Most of us start the New Year with a list of resolutions: to get back in physical or financial shape, to learn something new, quit smoking or drinking or to fall in love. Although over 40% of us hope to start with a clean slate come 2017, a University of Scranton research suggests that only 8% of us will actually achieve our New Year’s goals. Apparently, shooting for the moon isn’t always the best approach — keeping your resolution list short and sweet may be the key to success according to psychologist Lynn Bufka who suggests “small, attainable goals throughout the year rather than a singular overwhelming goal.”
We couldn’t agree more, and honestly, what better New Year’s resolution than to learn how to be the best traveller you can be?
Follow these simple tips to upgrade your journeying experience and make every vacation better than the last.
- Pick the right destination
“We are inundated with advice on where to travel to; we hear little of why we should go and how we could be more fulfilled doing so.” writes Alain de Botton in his thought-provoking book The Art of Travel in which he explores the pleasures, and often caveats, of traveling through a more philosophical lense. The bottom line is to ask yourself why you want to travel and to pick a destination accordingly. If your goal is to relax and soak in the sun, renting a bungalow in Guadeloupe for the week is a better fit than a 12-day family circuit in Vietnam.
- Dance to your own rhythm…
Being honest with yourself, and not falling prey to what’s au gout du jour is key; bouncing from one museum to the next can be exhausting if art or history bores you. The best itinerary to follow is one curated to your personality: if you love food then explore a country through its cuisine. if you’re a humanitarian then try volunteering with a local NGO for a day, if you love adventure try snorkeling.
- But don’t dance alone
The best, and most underappreciated, way to truly get to know a place is to talk to the locals. And we don’t mean the locals who work at the hotel, or at the restaurant, or at any touristic haunt. We mean actual people whose livelihood doesn’t depend on you being a happy camper. Start a random conversation, or just ask a question to get a feel for things if you are shy. Locals always know the best places to eat, to dance, to shop, to see. You’ll be impressed at how different of an experience you can have if you seek the wisdom of the avreage Jane and Joe.
- Ditch the guide book but do pick up a novel (or watch a documentary)
What better way to get to know a country, pre-visit, than to pick up a novel by a local author or read a story based in the city itself? Guide books can be boring and are filled with information that will make you a good tourist but not necessarily a good traveller while a good novel (or documentary) gives you an insight into a culture that can be hard to pick up in a couple of days or weeks.
- Know when to scrimp and when to splurge
Sometimes saving money can actually cost you more — at least where quality of life is concerned. Buying ahead of time is usually a good thing (and a positive kind of splurge) but when choosing your accommodation, understand what you’re actually sacrificing: say you opt for an apartment that’s a 30-minute walk from the beach, getting to and from the beach can quickly become a drag (especially if you have young children). Same thing with seating on longer flights — if you can pay a little extra for more leg space on a 12-hour flight, or for a bassinet to place your infant, you’ll enjoy your experience that much more.
- Document your journey the old fashioned way
We’re always quick to snap a thousand and one photos when we travel — how about you reach for a pen and paper instead? Keeping a travel log or diary ensures you remember those special moments much more vividly. Better yet, it complements the story told through your photos. And if one day you decide to write your memoirs, or even dabble in travel writing, they may come in handy.