Ahh, January. The perfect time for a fresh start and a new perspective! Or, if you're anything like us: the perfect time to make a list that puts impossible pressure on yourself to be the most perfect human being in the coming year.
New year's resolutions are good in theory, but every year we embrace the new year, new you! mentality, only to find that come February, we've somehow gained 5 pounds instead of lost it... most likely from eating our feelings for failing at being more organized, giving back to the world, and going to sleep at a normal hour.
This may be a familiar mantra, but this year? This year will be different. This year, we've figured out the secret:
In 2014, we're combining our new year's resolutions with something we know we love and are guaranteed to do--and do well--in 2014. Travel.
Because we're known for being helpful (or at least we resolve to be...), we're here to share some tips on how to maximize your plans to be a better you in 2014. Don't worry, you can thank us later.
Give back to animals. For those animal-lovers who don't have the time or space to rescue or foster a pet of their very own, it can be difficult to move this one into action. This year, instead of trying to bribe your landlord into allowing you to have the mastiff you've always wanted, consider combining your annual holiday leave with a volunteer tourism opportunity that focuses on rehabilitating wounded, abused, or misplaced animals. This will require some research on your side (unfortunately, there are too many organizations that don't treat their animals well after the tourists go home), but we recommend the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai.
Then, once you've returned home from Thailand and realize you forgot to send all of your postcards (another failed resolution we know and love), send them onto SPANA, an animal welfare charity for the working animals of the world.
Learn to cook. Registering for a local cooking class sounds great in theory... but after a full day of work and a long and uncomfortable commute, who wants to don a chef's hat and learn to make paella until 10 PM? Instead of bringing the paella to you, why not go to the paella?? Cook & Taste in Barcelona offers amazing full-day and half-day classes, in the heart of the city. If Italian food is more your style, head to the weeklong intensive at Toscana Saporita in Tuscany (and then let us know when you're back, we'll gladly let you make us lasagna.)
Point being? If you're going to splurge on a cooking class anyway, why not combine it with your vacation and guarantee some tips & tricks from a local's perspective?
Expand your wardrobe. If shopping's not your thing, this one can be a doozy. (I mean, so we hear. Shopping is definitely our thing, but we digress.) After a bit too much bubbly and the realization that you are not wearing nearly enough sequins, you pledged to kick off 2014 in style! Literally! But where to start?
Well, Paris, for one. Though a Parisian personal shopper may sound intimidating at first, WonderfulTime offers the experience to tour the city with a guide who will personally pick out styles to suit you--all while showing you a new side of the city of love (and fashion).
Coincidentally, guys, it is never too early to start shopping for Valentine's Day. If your resolution is to win serious love points, also see above.
Live in a new city. This one can be tough to accomplish for a few reasons--new jobs and new apartments can be pretty hard to come by, no? If you can't fully uproot your life in the next 12 months, consider living LIKE a local. On your next visit to London or Paris, skip the hotel and instead, rent a luxury apartment. We recommend Avenue Story, whose amazingly located apartments are impeccably decorated to make you feel right at home... literally. Paired with a list of neighborhood secrets and a local cell phone to make life just a little easier, and you'll be baking welcome muffins for you new neighbours in no time.
Alternatively, if you're less picky about location and looking for an exciting new experience, try a home exchange or housesitting program. Trusted House Sitters and HomeExchange.com both have top reviews, and if it's good enough for Kate & Cameron, then it's good enough for us.
Resolutions may be increasingly difficult to keep--old habits die hard, you know--but we figure if our goals are connected to something we know we love, we're far more likely to make them happen.
Cheers, here's to 2014!
- All photos courtesy of Ashley Chalmers