It’s officially 2017, which of course means many of us are setting goals and resolutions we invariably won’t keep – and some of them are travel-related. Visit ten new countries. Travel for the next three months. Drive across the country. Take a trip every weekend. Go to Antarctica…
If goals like that are in the cards for you, that’s wonderful! But since they’re obviously too lofty for many people, we wanted to propose some fun, realistic resolutions that shouldn’t be too hard to keep (and that don’t involve running ten miles every day…although you can do that, too). And if you’re looking for more, check out last year’s post on travel-inspired resolutions.
Take a solo trip.
This is a couples travel blog, but even we believe that sometimes you need to have an adventure by yourself. Solo travel forces you to develop independence, and it changes how you interact with local people and other travelers. Not having a friend or partner there pushes you to form relationships with the people around you, and it might make you more open to new experiences.
When you travel alone, you also gain a better understanding of what you love about going to new places. Are you someone who likes to visit all the city sights: museums, historical landmarks, shopping districts? Or do you prefer to chill at a café and get an understanding of the local culture through people watching? Or maybe you just want to get out of the city as quickly as possible? Take what you learn about your travel preferences on your next trip with a friend or partner; you’ll both be happier for it.
And yes, traveling alone is safe, even for women! The idea that people, especially women, should never travel alone is an old myth that’s based in fear, not facts. If you’re uneasy about the idea, check out the blog Be My Travel Muse for lots of great tips and resources.
Attend a film screening.
Sure, some might dismiss it as armchair tourism, but checking out a great film on a country you’re interested in can build up your anticipation for traveling there. And whether you’re watching a documentary on the war against ivory poachers, a celebrated foreign film, or even a popular Brad Pitt movie about Tibet, you’ll probably learn something new.
Don’t live in New York, L.A., or Park City? Don’t worry, many universities are home to aspiring filmmakers who screen really interesting content. And if nothing else, public libraries often show films and have interesting other travel presentations – plus they’re a place to meet other people interested in travel, and that’s always a good thing.
Everyone wants to save more money and spend less; there are thousands of books on how to do it, and yet it often doesn’t seem to happen. But if you want to travel (and you don’t have a trust fund), it’s critical.
Start by examining your weekly spending habits, and be honest with yourself. What are your basic necessities: rent, utilities, food, student loan payments? What do you frivolously spend money on each week: fancy dinners, drinks out, that hot new track on iTunes? We’re definitely not saying you should cut all the fun out of your life; just think about which things are really making you happy and which you could easily do without.
Do you grab drinks a couple times a week with friends? Have one less: $7 x 52 weeks = $364. That could be a plane ticket somewhere. Dining out every week? Alternate with eating at home or inviting friends over for a potluck: $20 x 26 weeks = $540. You’ve easily got a week’s worth of accommodations in a budget-friendly country.
Once you figure out where your money’s going and whether it’s worth it, make a budget and savings plan – and stick to it by remembering what it could get you in terms of travel. If you’re not convinced, see how the bloggers behind The Minimalists did it.
Sell your stuff.
Yes, every travel blogger out there seems to be saying that you just need to sell some of your stuff, and then you’ll be able to travel the world. Not exactly – most twenty-somethings don’t have a home full of valuable possessions they can readily unload on eBay for thousands of dollars (and Cash4Gold probably won’t turn your junk jewelry into a trip to Europe).
But while this approach may not fully fund a round-the-world trip, it can still make a pretty good contribution to your travel fund. In preparing to leave Boston a couple months ago, we sold most of our furniture and household items on Craigslist, electronics and books on Amazon, and some clothes on eBay.
It’s great if you can make some money off the things you don’t need, but this resolution is also about considering the way you use the things you have. Which things are really important to you, and which are just adding clutter to your life?
Going through your stuff will force you to think about what you value, which can also help you prioritize what you want to spend money on in the future. Bonus: having fewer things means packing is a lot easier!
Do some volunteer work.
