It's that time again… the beginning of a new year, when we're supposed to be setting goals and making resolutions for the Year to Come.
Some people love resolutions, lists, and goal-setting. Others absolutely hate all of that. I'm kind of in the middle – I can sometimes be impulsive about pursuing new things (like remember last year when I decided to start a second website and had it up and running within 3 days?), meaning my goal-setting is sometimes a little more fluid.
There doesn't need to be any pressure to make huge, sweeping changes in your life (because, let's be honest: those sorts of resolutions rarely last longer than a couple of weeks anyway). But the start of a new year is a great time to take stock of things you might want to change or improve upon going forward.
So let's talk about travel resolutions.
Does that mean you need to add “travel around the world” to your list of resolutions for 2020? Well, not exactly.
I DO think you should add some travel resolutions to your list. But let's add some that are actually realistic and achievable!
Feel free to steal this list of 10 travel resolutions that you can actually keep!
10 travel resolutions you can actually keep this year
1. Use all your vacation days
This one is mostly for my American readers, but seriously people: USE YOUR PAID VACATION TIME. We don't get a ton of it in the United States, and yet the number of unused vacation days each year is staggering (in 2018, it was 768 MILLION DAYS).
Taking time off is good for both your mental and physical health; your brain NEEDS downtime, and studies have shown that taking time off from work and the stress that goes along with it can actually make you more productive when you return.
I understand not everyone can afford to take multiple vacations to far-away destinations each year – but that's not what this resolution is about. You don't have to go anywhere at all in order to use your hard-earned vacation time. Staycations and micro-adventures still count!
If you're not comfortable planning big trips, then use your vacation days to take long weekend trips, go to your nearest national park, visit friends you haven't seen in a while, or even take a staycation in your own city.
I recommend getting some time off on the calendar right at the beginning of the year so you don't fall into the habit of putting it off until later.
2. Go to at least one new place
Again, you don't have to go far! That new place could be a new country on the other side of the world, but it could also be a new state or province, a nearby city you've never visited before, a new park or museum… you get the idea.
Humans are creatures of habit; we like routine. But our day-to-day routines can lead to stress, and mixing things up every once in a while can actually be a really good thing.
I personally try to visit at least one new country, one new state (though I'm running out of them!), and one new US national park site each year.
3. Do one thing that makes you uncomfortable
I'm sure this could apply to many areas of your life (I mean, have you ever tried a hot yoga class? talk about uncomfortable if you're someone who sweats profusely like me!), but when it comes to travel, forcing yourself out of your comfort zone at least once will be good for you!
This could be agreeing to do something you're truly scared of like bungee jumping or swimming with sharks, or it could be something that might make you a little anxious, like traveling somewhere where you don't speak the language, or signing up for one of those surprise trips where you don't know where you're going until you get to the airport.
The idea isn't to totally stress yourself out, but rather challenge yourself and push at least one personal boundary. Travel is great for doing that!
The next few items could also be ways to push the limits of your comfort zone…
4. Try a weird local food
Not everyone is an adventurous eater, but weird food is one thing people are always curious about when I talk about my travels. (For the record, the weirdest things I've eaten are probably puffin, seal soup, and whale blubber in places like Iceland and Greenland.)
Not every place is going to have strange or scary foods, but chances are any place you travel will have a handful of local specialties. Don't be afraid to try these! Even if you don't like them, at least you will have tried – and chances are the stuff you don't like will make for the best stories later!
5. Stay somewhere unique
The days when hotels were the only accommodation option while traveling are long gone. These days, you can stay in all sorts of cool places, from tree houses to igloos to lighthouses to even underwater rooms.
A fun travel resolution could be to stay somewhere completely different from where you would usually stay. (If you haven't tried glamping before, might I suggest that as it's actually really fun?)
