I get it. We see New Year’s as a fresh start and all that. But, really, are those life-changing resolutions such a good idea? Many people say no, and point to the failure rate of such promises–particularly the more pie-in-the-sky ones (say, a resolution to cut out greasy food or to jog more and use social media less).

The tradition of New Year’s resolutions isn’t likely to go away, nor is it new. Babylonians did it, Romans did it, medieval knights did their sword-toasting “peacock vows” of eternal loyalty.

Fortunately for us, travel resolutions are easier to keep–if you’re realistic about them. And though they might not take care of those love handles, they’re sure to make the next year of your life on Earth a lot more enjoyable. 

Here are four I came up with to help get you started:

1. Use your dang vacation days.

This just in (especially directed to you Americans out there): you’re being silly. You have, on average, 14 days of vacation a year (according to the latest “vacation deprivation” study from Expedia), yet only use 10 of them. (French citizens, meanwhile, gets 30 days of vacation a year and more often than not use all of them. Sacre bleu!)

We see these kinds of stats every year–and apparently the number of unused days is rising. Still, at the same time nearly three of five Americans feel “vacation deprived.” So, let 2014 be the year we stop whining and start using the few days we have, even if it’s a random mid-week day off at home to see a part of your hometown you haven’t seen before.

Speaking of which…

2. See something new at home.

No more excuses: If you’ve lived in Dallas for 20 years and have never been to the Sixth Floor Museum, one of the most compelling museums in the U.S., well, you’re going in 2014. (I’ll be watching to make sure.)

Often the things we haven’t done at home rank high as essential things tourists want to do when they come to visit. Join them. Resolve to see that jazz festival, get in your car and take that fall-foliage drive, or go see the annual holiday extravaganza that everyone always talks about. Everyone but you.

Whenever I’m back to visit family and friends in Oklahoma, where I grew up, I make it a goal to see something new. Most recently, I homed in on McGehee’s, a legendary catfish shack overlooking the Red River on the Texas border, and each crisp bite lived up to the hype.

3. Put down the smartphone.

Think you can do it? Try. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Five times a week, sit in a public place, turn off the phone, and see if you can focus on what’s around you. For ten minutes. “Ha, guy’s got ‘conference voice’ on that al fresco business call; poor sap.” “There’s some tourists who don’t know which way to go.” “Hmm, hadn’t noticed that gold top on that building before.” “Trees sure look weird.”

My sketch of a weird tree I came across on a recent trip to Namibia  (Photograph by Robert Reid)

My sketch of a weird tree I came across on a recent trip to Namibia (Photograph by Robert Reid)

Then take this new skill on vacation. Some resorts require you to surrender your cellphone on arrival, but you can do this on your own with enough willpower. I challenge you to spend a full day where you’re fully present and without any connection whatsoever.

To help, I travel with a Moleskine drawing pad and a handful of colored pencils to draw random scenes on trips. Creating works of fine art isn’t the point. Giving myself time to stop, disconnect, and really see something–even a weird tree in Namibia–is.

4. Travel like a travel writer.

Many people claim that their dream job is to be a travel writer. OK, so then start traveling like one. (To help you, here’s my handy guide to doing so.)

You can’t go just anywhere, either. Pick a place you don’t really want to visit. Travel writers do this (or are made to do this) all the time. And if there’s one thing you learned it’s that there is no boring, or miserable, or even unfriendly place. They just don’t exist. Where there’s people living and things happening, there’s always a way to have a worthwhile experience.

Take a detour or make a random stop en route to somewhere else–say a farming town in the flatlands that’s in the way of your road trip. Do a wee bit of research beforehand to find the intersection between that place and your interests, as writers often do.

A couple years ago, in the middle of a road trip to Niagara Falls, I made a stop in Dansville, New York, to see the birthplace of cereal–my favorite food. Another time, I had a few spare hours before a conference in Berlin, and ended up taking public transit to see where the “Red Elvis”–an expat Coloradan who’d gone Marxist and introduced rock to the communist world–had died (watch the video). This stuff interested me. And taking time to do it was great, great fun.

