack of emergency underwear? Committing to only packing what fits in your carry-on (unless you’re going to Antarctica and need more layers than usual) not only eliminates the hassle that comes along with lost baggage, but it makes you a more agile traveler on the ground. It’s also a lesson in learning what essentials you really need to function; in a day and age of over consumption it’s nice to know that we can make it two weeks on a pair of pants and a couple of shirts.
I will leave my smartphone at home … at least for a few hours.
Travel apps and easy access to maps are all good things, but remember the days of serendipitously getting lost, having to ask someone on the corner where such and such street was and in the process getting a recommendation for the local lunch hotspot? Plan and organize, but leave room for life to happen, and that means putting the smartphone at the bottom of the bag every once in awhile.
I will accept that I can’t do everything.
You will not, I repeat, NOT accomplish everything on your travel checklist. That’s what the return trip is for. If you’re stressed about seeing every single noteworthy site, it’s easy to lose track of all the other things that make travel great: a good meal, an interaction with a local, the fact that you found the best spot to watch a sunset.
I will carry a first-aid kit.
Get stuck with a motorbike accident induced leg wound in Thailand and you will never travel without Neosporin again. You don’t need to have the stash of an EMT, but identify a few essentials and make sure they never leave your bag: ibuprofen, Benadryl, band-aids, a sports bandage, an antibiotic ointment, etc.
I will say yes.
If you find yourself on a trip, it means that you have already said yes to a certain amount of unknowns. When we travel, we let go of control, and all of those amazing experiences that you talk about when you come home don’t happen because you stuck to a formulated plan and avoided anything that wasn’t on it. There’s a balance to travel, and it requires being open to new places and experiences even if it pushes your comfort level a little. So when you’re asked if you want to try the odd sounding local delicacy that may or may not be making you cringe, just say yes.
I will ask questions.
We don’t, nor will we ever, know everything. Even if you have done your research beforehand, there is still much to learn. Ask your friends and family for tips before you leave (you didn’t know your grandmother once spent a week in Dublin did you?). Ask your waiter what local specialty they recommend. Ask the person at the hotel desk for a coffee shop that not many tourists go to. Ask a stranger what a sign means. The more questions you ask, the more you’ll learn, and most of the time, it will be stuff that you can’t always find in a guidebook.
I will up my foreign language game.
Foreign languages aren’t for everyone, but if you are traveling to another country, get ahold of some basic expressions before you leave. Not only will you come off as more polite and respectful, showing that you are making an attempt at engaging with locals in their own language – even if it’s just a couple of words – is bound to open new doors. Try a language app, or if you already have “hello” and “goodbye” down, go for some intro Pimsleur audio lessons that you can easily master on your daily commute.
I will keep a travel journal.
Not a blog, not Facebook updates – a real journal that you actually write stuff in. You don’t need to commit to page long elaborate travel essays, but keep a small notebook on hand to jot down the names of places you visited, meals you ate, stores you bought something at. Even a master Googler will have a hard time three years from now when you are trying to recall “that cute hole-in-the-wall cafe on that one big street next to the museum that served those really good baked goods … what were they called?”
I will remember that I can never have enough adventures.
No one lies on their deathbed thinking about how they could have worked more. Don’t throw reason out the window, but remember that you only live once, and when the opportunity for adventure arises, you should probably take it.
[Flickr image via mrs. scrapygraphics]