Some of my favorite unique places I've stayed on my travels include:
- A glass lavvu tent in Northern Norway
- A treehouse filled with antiques and furs in New Zealand
- A beachside bungalow on Little Corn Island in Nicaragua
- A luxury safari lodge in Kruger National Park in South Africa
- A tent in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania
You can find many of these offbeat accommodation options right alongside the “normal” ones on many booking sites, or you can find them on vacation rental sites like Airbnb or VRBO.
6. Use a different form of transport
Most people equate “travel” with air travel these days, but you definitely don't have to get on a plane in order to travel. In fact, I challenge you to take at least one trip this year that doesn't involve flying at all!
In 2019, I traveled by plane, train, car, bus, boat, golf cart, bike, and even camel!
Try something new this year, whether it's a road trip in the US, a train trip across Canada, a river cruise in Europe, or a cycling trip in Vietnam (yup, that's a thing!).
7. Travel solo – at least once
When I first started this blog, I was mostly traveling solo. I've been to dozens of countries around the world on my own, and in general really love the freedom and independence that goes hand-in-hand with solo travel.
For me, solo travel has taught me so much about myself, and also helped me learn a lot about the wider world. I am a huge advocate of solo travel (it's not as scary as many people think), and encourage everyone to try it at least once.
Solo travel isn't the right fit for everyone (no travel style is), but you'll never know until you try it. I usually tell people to do a “test run” with solo travel, trying out a solo weekend trip first.
8. Travel with a loved one
I used to travel almost exclusively solo, but these days a good portion of my travels are done with loved ones. In the past year, I've gone on trips with my husband, my sister, each of my parents, and various friends. Traveling alone is great, but sharing special travel moments with people you love can be great in a different way.
You don't have to take your whole extended family on a round-the-world trip, but I do recommend taking at least one trip with someone you love this year.
I've made a point to do this in recent years, helping to tick off bucket list items of people I love, like taking my mom to Ireland, my sister on a safari, and my dad to Greenland, and going with a friend on her first trip to the Grand Canyon.
9. Talk to strangers
Despite what we were taught as children, not all strangers are dangerous. Even though I wouldn't advise you to wander off alone with a complete stranger, people you meet on your travels ARE, for the most part, going to be helpful and friendly rather than threatening.
Yes, it's important to be careful and to always trust your gut. But there's no need to immediately look at every unknown face as a threat. Your travels will be enriched when you open yourself up to new conversations and meeting new people.
In 10 years of traveling, the number one thing I've learned about people is that we are far more similar than we are different, regardless of where we're from, what language we speak, or what religion we believe in.
10. Do some good with your dollars
I'm not saying you should spend your vacation volunteering (I'm actually not a fan of “voluntourism” as a whole), but there are some easy ways to help ensure your travel dollars are making a positive impact.
It all circles back to sustainable tourism and the environmental, economic, and socio-cultural pillars that contribute to it. Some easy ways to contribute directly to local economies of the places you visit include:
- Stay at locally-owned boutique hotels and restaurants instead of international chains
- Book with tour companies that employ local guides
- Purchase hand-crafted art and other souvenirs
- Don't support attractions that could exploit humans or animals
- Consider traveling to places that don't get as much love, or that are bouncing back from a natural or social disaster (for example, I'm planning a trip back to Puerto Rico this year!)
Not every trip you take has to save the world, but these are simple things you can resolve to do in order to leave a more positive travel footprint.
BONUS: Don't give in to social media pressure
One last resolution that might be worth making is to focus a little less on likes and shares, and not let social media make all your travel decisions for you this year.
Yes, some destinations are super popular on Instagram, but that doesn't mean you have to feel pressured to go, or to get the “perfect” travel photos there. Conversely, don't buy completely in to those lists about “places to skip this year” either, especially if you really want to go.
No one should make you feel bad about where you do or don't travel, or the style in which you decide to do it. Budget travel isn't better than luxury travel isn't better than slow travel isn't better than spending a week at an all-inclusive resort.
Travel “shaming” has somehow become a thing in the last couple of years, and I hate it. As long as you aren't breaking rules or laws when you travel, then go where you want and don't let social media make you feel bad about it.