It’s easy to scoff at New Year’s resolutions. It’s true that January 1st is an arbitrary date, it’s also true that you could make resolutions at any time of the year, and it’s certainly true that resolutions are often forgotten. (Looking at you, gym membership.)
But the reality is that you probably aren’t making resolutions on, say, April 27th. And this is as good of a time as any — arguably it’s the best time — to take stock of your values, to push yourself with new goals, and to make some resolutions that can actually stick.
And you love to travel. So why not resolve to travel better?
1. Slow it down
Promise yourself that for at least one trip, you will brainstorm all the things you want to do at the destination — the museums, the tastings, the vineyards, the tours, the hikes, the restaurants, the other tours — and then cut your list in half. Instead of go-go-go hustling from event to event, you’ll find yourself savoring each one.
2. Level-up your travel photography
If you’re a total beginner? Just a bit of instruction goes a long way, and online courses (like the ones at Udemy) provide plenty of bang for the buck. (You’ll also find the book Stunning Digital Photography, by Tony Northrup, approachable and useful.) If you already have the basics covered? Push yourself to the next level. Maybe travel with a light-weight collapsible tripod, or explore those features you’ve ignored on your DSLR, or even commit to more “photo-missions” like waking up before dawn to capture sunrise over the mountain.
3. Visit a new country for the first time.
The most obvious goal? Perhaps, but that doesn’t make it a bad one. Think about that one far-flung destination that has always been on your wish-list. Then make it happen.
4. Volunteer while traveling
Virtually everywhere you go, from Tokyo to Morocco to the hills of Kashmir, will have some kind of way to get involved and help the local community. Maybe it’s helping with sea turtles and marine conservation, or giving care to the elderly, or getting food to needy children in Medellin. This will almost certainly be the highlight of your trip.
5. Embrace spontaneity.
Commit to just once — just once! — decide on a Thursday that you will go somewhere that very weekend. Maybe it’s a last-minute flight bargain. Maybe it’s a road trip. Or maybe you use a site like PackUpandGo to have them plan a surprise itinerary. The point is that you don’t overthink it; you just go.
6. Flip your travel genre: Do a Friend (or Family) Trip
Take at least one trip with a new cast of characters. If you always travel with your partner and/or family, then do a friends-only trip. If you always vacation with your friends, then take a trip with your family — any member of your family. We often think about the variety of our destinations, but we rarely consider the variety of our companions. And on a related note…
7. Take it solo.
Literally anyone, in virtually every phase of life, can carve out the time for a solo trip. It can be done. This doesn’t need to be a ten-month odyssey exploring every country in South America. It could just be a day-trip.
8. Try to learn another language.
The key word here is try. The effort is what counts. The resolution isn’t to be fluent by the end of the year, but even your attempt to get the basics will endear you to the locals and give you a richer sense of the culture.
9. Get physical.
Plan at least one trip that’s anchored around something physical or outdoorsy – maybe it’s hiking, or maybe it’s biking or trekking or skiing or wind-surfing…literally anything as long as it’s not Segway-ing.
10. Go offline.
I once lost my iPhone on a boat in Thailand. It fell to the bottom of the Indian Ocean. Instead of trying to replace the phone while traveling, I tried to replicate all of its functions with a watch, paper maps, paper notebook, flashlight, and an old-timey clock that I used as my morning alarm. And…honestly? The rest of the trip was incredible, one of the best vacations of my life. I was forced to be present, to avoid screen-time, to chat with strangers and make new friends. So as a resolution — or think of it as an experiment — just once, try leaving your phone at the hotel.
But maybe don’t toss it in the ocean.