It's that time of year again. We're not too sure what day of the week it is or whether we really should still be eating all that leftover turkey. So we're self-reflecting, setting goals and finally getting round to cleaning out that cupboard under the stairs. Having failed repeatedly for numerous years to give up coffee or use my gym membership (this will be the year I dust off those Nikes, I just know it) I decided to set myself some realistic resolutions.
For those of you who have already mapped out your 2017 bucket list destinations here are some of my achievable New Year resolutions that we wanderlusters might, just might, be able to stick to.
1. Learn a language - even if you're telling the taxi driver that your hostel is hairy, they'll appreciate the gesture. Aim to learn a few key phrases such as 'please', 'thank you', 'it's beautiful', 'delicious', 'where is the bathroom?' Not only will you be a hit with the locals but you'll also orientate yourself quicker. Here I'll even start you off 'donde es la ruta de senderismo?' It means 'where is the hiking trail?' in Spanish. Told you I'd stick to that healthy lifestyle in between jugs of sangria...
2. Give back locally - ditch the last minute dash around airport terminals buying overpriced gifts for loved ones and instead invest in the local handicrafts. Purchase leather babouches in Marrakech and marvel at the handiwork, take the offer of having traditional tea with the craftsmen and show a genuine interest in their customs and culture. Keep small businesses alive and stay away from big chains, forget room service and dine in the neighbourhood's family owned restaurants where the pizzas are Rome's best kept secrets.
3. Go green - there is no excuse not to be eco conscious when travelling as hundreds of destinations offer stylish and boutique lodgings without adding to your carbon footprint or disturbing the local wildlife. Start simply and preserve the places you visit by disposing of rubbish correctly and recycling. Take trains, cycle, hike, paddleboard; getting away doesn't always have to mean jetting off. Hop on and off trains exploring everything from The Alps through to Venice.
4. Save harder - most of us will have some form of monetary or saving goals on our 2017 agenda but, if you're anything like me, the only time they're remotely achievable is if the end goal involves palm trees and promises of authentic Pad Thai. I've coined the phrase 'sacrificial saving' as my nights out are swapped for nights in, my daily Starbucks becomes a home brewed instant and I definitely don't open any emails from Missguided. Instead, every single penny is questioned and scrutinized as you're not saving for a rainy day, you're saving to escape them.
5. Pack lighter - but what if it rains? What if I get invited onto a yacht by Justin Bieber and have nothing to wear? The first is a possibility, the second, spoiler alert, is definitely not. Be sensible when packing and keep to the essentials and whenever possible stick that capsule wardrobe in a cabin bag. You'll save money on luggage fees and won't be complaining of a bad back from your backpack for weeks after. If you insist on packing a different outfit for different days then invest in some packing cubes to compress your clothes and avoid that awkward baggage explosion. You really don't want to be THAT backpacker sifting through your shorts on your hostel floor at 5am pre airport transfer.
6. Travel confident - and get organised. If there's one resolution I need to take notice of, it's this one. In particular, paying attention to flight times to avoid racing through departures and silently praying you make your flight to Budapest (sorry girls!) Become travel aware and plan ahead. Research and book in your jabs months (not days) before, check your visa requirements, what your travel insurance covers and where's best to change up currency. This is especially important if you're an anxious traveller, as you'll benefit from being organised and prepared prior to take off.
7. Detox digitally - see more of the world and not just what's behind your camera lens and social media screens. It's so easy to remain digitally distracted when you're trying to get the perfect selfie in front of the Taj Mahal or just the right angle of Christ the Reedemer to crop out the rest of the hoarding tourists. Have you stopped to notice the intricate calligraphy adorning the exterior of the mausoleum? Taken a deep breath and picked out the multi-coloured miniature buildings framing the landscape? Put the gadgets down and do what you're there to do, live.
8. Embrace exotic eateries - daring yourself to do something new can be a daunting task, but when you're faced with local delicacies on your travels don't shy away for them. Channel your inner 'Bushtrucker Trial' and chow down on them. Whether it's fried tarantula, live cobra heart or finally trying haggis, surprise yourself by stepping out of those culinary comfort zones.
9. Educate yourself - respecting local customs is the key to living a life well travelled. Whilst there is no cure for culture shock, make sure you do your research, abide by traditions and have an awareness of local laws. Behaving like a traveller as opposed to a tourist will lessen the shock value and ensure you can allow yourself to be stimulated by your surroundings. Isn't this why we travel, to educate ourselves by escaping?
10. Stop bragging! I am extremely guilty of filling my feed with airport check-ins or hilltop sunset snaps, but there is only so many times we can be faced with 'how's your Monday?' hot dog leg posts. Whilst I'm stuck in the library I don't want to see how fabulous your fresh coconuts look nor do I want to be reminded that I'm in our student union bar and you're overlooking the Parisian skyline. Keep the showing off to a minimum, fill timelines with tasteful snaps and we'll willingly ask all about your trip on your return. Just don't drop in that you spent your summer break saving lives on Mars for the tenth time, please.
To set you up for a prosperous year of bucket-list ticking adventures and to help you stick to some of your travelling resolutions, check out these websites: www.gov.uk/travelaware and www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice. They have further checklists regarding individual countries laws and customs, vaccination and visa information to help you get prepared. Don't forget to follow @FCOTravel on Facebook and Twitter for travel advice updates too!