Bottom line: Try one of these, or make up your own. Be prepared, be open, and you simply cannot lose.

Robert Reid has written a couple dozen guidebooks for Lonely Planet and regularly appears to discuss travel trends on national TV. Follow him on Twitter @ReidOnTravel.

What’s your No. 1 travel resolution for 2014? Share it with the Intelligent Travel community by leaving a comment and we just might feature you in a follow-up post.

Comments

  1. Peggy Coonley/Serendipity Traveler
    Boston
    December 19, 2013, 11:58 pm

    My # 1Travel Resolution is to dine with locals on every trip.

  2. Himanshu Bhatt
    India
    December 21, 2013, 4:40 am

    I really like the post for new resolution. I have already decided 10 resolution for 2014 travel,

    http://relexgo-resolution.blogspot.com/b/post-preview?token=0ow7FkMBAAA.umZ-S72vs5zKWI1RQgwmPw.hEMpKP3T6u7mz_DYvL3N6w&postId=3049990176118412309&type=POST

    but now I guess its 14.

    Thanks

  3. madeline
    new jersey
    December 21, 2013, 8:30 am

    Thank you so much for the resolution ideas. I have lived just a couple of hours away from some of the most amazing cities in the country, but rarely visit… until now.

  4. Rosemary Hossenlopp
    United States
    December 22, 2013, 9:42 am

    My # 1 Travel Resolution is to combine a business purpose with personal travel. That allows me to connect with new and existing business contacts in new cities that I haven’t been too. My #2 Travel Resolution is always to pack light. I was shopping for a winter coat yesterday and I bought one in black. A fellow shopper was asking why I wasn’t buying something more colorful and rather than retorting that this was a “cute” black coat, I said “it helps me pack & coordinate with a all my clothes.” Black is in my DNA for fashionably lite travel.

  5. eloratour
    Lampung, Indonesia, Asia
    December 23, 2013, 3:27 am

    Thanks for sharing …
    Like this Bottom line: Try one of these, or make up your own. Be prepared, be open, and you simply cannot lose.

    That’s Travel with Hearth … :D

    Warm Regard

    eloratour.wordpress.com

  6. Brenda OShea
    Hemet, Ca.
    December 31, 2013, 12:40 am

    I’m going to Hawaii. I’ve lived in Southern California for a total of 25 Years and never flew over the ocean to Hawaii.

  7. Chandan Agarwal
    United States
    December 31, 2013, 12:41 am

    I’ll try to take some random trips with random old friends and try to know them more.
    This will be good as I will not be involved in any plan and will try new stuff which they like!!!!

  8. Peter Zagar
    Alatri, Italy
    December 31, 2013, 12:51 am

    Travel resolutions are easy when you live in a country like Italy, especially if you live in the center of the country like I do. A seven hour drive north, and I can be anywhere in the mountainous alps region of the country, enjoying panoramas like no where else on earth. Seven hour to the south and I can be in sunbathe Sicily photographic scenes influenced by the invading armies of Greece, Spain and Morocco. My 2014 travel resolution will be to visit and photograph some of Italy’s fascinating places and in between. The tough part is deciding how to stop.

  9. Ingvar Eliasson
    Vänersborg, Sweden
    December 31, 2013, 1:22 am

    Great inspiration! I have made a resolution to take a full day walk in my home town, with my camera, once a month, to document the change in light, street life, tourism and nature during the year. I moved here almost five years ago, but still feel I hardly know the place. And if I get bored, I can expand to the neighbouring twin city Trollhättan, just by taking the train for 15 min or so. This will be a great year! Environmentally friendly and a good way to bond with my new surroundings and meet new people!

  10. Dara
    Canada
    December 31, 2013, 1:51 am

    LOVE the idea of sketching as a practice of mindfulness. This is my travel resolution for 2014!

  11. Kiran Bhangare
    Mumbai, India
    December 31, 2013, 2:04 am

    My #1 resolution for 2014 will be an amalgamation of photography, food, and travel. I love food, photography and traveling. India is such a vast country that every 100 kms the landscape changes, food habits change and so does the language. It’s is my dream to cover India on wheels and capture this through photography. I call this resolution as ‘Wanderer on Wheels’

  12. EMMANUEL CRESPO
    United Kingdom
    December 31, 2013, 4:47 am

    good life….

