2013 has been busy, to say the least. I started the year zipped into a Northface coat for a bizarre few days among the glittering snowcaps at Sundance Festival in Utah, and ended it baking under the winter sun in the dry, dusty desert of Palm Springs, with helicopter rides in Las Vegas, tapas in Valencia and sightseeing in Milan en route. In the pursuit of keeping it moving in 2014, I’m switching up my approach to travel this year. Here’s how.
I Will Pack Lightly (and take my own advice)
I’ve extolled the benefits of travelling lightly before, but this year I’m more determined than ever to pare back the contents of my carry-on case. I made the mistake of ignoring my own advice when I went back to London and Spain for a month this August, and ended up with a suitcase that I physically couldn’t move by myself, and the excess backage fees to prove it. Never again. (More tips on how pack lightly here).
I Will Travel Alone. Really Alone
I’ve been venturing to foreign cities by myself for years now, but most of the time I’m travelling safe in the knowledge that I have friends to stay with at the other end. In 2014, I want to take a trip somewhere where I have no existing network and use the opportunity to fully immerse myself in a new culture. Travelling alone can be exhausting (sometimes you just want someone else to decide where to eat lunch/figure out the underground system/stop for coffee etc,) but the increased awareness required makes for a fuller, more enriching experience.
I Will Say No to The Breakfast Buffet
Making indulgent food choices and skipping exercise on the premise that ‘I’m on holiday’ becomes fairly redundant when you’re travelling near enough every month, as I try to. I don’t have the time or inclination to spend a week in post-travel detox mode every time I get home, which means I need to stay much more aware of my eating, drinking, sleeping and fitness patterns while I’m on the road. Boring, but necessary. (More tips on how to stay fit while travelling here)
I Will Learn a New Language
I can speak basic, conversational French and order a glass of wine and some tapas in Spanish, but that’s pretty much where my foreign language skills end. Shameful. This year I’m vowing to switch my hourly Instagram and Twitter scan for a few extra minutes a day picking up basic vocabulary and grammar rules on the incredible Duolingo app (if you haven’t downloaded this, I highly recommend it – it offers free, comprehensive introductions to half a dozen languages, from Portuguese to Italian. More great travel apps here).
I Will Try New Modes of Transport
I still find air travel completely thrilling, but it’s both an expensive and environmentally dubious way to see the world. In 2014, I want to take more roadtrips (renting a hybrid car in lieu of my gas-guzzling Mercedes Benz) and also a long train trip, perhaps up the west coast. How quaint!
I Will Be More Spontaneous
This resolution comes courtesy of my good friend Ali Madigan; a true free spirit if ever I met one. Her approach to visiting new places – “Most people look for flights with a city and timeframe in mind but if you’re able to be flexible and travel is your thing then just keep putting feelers out and see what you can find" – made me reconsider my own, fairly rigid approach to travel (most commonly: see appealing beach/boutique hotel in glossy magazine, work out the hell I can afford to get there, book flights as soon as I locate the necessary funds). This year I’m going to put aside a small budget for spontaneous adventures and keep my eyes open for cheap flights, work opportunities, and other signs from the universe.
I Will Be a Better Host, and a Better Guest
This one also comes courtesy of Ali (what can I say, the woman gives good tips), who makes the excellent recommendation that we cultivate both our hosting and house-guesting skills. With so much of any travel experience being contingent on accommodation, the notion makes perfect sense. I’m going to apply it as much as possible.
I Will Explore What’s Around Me…
So many of my best travel experiences of the year – Coachella, Joshua Tree, day trips up the PCH to Malibu – took place within a 200-mile radius of my new home in Los Angeles, and I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. This year I’m determined to revisit to San Francisco and finally make my way to Big Sur a.k.a. The Most Magical Place on Earth, according to everyone who has ever been.
…But Also Go Further Afield
As tempting as it is to spend all my money on affordable domestic flights to easily-accessible US destinations (this is a big bloody country, and there’s still so much of it I’ve yet to see), I’d like to take at least one trip to a totally new part of the world. I’ve spent most of my free time (and money) going to, from, and around the USA since I started travelling alone at the age of 17, and I think it’s time to reappropriate some of the budget in the pursuit of a totally alien landscape and culture.