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]

Learning a new language made easy

If learning a new language is on your list of things to do, there are several products out there to help make that happen. The trick seems to be finding one that will work for each individual and some are a better fit than others.

Back in 2007 Gadling’s Jamie Rhein introduced us to Rosetta Stone, an interactive computer software program that has been proven effective even in elementary school children. Still, the price tag of $449 per language for levels 1-5 may make many think twice. Just trying German, for example, takes $179 to get started.

Babbel, the browser based language learning program also has a mobile app for learning on the go. Both versions come with a speech recognition feature to give users a real time score on their pronunciation.
Perhaps just right to help prep for that next trip, there are various scenarios to learn from like culinary, shopping, urban, etc. Users can take beginner to advanced courses in up to 11 different languages.

Pricing is unique too. Babbel charges by the month for unlimited use starting at $12.95 with no long-term commitment or barely used box staring us in the face when our efforts fail. Prices go down by pre-paying with a six-month subscription priced at $7.95 per month.

Not sure? Babbel will let users try it for free.

The Babbel program has a good track record too with over 1 million users in 2011 in 200 countries. Planning a dream trip to Sweden, I tried a sample lesson and found that Dette kan fungere for mig (this might work for me).

Flickr photo by ob1left

New Years Resolution: Add more adventure to your life

Now that 2010 is officially behind us, and another new year has gotten underway, it’s time to get those annual resolutions in order. Along with the usual vows to lose weight and exercise more, I have one other recommendation, one that is simple in premise but opens up a host of possibilities, especially for travelers. In 2011, lets all make a New Years Resolution to put a little more adventure into our lives.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Adding more “adventure” sounds like a risky proposition. After all, the very word adventure conjures up images of Indiana Jones hacking his way through dense jungles, machete in hand, while fending off hostile natives and giant snakes – not to mention malaria. But that’s only one, albeit extreme, vision of what an adventure can be. The trick is to define what the word means to you, and then pursue a few adventures of your own.

For example, my 2010 adventures saw me trekking through the Himalaya to Everest Base Camp, riding jet skis in the Florida Keys, and spotting wolves in Yellowstone, amongst others. For some Gadling readers those probably sound like fun, exciting activities, but for others they likely don’t seem all that enjoyable at all. You see, we all have our own definition of what adventure means to us, and what works for me, doesn’t necessarily work for you.

Perhaps your idea of an adventure is sampling new and unusual foods while exploring a South American country. Maybe it’s traveling through Europe by train without any kind of pre-set itinerary or cycling through Asia along the ancient Silk Road. Maybe it is as simple as going on a Caribbean cruise or as extreme as climbing a mountain. Or perhaps your adventure involves finally getting a passport of your very own and visiting a foreign country for the first time.

The point is, in 2011, make an effort to not only define what adventure means to you, but pursue a few more of your own. That can include everything from a day trip to a local hiking trail, a weekend escape to a nearby vineyard, or a weeks long journey to explore a destination you’ve always wanted to experience. It’ll make for a more interesting and exciting year to say the least, and you may find that it is a more fulfilling one as well.

Happy New Year everyone! Have an adventurous 2011!

Gadling’s 2011 New Year’s travel resolutions

It’s that time of year again. A time when we all make certain promises to ourselves, in an attempt to make our lives more organized, our bodies stronger or leaner. We vow to spend more time with loved ones, give back to others, or ditch that cubicle job. And some of us…well, we just want to keep on traveling, any way we can manage to finagle it.

In the spirit of New Year’s, I asked my fellow Gadling contributors about their travel resolutions for the coming year, and came up with some of my own. Our goals are all over the map (no pun intended), but a common theme emerged. Despite our love of exotic adventures, most of us want to spend more time exploring in our own backyard (that would be the United States). That, and invent musical underwear.

Leigh Caldwell

  • Go on my first cruise.
  • Spend a weekend somewhere without Internet access, and, if I survive that…
  • Celebrate the Fourth of July with my family in Banner Elk, North Carolina, home of the quintessential small-town Independence Day. There’s a three-legged race, a rubber ducky race down a mountain stream, and a parade filled with crepe paper, balloons, and every kid and dog in town.

McLean Robbins

  • Quit my “day job” so I can do this full-time.

[Photo credit: Flickr user nlmAdestiny]Laurel Miller

  • Get back in shape after a two-year battle with Oroya Fever (contracted in Ecuador), and climb a volcano in Bolivia.
  • Finally start exploring my adopted state of Washington, especially the Olympic Peninsula.
  • Visit India for the first time; see if it’s possible to subsist on street food without getting dysentery.
  • Learn to wear DEET at all times when traveling in countries that harbor nearly-impossible-to-diagnose diseases like Oroya Fever.

Sean MacLachlan

  • Get back to Ethiopia.
  • Explore Green Spain (the north part of the country).
  • Show my son a non-Western culture.
  • Invent an underwear stereo that plays cheap jazz music when subjected to a TSA patdown.

Mike Barish

  • Drive cross country.
  • See the Grand Canyon (finally).
  • Finally learn how not to overpack.
  • And, for the fifth year in a row, I resolve to learn how to play the keytar (2011 has got to be the year!).

Darren Murph

  • Bound and determined to visit my 50th state, Alaska.
  • Dead-set on relocating a childhood friend of mine back to North Carolina, and then taking him on a road trip of some sort.

Meg Nesterov

  • Visit more places where I know people.
  • Be in more travel pictures and get my husband out from behind the
  • camera occasionally.
  • Take at least one guidebook-free and paperless trip. Okay, maybe one map.
  • Take better notes. I might think I’ll always remember the name of that fun-looking restaurant or weird sign I want to translate, but it’s easy to forget when you’re taking in so many new things.
  • See more of Turkey while I still live here. I spend so much time traveling to nearby countries, I have to be sure to see the landscape of Cappadocia and eat the food in Gaziantep before I go back to the U.S..

Grant Martin, Editor-in-Chief

  • Travel a bit less and work a bit more [Sure, Grant!].

Annie Scott Riley

  • Travel less alone, and more with my husband.

Alex Robertson Textor

  • More open-jaw travel, flying into one destination and traveling by land to another before returning home. It’s my favorite way to see a new or familiar territory–gradually and without any backtracking. I need to do it more often.
  • More thematic consistency in my travels. Instead of scrambling to meet whatever assignment comes my way, I want my travels in the next year to be focused on a region or two, and on a number of overarching questions or issues. I’m still collecting ideas: Remote European mountain villages? Neglected second-tier cities? The Caucasus?
  • Northern Cyprus. Have been wanting to visit since I was a kid. 2011’s the year.

David Farley

  • To take back the name “Globetrotters” from the Harlem basketball team.
  • To introduce eggnog and lutefisk to southeast Asia.
  • To eat fewer vegetables.

[Photo credits: volcano, Laurel Miller; Grand Canyon, Flickr user Joe Y Jiang; Cappadocia, Flickr user Curious Expeditions; lutefisk, Flickr user Divine Harvester]

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.