  13. Kathie Smith
    December 31, 2013, 9:15 am

    The best detour I have taken was Chloride, AZ. This is a ghost town mining town off the main highway from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon. They do re-enactments on Saturday mornings.

  14. Sharon
    December 31, 2013, 9:45 am

    1. Pack light. If you really need something buy it locally. Gives you a reason to shop locally and interact with the people.

    2. Keep a journal daily. While things may seem inconsequential at the time, when you get home it helps you to relive the “little things” that in aggregate make up your travel experience!

  15. Nancy
    Pueblo, Colorado
    December 31, 2013, 12:42 pm

    We always ask local people where to eat where ever we go (in country, out of country) and have always been delighted with the recommendations….

  16. Louise
    Massachusetts
    January 1, 9:19 am

    I really like your suggestion of random stops and detours. We often times become her-focused on the “product” (destination) of the travel and forget the “process” (trip)…My family and I took a road trip from Massachusetts to Texas this summer and forgot to smell the roses on the way-thanks for the reminder!

  17. Cory
    Key West, Fl
    January 1, 11:01 am

    I’m a senior, this year, I will take my jeep liberty, and just GO
    Somewhere, anywhere….. I am not going to sit quietly into the night and wait to die, I will travel land see what trouble I can get I to, have a blast and go out in flames……..
    I’m leaving home, my car will be my home for as long as I can……

  18. Cat
    Lisbon
    January 2, 10:46 am

    thank you!

  19. Wendy McCarty
    Woodson, Illinois
    January 2, 3:30 pm

    Travel Resolution: take one day a month and see something new within a 100-mile radius of my home town. I’ve visited all 50 states, traveled over seas, cruised, etc. but there is a lot in Central Illinois that I haven’t seen.

  20. Bruno
    Brazil
    January 2, 5:39 pm

    The Writer are right. I have my moleskine, and some days I picked up , sit anywhere and write or drawing about the people or the things that are in from of me.

  21. Vijayshree Sukhani
    Kathmandu
    January 6, 12:43 am

    See what ever is around me. ALL OF IT.

  22. Carol Hemminger
    Villa Park, CA USA
    January 7, 1:43 pm

    I resolve to use Marcel Proust eyes, whether at home or abroad: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

  23. nic prinsloo
    South Africa
    January 9, 10:30 am

    Iran is a lifelong dream which I hope to make reality in October 2014! I will visit the so-called “Crossroads of Civilitation” and go to Esfahan, Shiraz & Theran, but also spend some time in a desert village.

  24. Pam Wetzels
    Alaska
    January 9, 3:24 pm

    Good advice, but also don’t forget to return to old favorites, enjoy what you did before, but especially try to see the same things anew.

  25. Betty Grant
    Alaska
    January 9, 6:46 pm

    At last – - Alaska. I have traveled to every other state in the U.S. except Alaska. When I was young my mother packed us up each summer for a road trip of the U.S. We visited each of the 48 contiguous states. This year it is Alaska. Booked on the Nat Geo expedition to Alaska’s Coast. It is my third expedition with Nat Geo and I know it will be exceptional. . .I trust them to make it so. Next on the bucket list? The Shetland Islands or New Zealand.

  26. Shalini U
    January 17, 3:05 pm

    Turn cartwheels wherever I go

  27. gloriasimmon
    January 20, 7:35 am

    yes nice article as usual one of the best place.I have recently one place call Tranquil Coast – Holiday Homes Nagaon Beach, Alibaug knowns as mini goa .awesome place to visit affordable & great food to eat.this place is surrounded by 11 others beaches.nice facilities to stay.atleast you can visit one dont forget to visit KULSWAMINILANDMARKS

  28. Miriam Samet
    The Garden State
    January 22, 11:45 am

    This year I’ll go to places I can’t afford but for 3 or 4 days (go Groupon)
    Will spend some vaca time watching wolves!!
    I’ll venture into that local museum that I’ve talked about for years
    More nearby hikes!