You’ve spent all of Christmas in a haze of Elf and Home Alone while binge-eating platefuls of dry turkey doused in lumpy gravy. But as the new year steadily approaches, it’s time to look ahead.
Before the clock chimes and welcomes in what can only be a better year than the last, commit to the following seven travel resolutions for the coming year; not only will they make you a better traveller, but they’re guaranteed to turn the coming year into an absolute corker.
1. Set aside more time to travel
Nothing made me realise quite how much we’re a slave to the man than chucking in my job and seeing how far I could get on my savings. I’m not recommending that everyone follows suit (although a year or two travelling and volunteering can have its advantages) but if you’re young, free and have even a bit of money squirreled away somewhere, grab this year by the horns and spend as much time as possible trotting the globe.
Travel brings incredible mental and physical benefits. Destress, have a well-needed technology detox and even get into shape along the way. Just be warned: travel can make you feel so addictively good about yourself you may struggle to go back home.
2. Be clever with your cash
The biggest boundary for would-be nomads is that little thing called money. But before you contemplate selling a kidney over the internet to buy your next flight, there are other options.
Gap years around the globe actually cost less than you think – particularly if you learn to manage your money better – but the best way to begin the year with a travelling bang is by introducing a new savings plan. Start by sending a fixed amount of money each month to a savings account. Do this as soon as you get paid and before you can change your mind.
Then, check out our suggestions for earning money on the road to give you some inspiration for how you can travel for even longer.
3. Be more responsible
You’ve slogged your guts out to save up enough cash to travel, so it’s understandable that when you’re there, you budget to the very last penny.
But backpackers have a tendency to always choose the cheapest tours – and forget the human cost that goes with this. What you pay is what you get in most places; a higher price means a better service and the guarantee that the locals get a decent wage too.
This new year, become a trailblazer for responsible tourism and do what you can to make sure everyone gets a fairer deal.
4. Go slow and see more
I’ll never stop being amazed by how many “must-sees” everyone attempts to cram into every holiday. Two weeks? You can squeeze in Siem Reap in Cambodia, Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal, right?
Wrong. There’s a reason you have a bucket list, and it’s not to try and empty it on your first backpacking trip. Seriously: Slow. The Fuck. Down.
Instead, start the year with your very own travel diet – slimmer and smarter itineraries. Two months? Visit two countries and get to know them like the back of your hand. Two weeks? Touch down in a city or three, get away from the tourist trail and find out how the locals really live.
5. Reboot the way you travel
It doesn’t matter whether this year will be your first or your thirtieth backpacking trip; this coming year is prime time for trying out a different approach to travel.
Ditch your mates and go solo; you get more freedom over your itinerary and a greater incentive to get chatting to all sorts of new people along your journey. Try out Couchsurfing with an affable local where you’re introduced to the best places for dining, drinking and dancing in your new location. Maybe even choose to volunteer for a few months and reap the benefits of closer engagement with the local community – a way of travel that taught me far more about the countries I visited than backpacking alone ever could.
6. Learn a new language
As an English-speaker, you might think that teaching your dog to sing the National Anthem is as likely as you gaining fluency in a foreign tongue. And true, most of us are not naturally programmed to pick up a new language. Then again, most of us have never actually tried.
It’s taken me two years but I can now hold my own in hurling abuse in Spanish at the referee when watching local football games and I’m a whisker away from putting “Can sing the Spanish chorus of the Macarena song” on my CV.
Spend a gap year living in another country, where Spanish, Portuguese and maybe even Arabic or Mandarin can reap some pretty interesting rewards in the future.
Make 2017 the year of learning how to insult in another language.
7. Have an adventure somewhere you’ve never considered before
It can be easy to follow the rest of the backpacking community because, well, if loads of people are going somewhere, it must be good, right? But there are plenty more fish in the sea and 196 countries to choose from so look where you’ve never considered before; this is the year of escaping your comfort zone.
Replace Thailand’s crowded backpacker beaches with galloping through Mongolia’s vast steppe. And sure, Peru’s Machu Picchu is a real stunner, but don’t forget Bolivia’s surreal landscapes of pristine white salt flats and llamas, all almost spitting distance across the border.
Whichever continent you land on, remember that this is the year of adventure.
Steph Dyson writes about adventure travel and meaningful volunteering on her website, Worldly Adventurer. She left her job as an English teacher in the UK to travel the world in 2014. So far, she’s made it to Bolivia and Peru. Follow her on Twitter @worldlyadventur