Travel Resolutions: 9 Goals To Help You Travel Better In The New Year

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]

Photo of the day (12.31.10)

Photo of the day
It’s New Year’s Eve, a time to make (and eventually break) resolutions for the incoming year. Time to start exercising, cut down on junk food and alcohol, keep a journal longer than 2 weeks this time, etc. Even us at Gadling have some travel resolutions to keep. These girls on the sands of Tel Aviv, Israel are fitting in some yoga with their day at the beach and it looks like their friend on the left has made a resolution to get in shape as well, or maybe just get a girlfriend. Thanks to Flavio@Flickr for this resolution inspiration and Happy 2011!

See any resolutions in action on your vacation? Submit your photos to the Gadling Flickr pool and we might just choose one as a future Photo of the Day.

10 travel resolutions for 2010

As 2009 draws to a close and we look back on the last 365 days of travel, it’s time to make some resolutions for the coming year. Here are ten travel resolutions that will help you be a happier, more fulfilled traveler in 2010.

Pack lighter
Nearly every domestic carrier now charges for the first checked bag. The fees are increasing as airlines are relying on the fees to supplement revenue and they show no signs of stopping. If you haven’t yet mastered the art of packing for a domestic trip with just a carry-on, now is the time to do so. Limit yourself to one pair of shoes in your bag, bring clothes that mix and match, plan to wash and re-wear your clothes if they get dirty, and wear your bulkiest items on the plane. Resist the urge to pack for every contingency, learn the 3-1-1 rules, and know that any minor inconvenience you suffer from packing light may be worth the money saved. Plus, there’s no waiting around for your luggage to be unloaded and no danger of it getting lost en route.

Remember to unplug

Many people are afraid to truly take a vacation from work. They worry about how it will affect their career or stress about the amount of work they’ll come back to. If they do manage to make it out of the office, they often spend their whole trip checking email and fielding work calls and texts. Step away from the Blackberry! Sign out of Twitter, shut down Facebook, and put your “out of office” notification on your email. You’ve worked hard for this vacation so unplug and actually enjoy it.Explore your own backyard
Don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest you plan a “staycation” this year. But I will point out that exploring a new place doesn’t have to mean jetting off to a destination halfway around the world. If finances are tight but you still want to take use some vacation time and broaden your horizons, spend your days discovering a place you haven’t been within the US, within your own state, or even within a few hours drive of your own home. In between trips, find ways to do some virtual traveling by learning about your dream destinations or celebrating other cultures.

Slow down
There’s so much to see in this great big world, and so little time to see it in, that it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to squeeze in as much as possible on each trip. But when you do that, you’re just ticking things off a list and experiencing nothing. Slow down and take your time exploring a few places rather than trying to skim the surface of many. You many not be able to say you’ve seen every country in the world, but you can say you’ve understood a few.

Think outside the box for destinations
Resolve to shake up your travel m.o. in 2010 If you always opt for a European getaway, head to Asia this year. If most of your trips are to big cities where you can wine, dine, shop and visit museums, try a trip to a quiet beach or a countryside setting instead. Consider what you want to get out of a trip and look for other destinations that fit the bill. Dive enthusiasts who’ve explored most of the Caribbean’s depths can try the waters of the Mediterranean. Traveling foodies who’ve eaten their way around Europe can sample the tastes of India or learn the traditions of Mexican cooking. Reconsider places you might have dismissed before, especially those that are emerging as new destinations so that you can beat the crowds.

Try an alternative form of lodging
Who says you always have to stay in a hotel? This year, try a different kind of lodging. Sleep in a bed and breakfast, rent an apartment, CouchSurf or sign up for a home-swap. You may find that it’s not for you, or you may find your new favorite way to stay. As a bonus, alternative forms of lodging are often cheaper than traditional hotels.

Travel green
Help protect the places you love so that future generations can enjoy them. Resolve to cut back on your carbon footprint and do what you can to travel green. Try to stay in eco-friendly accommodations, take public transportation when you can, reduce your energy use at home, and invest in carbon offsets to help mitigate the damage caused by air travel.

Try one new thing on every trip
Travel is about experiencing new things, so why bother going to a new destination if you are just going to do the same activities, eat the same food, and explore the same interests? This year, challenge yourself to try at least one new thing on every trip. Sample a food you’ve never eaten, sip a local drink, learn a native skill, and engage in an activity you’ve never done before. It’s easy to fall into the routine of seeking out the same experiences in different places so challenge yourself to try something new.

Get out of your comfort zone
We travel to discover, not only new people and places, but also new things about ourselves. Push yourself out of your comfort zone in 2010. Try not only new things that you’re eager to experience, but also new things that scare you just a little. Eat that slimy, still-squirming mystery dish in China or face your fear of heights climbing the Sydney Bridge. You’ll learn a little about the world around you, and maybe even more about yourself.

Remember that travel is a state of mind
It’s easy to approach exotic cultures with respect and curiosity. It’s a lot harder to look at different cultures in our country and accept that just because they do things differently, it doesn’t mean they are wrong. Bring the acceptance you learn on the road home with you. Don’t lose your sense of wonder and curiosity once you are back on familiar ground. Remember that travel is a state of mind and you may be just as surprised to discover the world around you as you are destinations farther away.

New Year’s Travel-utions

When I quit my restrictive day job last June to pursue a career as a impoverished writer freelancer, I narrowed my focus to first half of the word: Free. I envisioned myself travelling the world at the drop of a hat. But although I did visit two countries I’ve never been to before in 2007 (Australia and New Zealand,) I didn’t travel nearly as much as I would have liked to. Reflecting to the year past, I saw a distinct change in my behaviour — Instead of keeping up my usual pattern of working to to earn money to travel, I mostly just worked. I was too wrapped up in making money and building a name for myself that I forgot why I wanted this in the first place– for the freedom.

2008 will be different, though. I’ll make sure of that. This year, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to visit at least one country I’ve never been to before, and I’m hoping it will be either in Africa, South America or Asia. That’s not all — I’m going resolving to get out of town once a month for a weekend trip. Lofty goals for someone who still has to worry about paying the rent? Perhaps, but I think I can manage it. Afterall, I have my whole life to sit at home and work.

Resolution to learn a language?

My husband comments every so often that he’s going to learn Chinese. “That’s nice, honey,” I say. I think he might some day once he puts his mind to it. I used to have a resolution that I will learn American Sign Language. I have a deaf brother-in-law and sister-in-law. I can finger spell, kind of. I also know how to sign spaghetti, please, thank-you, and I have to go to the bathroom. The one complicated sentence I know how to sign is “The houses fell down. Why? Tornado.”

If you have a resolution to learn a language, there is a method I saw advertised on TV last night that I’ve heard about as being is an effective method. The Rosetta Language System has been mentioned more than a few times as being one that works in English as A Second Language meetings I’ve attended.

The system is an interactive computer software program. As you click on various pictures, the language is spoken so you can practice by repetition, however, it’s more dynamic than that. I noticed there is a Mandarin version. There’s Valentine’s Day coming up. Maybe this would be a better present than chocolate. It’s more expensive though. At $209 for level 1, the price might keep a person hitting the computer to make it worth the price tag.