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]

Ask Gadling: What do you do when your guidebook is wrong?

Ever bought a guidebook and discovered when you arrived it was useless? Full of outdated maps and ho-hum restaurant picks, your guidebook is better suited for Grandma’s group tour than a grand night on the town.

Rest easy, mindful traveler. Rather than being something to worry about, discovering your guidebook is awful should actually be cause to celebrate. In fact, you might as well chuck that lousy thing out your hotel window.

Here’s the truth: for anyone looking to add a dose of spontaneity, authentic local culture and plain old randomness to their travels, going guidebook-free is a blessing in disguise. Still not convinced? In an era of ever-present Internet and cheap mobile phones, you’re never more than a step away from all the information you’ll ever need. Keep reading below for four ways to get rid of those guidebook woes, once-and-for-all.Enjoy the Randomness
Wait a second. An expert travel site is telling me to spend my hard-earned vacation wandering around aimlessly, with no plan whatsoever? Yes. Travel isn’t just about checking sights off a list. It’s about immersing yourself in an experience totally different than what you’re used to at home. The best way to do that is to lose the guidebook and get lost. Walk down a street you don’t recognize. Get on a city bus that you don’t know the destination. Talk to a random stranger. Do anything really. The point is that without a plan, you’re all the more likely to have rewarding, unexpected experiences. They might not end how you “planned” – but all the better.

Pull out your mobile phone
In an era of super-smart Internet-ready mobile phones, guidebooks aren’t just out of date: they’re downright obsolete. Whether you need the public transit schedule in San Francisco, are looking to track down some good Cuban food in Miami or want instant translations of a foreign language menu, a mobile phone with a data connection can likely find you the answer. From Augmented Reality to Location Services, mobile phones have become the new guidebook. Best of all, they’re a guidebook that fits comfortably in your pocket.

Ask a local
You won’t find the best tips for a destination in a guidebook. Instead, savvy travelers know to ask the locals. Even if you think you know your destination’s most important sites, locals will often suggest off-the-beaten activities and unexpected highlights that even the most detailed up-to-date guidebook would never find. What if you don’t know any locals in your destination? Not a problem. Either strike up a conversation when you arrive (don’t worry, they won’t bite) or use web tools like Twitter, Facebook or Couchsurfing to ask around for help. Thanks to the wonder of the Internet, you’ll have a local showing you around in no time.

Not loving your guidebook? Perhaps it’s time you gave it up. These days, with help from technology, local expertise and a little willingness to be surprised, traveling without it is easier and more enjoyable than you think.

[Photo by Flickr user Matt Murf]