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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sam Chillingworth, a high school classmate, friend, and now featured writer in the inspiring book series Wake Up… Live the Life you Love, recently passed on a book he contributed to called Living in the Now. At the time, I had just returned from a two-month trip to the mainland and Peru, and (as I usually do when I return from a trip) was experiencing a bad case of travel hangover.
There’s nothing like reading a collection of inspiring essays about embracing life. Some of the tips I found were so helpful in putting life — and, more importantly, travel — in perspective that I thought it would be worthwhile to pass on some life and travel wisdom to ye faithful Gadling readers. Seeing that the new year is so quickly approaching, these tips should generate some good ideas for your 2010 resolution(s). On Sunday, I outlined how to travel in 4D, and yesterday we learned about the 80/20 travel rule. Here’s my third and final travel tip to get your new year started on the right foot:
It’s easy to forget just how lucky we are to have the freedom to travel — and to have the freedom to choose what we want to do from day to day. My friend Sam wrote in his essay about living in the now, “[Gratitude] has allowed me to travel to more than 15 different countries, experience adrenaline-filled adventures that would blow your mind, and brought me the forgiveness, happiness and love I’d once longed to receive.” Being thankful for life itself and the great possibilities that exist from one day to the next is the first step toward embracing all of the treasures along the journey of life. When you’re on the road, it’s easy to be present and totally engaged, and it’s even easy to be thankful for the gift of travel itself. The true challenge, I find, is the gratitude that should exist even after your trip is over.
After some very difficult personal struggles, Sam began to appreciate life by watching the sun set into the Pacific Ocean every evening: “I would be there no matter what I was doing, even if all I saw was the final moment.” When your travel sun sets, there’s another new one on the horizon — another beautiful journey that begins each day. Be grateful for every moment you have to experience it fully.
Part of my plan for the new year is to say thank you for the gift of freedom, travel, and life. We are all fortunate souls for having all three.