New Year’s resolutions are supposed to uplift us, and broaden our minds. But all too often, they end up being boring and slightly petty.
Last year, I pledged to eat less Maltesers and complete a half marathon. Hardly huge goals, but I didn’t end up fulfilling either of them – and worse, the mere thought was enough to put me off.
We need commitments that fill us with joy and hope. Things that we actually WANT to do, not ideas that make us look good or obligations drawn up through a nascent sense of guilt.
Below are five easy travel resolutions that all wanderlusters can commit to in 2018. Unlike a long list of countries that you’ll inevitably never visit, these resolutions are simple to tick off – and you’ll actually enjoy them, too. Happy days…
Do something that scares you
The status quo bias states that, faced with a decision, we are far more likely to stick with the default rather than risk the unknown. So, we have to fight to overcome this innate fear barrier in every choice that we make. Being scared – in the right way – can drive us forward, and make us feel alive. It enlarges us, and makes us more equipped to deal with life.
Break out of your comfort zone by doing something that scares you in 2018. This could be abseiling down Table Mountain in Cape Town. It might be driving a Vespa across Spain, or hiking up a live volcano in Bali at dawn. It doesn’t have to be an extravagant experience but it does need to have that sense of, “Oh, I’m not sure I could do that… ” Dive right into your fear, and you’ll be amazed at the results. Plus, it’s a fun way of arranging your travel wish list, too.
Learn to cook abroad
Confession time: I am a terrible cook. No amount of classes on earth would change that. But when I’m travelling, I still sign up to them anyway. Why? Food is a universal language that unites people in a way that few other activities can. Rolling your sleeves up to cook is the kind of easy, convivial activity that lets you get right to the heart of a culture – no matter where you are.
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Master the art of sushi-making in Tokyo, with the help of an expert chef. Let a Bedouin cook teach you how to make local dishes in the midst of the Jordanian desert. Where better to sample the fragrant delights of caponata than in the city that invented it? Lima cuisine is all the rage in London, but why not learn the basics in Peru, instead? The same goes for Vietnamese cooking; you might like steaming bowls of pho, but trust us, they taste 100% better in the magical town of Hoi An.
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You might have the culinary skills of a gnat, but messing around with pots and pans is just a great – and visceral – way of getting under the skin of the place, and reaching out to the people who live there.
Go travelling with strangers
Anyone can go travelling with mates or their sister, but hitting the road with strangers takes real guts. It will also open you up in a way that you never realised possible. As we get older, a lot of us get rusty in the skill of meeting new people. Our social circles narrow without us even noticing it, so it comes as a huge delight to broaden them back out again.
Travelling with strangers keeps you on your toes. You’re more likely to try new things, and take risks. It’s almost like you savour the experience more, because you’re not shrouded by the comfort of people you know. At the same time, you get to chat to like-minded people who you’d otherwise never have bothered to meet. And the fact that you’re travelling means you really get to invest in these relationships. It’s like rolling back to the 90s, when people had actual conversations. In other words, it’s truly brilliant.
Head abroad on hand-luggage only
You know those people who awkwardly slog their way through an airport, three enormous suitcases in tow? You never want to be them. Life’s too short. And nobody needs that much stuff. If you do anything in 2018, try travelling with hand luggage only (even if it’s just for a long weekend). You’ll be amazed at just how little you need.
Just look at this woman, who travelled the world for four months with just one carry-on. Sure, you might have to sacrifice a few of your favourite Tees. But you can pick up a lot of what you need along the way. And the freedom of it is revolutionary. Just like legendary cleaning guru Marie Kondo says, you’ll rid yourself of the stress of clutter. No more airport queues. No more last-minute dashes to cram everything in. Just you, your passport and a window of adventure. Sweet.
Pick one bucket list experience
Yep, that’s right. Instead of choosing the places you want to go to, select what you want to do. Be as specific as possible. This will help prevent the “vague travel conundrum” whereby you list 101 different countries you want to visit, and then end up going nowhere. Bucket lists don’t happen this way.
Think really carefully about the one thing you want to do abroad. Close your eyes and picture it. Paint in the detail. It could be a toe-tapping night in the basement blues bars of downtown Memphis. It might be kayaking across the mirror-like waters of a Norwegian fjord. It perhaps involves tubing down a river amid the tropical tapestry of Colombia. Whatever it is, choose just one experience that really speaks to you. Then, make sure you do it.
Where will you head to in 2018?
Images: Shutterstock and Flash Pack