Now that we’re almost to the end of January, you’ve had time to give up on your diet and exercise routine and slip back into your old habits. Since those aren’t fun topics to discuss, let’s talk about travel instead! Now is the time of year when people everywhere start to plan their yearly vacations. Since we’re discussing New Year’s resolutions, I challenge you to make your next trip a little more interesting than the last with these travel resolutions.
Take Better Travel Photos
Photos make the best travel souvenirs. So why not take a moment to make those visual memories even better? And no, you don’t need to purchase a better camera in order to take better photos. Instead, a good photo is about composing a scene with your own eye and capturing the moment.
- Get away from the unexpected. Don’t just snap pictures of the main attractions and monuments. Look for the things that make your destination unique and different from your own home: the food, people, architecture, and markets. Capturing everyday moments will help you remember what you experienced on your trip.
- Learn to compose better pictures. Don’t just center your subject in the frame, but move it off to the side and capture the surroundings, too. Research the Rule of Thirds and find some tips for enhancing your Street Photography skills.
- Look for people. Everywhere in the world has one thing in common: people. Whether it’s a man-made environment or natural scenery, your photos will be more interesting and more memorable if you include the smiling faces and colorful clothing of the local people.
Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone
Do you make the same trip every year? Even if you visit a different place, sometimes a trip can have the same overall vibe as your last vacation. The answer to monotony is shaking things up a bit. Try staying at a different type of hotel, with locals at a home stay, or hop on to AirBnB.com. Visit a different type of destination. If you always go somewhere warm, then try a winter locale. The possibilities are endless; just expand your horizons and keep an open mind.
Pick a Theme
Are you tired of the usual tourist activities? Do you always visit the major attractions, but wish for more creativity? Instead of taking the same trip that everyone else experiences, plan out your journey based on a theme. Perhaps you should take a food tour and experience the culinary wonders of a country? How about a religiously themed trip where you might visit all of the historic churches in an area? Or maybe you could visit all of the old castles in central Europe?
Another option would be to follow the route of a historical figure. Imagine tracing the route of Napoleon through Europe, Ulysses S. Grant through civil war battlefields, or Pizzaro through Peru. We once met a guy in Ethiopia who visited because of the Queen of Sheba (we had to look that up, too). During such a journey, you could learn about history while experiencing the modern culture.
Other themes could be outdoor-oriented: hiking and trekking, rafting various rivers, surfing, bicycling, scuba diving, etc. If you’re not up for a physical challenge, just a simple road trip could suffice if you plan a creative route. And that’s the real key: creativity.
Visit a Developing Country
Many tourists visit developing countries as part of a volunteer program or mission trip. The general mindset is that we as a wealthy and educated group of people can provide assistance while teaching the local population how to raise their standard of living. On the contrary, we actually have a lot to learn from them instead of teaching them about our way of life. Whether you visit as part of a volunteer trip or for vacation, a journey to a developing nation can be the trip of a lifetime.
Anyone who has ever visited such a country can recall swarms of smiling and laughing children on the streets and innovative and hardworking salesmen in the markets. Despite the level of poverty and lack of wealth, in most developing countries the general level of happiness is high. People value their friends and family, and they welcome visitors into their homes with pride. It is not what we have to teach them that is so important, but what we have to learn from them. Even though we live in luxurious comfort by comparison, are we really happier or better off? Becoming familiar with the people of a developing country is the only way to reevaluate what matters in life, reset your priorities, and make memories for a lifetime.
Go with Friends
Doug Coupland said, “People are pretty forgiving when it comes to other people’s families. The only family that ever horrifies you is your own.” Thus, sometimes you need to take a vacation away from your family. Get a group of old friends together from a period in your life and plan a trip together. Even something as simple as a week at the beach can become an adventure with a group of long lost friends.
Support Local Businesses
Traveling often involves comfort, and comfort often involves doing familiar things. Chain hotels, restaurants, and businesses are comfortable because we know what to expect. However, supporting local businesses can boost the economy, provide more job opportunities, and raise the standard of living in an area. Additionally, supporting these local businesses usually means that you’ll have a more unique and interesting experience. Only the locals can provide the “local” flavor, after all. Chain businesses have their place and provide jobs as well, so it’s not entirely black and white. So, on your next trip, try to branch out and spread your money to every type of business.
Bryan has visited exactly one more country than his wife, and she won’t let him forget it! Also an avid photographer, he enjoys entrenching himself within the local culture in order to learn more about the people of a place. He is the co-founder of Budget Your Trip and loves a good adventure, an exotic meal, or a passionate conversation about global events.