Travel Resolutions For The Conscious Explorer

For years, the way we travelled ran on auto-pilot, often sending stress levels to 35,000 feet with us. A competitive cycle of booking, eleventh-hour packing, ticking off a guidebook like a crossword, spending 10 minutes at each of the 37 Instagram screenshots you’d racked up, then returning exhausted and, ironically, in need of another vacation.

But 2020’s pause on travel made us re-evaluate the going-away experience. What really makes a trip enjoyable? And what bad habits, like an Olympian sprint to the check-in gate, should make a departure of their own?

These resolutions are worldly rather than worthy – simple ideas to make exploration memorable for all the right (read: relaxing) reasons...

I will… travel lighter

Fact: unzip a suitcase and you will try to fill every millimeter of it. Such is its weird gravitational pull, which seems especially drawn to shoes and items you’d never, ever wear at home. Regular travelers are not immune: a talent for clothes origami and knowing how to Houdini 13 socks inside one sneaker transforms a suitcase into an underwear-loaded spring waiting to pop should you need anything from the bottom. (Which will always happen in a crowded place, and involve a rogue bra). But the more baggage you drag along, the more it holds you back: hiking through incredible nature feels less so with backache, and you can’t pay attention to a tour when you’re switching bag shoulders every five minutes. Streamline your stuff and magic happens – you’ll feel calmer, less rushed, more spontaneous. By travelling lighter, you’ll focus on the experience, not the baggage.

I will… support the locals

Chain businesses are sometimes unavoidable, either through a lack of options or an urgent need to use a bathroom. But when choice is on your side, ask yourself, ‘Are the things I’m spending money on really helping to keep the community alive?’ The recent lack of tourism has shattered many small, cash-dependent businesses, and travel is your chance to help, whether that’s sourcing gifts directly from artisans, booking an experience led by people born in the area, or buying produce from local market vendors. Often, the greatest act of kindness comes from where you open your wallet. Starbucks won’t miss you, but the grassroots community will.

I will… get up earlier

Those groans will be converted into appreciative ones when you find yourself alone in a just-waking-up square that’s usually rammed with tourists, or taking an orientating morning run with only the shoreline and birdsong for company. No one ever regretted getting up for sunrise. Plus, you’ll be first in line for breakfast.

I will… spend more time in one destination

Blame those FOMO-inducing, ‘How many countries have you visited?’ memes, but travel can feel like a race to skim through a best-seller chart. A move that’s both toxic for the environment – when flying, take-off and landing are the worst greenhouse gas emitters, which makes multiple, city-hopping short-hauls the real bad boys of the airways – as well as depleting your energy levels. Rather than chasing countries and airmiles (taking more flights purely in pursuit of bumping up airline loyalty points and therefore cabin class), treat your location like your suitcase – less means more. Jampacking is so noughties. 

I will… use lessons learned from lockdown

The unexpected perk of going nowhere? Finding joys in simple pleasures – a practice that’s worth continuing now we can explore more than the contents of our fridge. That could mean doorstep explorations, where you discover the lesser-known nooks and side streets of your location rather than hopping on the first tourist bus to see the big-name attractions. It’s seeking and savoring human interaction, from smalltalk with a waiter to people-based activities, such as cooking classes, walking tours or craft lessons. It’s decluttering travel and getting back to basics: taking quiet hikes, swimming in that inviting-looking lake, watching the big night sky, breathing in the smells around you.

I will… dare to go without Wi-Fi

The internet feels like the limb that connects us to the world, but it’s often the distraction that stops us from being present in *our* world. Turning off notifications, breaking the habit of checking emails while away, and even forgoing the weather app (always less reliable than looking at the sky), feels as liberating as setting an out-of-office.

I will… consider the little-sister destination

Like the popular girls at school, some destinations will always draw a crowd: New York, London, Paris, Tokyo. So, what better time to spread tourism to the quieter, geekier siblings: Philadelphia, Bath, Lyon, Kyoto. The under-sung hero can be just as memorable as its crowded counterpart – only with more space, room for discovery, and travel stories that people haven’t heard a million times before. Win-win-win.

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