What’s your New Year’s resolution? To lose weight? To help others? To learn a language? Whatever it is, here’s what I recommend: Don’t just make a resolution, make a travel reservation.
For one, there’s no better way to start the year off fresh then with a journey somewhere new. Traveling challenges you, and forces you to question and reflect on yourself and the world around you. But what’s more—it can also be a great way to kick-start your motivation and help you reach your goals.
So let 2012 be the year in which you go further than ever before. If you’ve always had a dream destination in mind (or if you’re now throwing darts at a map for inspiration), here’s how finally planning that trip can help you achieve your resolutions.
Your Resolution: Get Healthy
Many people think of traveling as the time to overindulge, but it can actually be a great way to mix up your health and fitness routine. When you’re constantly on the go—walking, hiking, exploring, darting from train to train—you can come back from a trip in better shape than when you left. And, if you’re eating local foods rather than at the hotel buffet, you won’t have to be stressed about gaining weight (a few common foreign foods—like chiles—can even speed up your metabolism!).
Your Resolution: Read the News
If your goal is to become media literate and go beyond the mainstream news sources, following global outlets such as the BBC, Al Jazeera, Current TV, and in-country newspapers while traveling is a great way to do it. Once you’ve seen the way the same events can be reported from many different perspectives, you’ll find it easier to articulate and formulate opinions around world issues—and debunk politics, economics, and pop culture issues without the punditry. (To get a similar experience at home, check out Watching America for English translations of foreign news and op-eds about the U.S.)
Your Resolution: Learn a Language
Want to (finally) become fluent? Rather than invest hundreds of dollars in language software, buy a plane ticket instead. I assure you, being forced to speak from the moment you land will teach you far more quickly than your PC. Of course, if you’re learning a language from scratch, study up before you go—you’ll pick words up more quickly once you’re there (and you’ll make your life a whole lot easier). For practice, check out free websites like Italki.
Your Resolution: Serve Others
If you’re hoping to give back to others and the world around you next year, a volunteer placement abroad can allow you to contribute and learn in a more hands-on way than most stateside opportunities. Once you get home, continue the experience by educating others in your community about your volunteer destination.
Your Resolution: Save Money
Yes, traveling costs money—but one of the best ways to help you plan and stick to a budget is having something tangible you’re saving for. So, set a budget, and save a little each paycheck to make it to your dream destination. You could also strategize fundraising efforts, write grants, and search out scholarships or fellowships to get help fund your trip.
And if you can’t afford a trip halfway around the world, that’s OK—you’ve got places to explore right at home. Consider visiting towns and regions you’ve never been to in your own country or state. Find out what might they have to offer you as a traveler, both culturally and historically. Try a local delicacy, or do something you’ve never done before.
Traveling doesn’t have to be a far-off dream—and it can be a great way to get you closer to your goals. By focusing on your travel passions this year, your resolution won’t feel like a chore, and you’ll gain a lifetime of stories and perspective to show for it.
Muses, what are your travel resolutions for 2012?
Photo courtesy of Marc Levin.
Natalie Jesionka has researched and reported on human rights issues around the world. She lectures on human trafficking, gender and conflict, and human rights at Rutgers University. When she is not teaching, she is traveling and offering tips on how students and professionals can get the most out of their experiences abroad. She also encourages global exploration through her work as Editor of Shatter the Looking Glass, an ethical travel magazine. Natalie is a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow and served as a 2010 Fulbright Scholar in Thailand.More from this Author