This post started out as My Travel Wish List 2013 but I’m having real issues committing to 10 places I’d like to go this year…mainly because there are at least 100 places on the shortlist. While I typed, deleted and retyped, I did manage to come up with a slightly different list. Not where I want to travel, but how. (My travel wish list will follow.)
1. Try to minimize my travel baggage (even further)
I’m pretty pleased at myself for packing under 15kg when I travel but my bag isn’t small enough to fit in the cabin so when I travel with low cost airlines I always get stung for baggage charges. The reality is that I end up wearing the same three sets of clothes over and over. This year I’m going to try and shift to carry on baggage only – at least for some trips, and see how I get on.
2. Improve my Spanish
I’m no natural born linguist and for someone who has spent so much time in Latin America, I should be close to fluent. I’m far from it. My problem is not my lack of brain capacity, but a fear of sounding stupid when I get things wrong. This year I’m going to try and get over that fear and attempt to nail another language once and for all.
3. Disconnect, disconnect, disconnect
I won’t list here the number of tech gadgets, chargers and other electronic gizmos I travel with, it merits an entirely separate post. I’ve always been a secret lover of tech equipment (I used to sleep with my Blackberry) and although I use all of the items I take, I often find myself limiting my travels by my addiction to Wi-Fi and power. Next year I’m going to choose locations according to their desirability, not their connectivity.
4. Get outdoors more
This may sound like a crazy resolution for someone who travels so much. However, as a direct consequence of the above addiction, I have turned down many opportunities to head into the wilderness/slope off to a tiny island where roughing it is top of the itinerary. I love the kick I get from existing with basic provisions and being closer to nature so this year I’m going to push aside my fears of connectivity, stash the laptop, iPhone etc etc and enjoy more time in the great outdoors.
5. Turn my mind to Africa
For years Africa hasn’t been on my travel radar simply because it hasn’t piqued my interest. At first I was worried that there was a whole continent that I was turning my travel back on, but knowing myself well, I was confident that the time would come when Africa called to me…and in the past six months I’ve been hearing that call. The same happened with India, a place I passed over for a long time until a sudden urge hit. This year, I’m going to at least learn more about what is on offer in this complex part of the world.
6. Meditate more
As part of my first round the world trip I went on a roller coaster ride at a Vipassana meditation center in India and upon leaving I promised myself I would never have to return. Yet, the experience has stayed with me and as with most of the promises I make to myself, I’m starting to contemplate the possibility of returning to do a second stint of Vipassana. Why? It has provided me with some very powerful techniques for humility and keeping calm, both of which are essential in every day life, and especially so when you travel.
7. Cook something other than pasta and tomato sauce
Before I traveled I wouldn’t have thought twice about throwing together a quick saffron, butternut squash and chorizo risotto, whipping up some homemade pita bread or rustling up some rosé Champagne jelly. When you travel you don’t have the store cupboard of ingredients to call on and that leaves lazy me resorting to the travel classic, wholly uninspiring dish of pre-made tomato sauce and soggy pasta. Enough is enough. I can cook and I will cook. (For the record, when you see me slurping on noodles in a carton, it’s because I genuinely like them).
8. Get my mum out of the country
This may be my hardest resolution ever. As my world gets larger, my recently retired mum’s seems to get smaller simply due to her having established a new habit of staying home. In the past I’ve dragged her to Italy, France and Cyprus, each jaunt preceded with the small lie that the flight time to [insert destination] is less than an hour only to later plead traffic jams for the x hour delay once we’re mid-air and can’t get out of the plane. It’s been a few years since we last went away and this year I plan to spend time taking my mum somewhere new.
9. Lower my travel standards
I’m fortunate enough that when I travel I don’t have to always take the cheapest travel class. I have enough of a budget buffer that if there is an option of a sleeper train or first class bus, I can pay the extra dollars. However, some of the best interactions I’ve had on the road have been on chicken buses and that back-breaking six hours I spent sharing a seat for one with three others on a train in India provides some enduring memories (now I’ve unfolded my creased vertebrae).
10. Take proper notes
As travel writers go I sometimes wonder if I’m the worst one ever. I rarely have a notepad to hand and even if I do I am constantly having to beg to borrow a pen. Add to that the fact that when I land in most countries, when the culture shock, and therefore observations, are sharpest, all I want to do is sleep, meaning I rarely record those once seen, quickly forgotten observations about my new location. I recently had to write about a trip I’d taken on the Tonlé Sap in Cambodia. That trip occurred when I just started out and after one draft I recalled I’d already crafted a piece based on my notes at the time. To say my writing based on my notes was richer would be an understatement. This year I plan to record more of what I see and do as it happens as memories sadly fade.
11. Move my ass
For two years I’ve been living an indulgent existence eating what I want, swinging in a hammock to nap away the gluttony and drinking to excess whenever the mood suited me. I always took the view that I was on vacation but after more than two years, I need to face the reality that travel is now my lifestyle choice and unless I want to start paying for a second seat on airlines (ok, I’m a long way from that, but…) I need to focus more on the things that used to form part of my everyday life – fruit, vegetables and running. I know from experience that all of these can be difficult to build into a traveling life when there are street food stalls where everything is deep fried and nights out to deter from activity, but like most people making their New Year’s Resolutions, I’m going to get travel fit.
12. Get my photos under control
I travel with a half a terabyte external hard drive (did I mention my tech-addiction?) and it is nearly full with photos. Good, you might think, but in my case quantity does not spell quality. I’ve come to the realization that I’m never going to have one of my pictures on National Geographic’s covers (though I continue to dream of seeing my words in print on their pages), but I would like to get my images trimmed down so that I’m left with the handful of images I consider good and therefore usable for my articles and blogs.
13. Explore my home country more
Ok, this is wavering into ‘where’, but when I return to the UK I usually spend my time in two extremes: flitting rapidly between one set of friends and family members to another and flopping in a state of comatose at home before booking my next ticket and heading out. In short, all I seem to see when I get back to England is my loved ones and the ever flickering screen of the tv. This time I intend to be back at least for a few weeks and although I’ll be taking advantage of superfast broadband (thus breaking Resolution 3) to catch up on work, I’m going to get out and see more of the country that so many people travel from all over the world to see and I am fortunate enough to have on my doorstep. Let me know if you want to join me!
Well, they’re my New Year’s Travel resolutions. Have you made any? I’d love to hear yours in the comments below?