This isn’t really about travel, because we don’t mean voluntourism. Instead of jetting off to Africa and spending a couple weeks doing work you’re not really qualified for, carefully consider what your skills are, and then donate your time and effort to a project near where you live. Look for organizations in your town that are working in a field you really care about.
Do you enjoy spending time outdoors and wish more people shared your passion? See if any organizations near you run outdoors activities for kids. Interested in health or medicine? Many hospitals have volunteer programs. Committed to conservation? Join a trail clearing crew, or donate your time to a non-profit like The Nature Conservancy.
Still itching to volunteer overseas because you want to experience another culture? Try volunteering with an organization in your town that assists recent immigrants and refugees in their transition to living in your country. They can often benefit from having another contact in their new home, and you can use the time to learn a little bit about their homeland.
If you want to make a difference overseas, donate regularly to the global causes you care about, but leave the actual work to professionals. When it comes to volunteering, you’ll do the most good by working where you have the skills and cultural understanding to make a difference.
Incorporate fitness into your travels.
For many of us, travel is associated with eating lots of exciting food, which isn’t always great health wise. But we would never suggest missing out on all those delicious meals; just consider including more physical activity in your itinerary. It doesn’t have to mean hitting the hotel gym, though. While that will help you stay in shape, it’s probably not going to help you enjoy your travels.
A more interesting option is to see if there are any good paths or trails near the place you’re staying, where you could go for a walk or run each morning. Even if you’re just surrounded by city streets, heading out for a walk or run can be a great way to explore a new place.
Or, consider what activities your destination is known for: windsurfing in Aruba, cross-country skiing in Finland, yoga in India, or bouldering in Boulder (yes, really). Wherever you go, try to make staying active part of your travel itinerary.
Use the sharing economy.
While Uber is probably the most recognizable name in the sharing economy, the term encompasses all peer-to-peer services – whether it’s riding in someone’s car, eating at someone’s home, sleeping on someone’s couch, or even renting someone’s sports equipment. The sharing economy is especially great for travel because it allows visitors to interact with local people, learning about their culture and way of life.
In our travels, we’ve booked through Airbnb over twenty times now, and had positive experiences pretty much every time we’ve used it. While Airbnb lets visitors rent a room or a house/apartment, Couchsurfing hosts offer their couches or futons to visitors for free. We’ve actually never Couchsurfed, but we can’t wait to finally try it soon.
There are other sharing economy options for meals, like EatWith and BonAppeteur, which let visitors eat a home-cooked meal at their host’s house. And to help you find the “real” side of your destination, Withlocals and Showaround give travelers the opportunity to go on a tour or do an activity with a local person or just sign up to have someone show them around.
So next time you travel, step outside your comfort zone (and your hotel), and consider using the sharing economy to get a more local perspective.
Learn some of the local language.
We believe that making an effort to communicate with local people in their own language shows respect. After all, nobody wants to be the Ugly American who expects everyone around the world to speak English with them. But learning languages is difficult and time-consuming, and if you’re planning to travel to lots of different countries, it’s going to be impossible to learn every language you might encounter.
So we’re not suggesting you should try to become a fluent speaker of Thai or Chinese or even Spanish while you travel. Just knowing a few basics can go a long way toward building rapport with locals, and it’s pretty feasible to do. If you’re planning to travel abroad this year, resolve to learn phrases like “Hello,” “Thank you,” “You’re welcome,” and “Good-bye” before you go.
Check out the website Fluent in 3 Months for lots of language-learning inspiration and great resources. Bonne chance !
Our biggest resolution yet – Travel the world!
Okay, this is lofty and vague (which makes it a terrible resolution), but it is our dream, and probably a dream of many people reading this. After months of fantasizing, planning, and saving, we’re finally (almost) set to start a new life of traveling long-term and working full-time as bloggers and freelancers. We’ll be working for ourselves and for clients as we travel slowly, often spending weeks at a time in one place before moving on.
What are your New Year’s resolutions for travel?