New Year’s resolutions, as hopeful as they are, aren’t always particularly successful. But even though we might fail at sticking to a daily gym routine, travel-related resolutions are often much easier to keep. As 2014 unfolds, here are five easy things we can do to become better travelers:
Resolve to check your on-board etiquette. While there will always be hot-button issues about passenger comfort on planes (kids in first class? To recline or not to recline your seat?), the increasingly unpleasant flying experience could be made a little less painful if we all were a little kinder to our fellow flyers. A few simple suggestions that, sadly, are overlooked way too often: Save pungent food for the airport and not onboard (really, who wants a seatmate who’s scarfing a tuna sandwich?); don’t be an overhead bin hog or TV screen finger stabber; wear a shirt with sleeves; let the rows ahead of you de-plane before you do. And never underestimate the power of a smile.
Resolve to get out of your comfort zone. We love and cling to tradition as much as anyone, but capturing a real sense of magic in your travels means trying something new. So why not move your annual guys- (or girls-) only surfing trip in Mexico to, say, Nicaragua this year? Or, if your travel M.O. skews more toward ritzy hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants, consider bunking up in a shabby-chic b&b and digging into the local food truck scene. If you’ve always traveled as a twosome or group, strike out solo. Who knows – you just may uncover a hidden passion for couch-surfing (or at least hone your appreciation for 300-thread-count sheets and 24-hour room service).
Resolve to unplug (as much as possible). Technology has made travel easier, but it also has chipped away at the delicious thrill of discovering a funky neighborhood bar or quirky museum on your own – without Google or a maps app. So, for at least part of your trip, vow to leave the smartphone or tablet behind and rely only on paper maps, recommendations from locals, and your inner compass.
Resolve to give back while you’re getting out there. These days, it’s easier than ever to make a positive impact you travel, whether you're signing up for a voluntourism trip or purchasing carbon offset credits for flights. However you go about it, you’ll come back with memories of a terrific trip and the feel-good factor of knowing you made the world a little bit brighter.
Resolve to pack plenty of patience. Overcrowded planes, loud seatmates, crying babies, TSA lines that move at a glacier's pace, paper-thin hotel room walls – travel comes with its own distinct set of irritations. But they're a drop in the bucket when compared to the big picture: seeing what a new locale has to offer, whether you're flying halfway across the globe, or making a weekend jaunt to a small town a few hours from home that you've never set foot in.