Saturday, January 01, 2011

Travel Resolutions for 2011

Here are five travel resolutions you might consider for the coming year:

1. I resolve to travel more. Lots of things seem to be conspiring against travel these days, from the weather to the world economy to enhanced security measures at airports. But it is in times like these when travel becomes even more important. By travelling we can help break down the barriers that separate people, barriers that make it easier for demagogic politicians to infringe on our liberties by invoking the threat from foreigners or terrorists.
2. I resolve to travel in as sustainable a manner as possible. This means usually favouring non-profit lodgings like hostels, monasteries or university residences over big chain hotels, and locally-owned hotels and tours over those owned and managed by multinational corporations. When you stay at a locally-owned hotel or guesthouse, it is more likely that most of the price of your room will stay in and benefit the local economy. This is particularly important in Third World countries, and is also likely to provide a more intimate, authentic experience of a different culture. It also means travelling by train or bus when possible, rather than air or private car, since mass transit is more ecologically efficient (and usually cheaper.)
3. I resolve to research my destination(s.) Nothing can substitute for adequate research in making a trip more enjoyable. With the ubiquity of the internet, there is no excuse now for inadequate research. Travel sites and blogs (ahem) can be helpful, but don’t neglect regular news sites and those connected with a particular interest of yours. Most cities around the globe now have English-language newspapers, and many of them are online. Guidebooks are indispensable for longer trips, or trips to a new destination.
4. I resolve not to let the budget tail wag the travel dog. Ten or twenty years from now, you probably won’t remember how much that special excursion or wonderful meal cost, but you will remember if cost kept you from doing something amazing. I have three big travel regrets—not taking a helicopter excursion to view Angel Falls in Venezuela, not taking a balloon ride over the Serengeti, and not seeing Berlin before the Wall came down. In retrospect the cost of these trips would have been comparatively insignificant. It’s important to be reasonable about travel costs, but as the ads say, some experiences are priceless.
5. I resolve to try to bring the wonder of travel to everyday life. The metaphor of life as a journey is a cliché, but if we can bring some of the excitement and fresh perspective that makes travel so enjoyable to our interactions at home and at work, we can to an extent enjoy a permanent vacation. Try to view your neighbour, your family member, your co-worker or boss as if you were meeting them for the first time, and your home as if you had just arrived from a foreign country. What would you notice, what makes this place or person different or interesting? What is there to enjoy or admire about this person or place? There’s always something.


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