12 Travel Resolutions
The advent of the new year induces resolutions and long to-do lists. Though these often include goals of visiting special places, we rarely think about how we can enjoy the experience more fully. The following is a list of 12 resolutions to enriching your travels:
1. Detach from Your Devices
Part of the beauty of traveling is enjoying the moment. Unplug from your devices and absorb what is happening around you. Modern day society is obsessed with constant connection through smart phones and computers that it is easy to forget how to connect with the physical world around us. Notice what is new and different, take time to reflect and process, be a part of it. You can tell your friends about your trip later. Until then, create experiences worth sharing.
2. Try Something New
Visiting new places and cultures pushes us outside of our comfort zone—this is what makes travel exciting and worthwhile. On your next trip, do something unexpected: take a dance class, order something exotic off the menu, hit the slopes instead of the beach. On my first trip to Costa Rica, I signed up for a surfing lesson even though it seemed like something I could never do. I stood up on my first try and was hooked—a year later I was back for a week-long surf camp. You may be surprised by what you can accomplish and how much you will learn about yourself.
3. Be Prepared
Before taking off on an adventure, it’s always good to know a little about where you’re going, how to get there, and what you’ll need. For your own safety, have a general knowledge of the lay of the land—know which areas to visit and avoid. A little bit of planning in advance can save a lot of wasted time of and effort during the trip. If you’re traveling to a foreign country, does customs require a special visa or charge entrance fees? How will you get from the airport to the hotel? Do you have special dietary needs? What supplies and gear will you need for that hiking trip?
4. But Don’t Overplan
With limited time, it’s good to knock off some of the must-sees and must-dos on your list. But don’t forget to leave some free time for discovery and spontaneity. Some of my fondest travel memories come from serendipitous moments: stumbling upon an avant-garde gallery opening while wandering the streets of Paris with my sister-in-law; renting a moped on my honeymoon for a spur-of-the-moment ride to explore Mykonos’ beaches; and getting lost on the back roads of the Maryland countryside with a group of friends, only to discover a field full of yellow wildflowers perfect for frolicking and photo ops. I couldn’t have planned these adventures even if I had tried.
Uncovering a field of wildflowers in Frederick, Maryland
5. Talk to Strangers
Travel author Tim Cahill famously stated: “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” Traveling is not just about the places you see, but the people you meet. Don’t be shy to ask a local for recommendations or strike up a conversation with someone who seems interesting. Whether you’re in Texas or Mongolia, part of the appeal of traveling is seeing the world through varied perspectives, discovering different ways of life, or sharing something in common. You may form a deep friendship or simply share a moment with someone in passing—either way, you’re creating meaningful and enriching memories.
6. Go Off the Beaten Path
One of my favorite things to do while traveling is to wander off the main streets to discover hidden gems and local color. Most major districts or landmark streets like Paris’ Champs-Elysées are often home to big chain businesses that can afford the prime overhead. Exploring the streets a block or two away can yield unique finds. I remember an evening getting lost off the side streets of La Rambla Spain and coming upon a delightful nighttime organic market in the plaza of a small church. I bought some dark chocolate made by Spanish monks which ended up being some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Instead of taking the direct route home to my sister’s apartment in Berlin, I opted to zigzag through her neighborhood in Kreuzberg and came upon some amazing street art and murals.
Beach combing on a small island in Coron, Philippines
7. Accept You’re Not Always in Control
There are times when situations are beyond our control: delays, miscommunication, cancellations, and accidents happen. Instead of seeing these as misfortunes, recognize them as part of the adventure. Last year, I booked a trip to the island of Vieques in hopes to kayak the magical bioluminescent bay at night. The unusually cold weather forced the glowing microbes to the bottom of the sea, so instead our guide brought us for a fun and spooky paddle through the maze-like mangrove forest at night—something few visitors get to do.
8. Traveling Doesn’t Mean Venturing Far
Travel is a state of mind. It can involve a journey halfway around the world or an afternoon re-discovering your hometown. It can last an hour or for months. The distance and duration do not matter. What makes a traveler is the willingness to experience a place with a sense of discovery and appreciation.
9. Support Local Businesses
Chains may offer consistent quality, but offer the same experience you find back home. The point of traveling is to find those gems that make that place unique – a family-run restaurant, specialized boutique, locally-owned hotel that can’t be found anywhere else. Plus, your money often makes more of a direct impact within the community. While visiting Cambodia, we chose to stay at a small, locally-operated hotel that worked with the area hospitality school to train and employ locals. I’ll never forget the last day when members of the staff gathered to send us off and express their gratitude for supporting that hotel because it provided better opportunities and conditions for them and their family to work.
Hiking the Canyonland’s Mesa Arch in Utah
10. Don’t Rush
With limited time and busy schedules, it’s understandable that we want to see as much as we can during our travels. But there’s a certain point where you have to accept you probably can’t do it all. I remember taking a 10-day whirlwind tour through Europe when I was in high school. Every day, we’d hop into a bus to explore somewhere new: Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and France. Did I see a ton of stuff? Yes. Do I remember most of it? No. Our schedules were so jam-packed that I couldn’t even recollect what we had done two days previous. Since then, I’ve learned to take the time to savor a place.
11. Be Respectful
Part of the beauty of travel is experiencing a different culture or way of life. There may be instances when you encounter something that seems strange or shocking. When faced with a new situation, act inquisitively instead of judgmentally or dismissively. Showing the willingness to understand will earn you more respect even if you do not agree or approve.
Observing a Cao Dai service in Vietnam
12. Stop Procrastinating
It’s fun to keep adding must-see places to our bucket list. However, life is short and there’s a point when you have to start crossing some of those items off your list. When I was 4 years old, my father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a debilitating autoimmune disease that confined him to a wheelchair two years later. When I ask him if he’s had any regrets, he replies “No. I’ve done and seen more than most people will have in a lifetime” In his early 20s, he lived abroad in Germany for two years. When he and my mother married, they waited a decade before having children to use her flight attendant perks and travel around the world to Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Central America. It made me realize that if travel was a priority, I had to seize the day. It is not something that can be put off until retirement or when the planets are perfectly aligned.
Assess what’s stopping you: time, money, responsibilities, fear? Instead of delaying a trip because it seems impossible to achieve, re-frame your expectations. It may mean you may need to spend the next few months at home on Friday nights instead of eating out to save up. Maybe you’ll have to stay at a bed and breakfast and forego the five-star luxury hotel. Perhaps you’ll have to take a red-eye to save a few hundred dollars. Accept that for the time being, you can only spend two weeks exploring Peru instead of a year trekking through South America. Start an inspiration board on Pinterest to get motivated. Set a deadline to create urgency. Share your plans with your friends to make it seem real. Whenever you can, just go…anywhere. Your life will be richer for it.
What are your travel goals this year? Share them in the reply section below.
Lara was instilled with the travel bug at an early age and has visited over 25 countries. Her mother’s job as a flight attendant enabled a childhood of exploring the world. In addition to being the founding editor of En Route Traveler, Lara also works as the Art Director for the branding firm, Belmont Inc., in Alexandria, VA. In her spare time, she instructs high-energy Zumba dance classes, contributes as a Local Expert to AFAR, enjoys vegetarian cuisine, dabbles in photography and, of course, travels as much as possible.