My travel plans for 2014
I experienced an unexpected wave of sentiment about a week ago when I was hiking in England over the holidays. One of my best friends, Kendon, and I were hiking the
North Downs Way in southeast,
which basically runs from Farnham to Canterbury to the White Cliffs of Dover. We'd just stopped for
lunch in the quaint village of Puttenham and found one of those story-book English village pubs, called The Good Intent.
It was after we sat down, ordered our pints, exchanged pleasantries with the locals who were similarly enjoying the post-Christmas Day lull, that it hit me: it was my travel anniversary. I took my first back-packing trip over the ocean – to the same part of England in fact, in 1988. Exactly 25 years, an astonishing quarter century, had passed since I first hiked in England. That trip was the very beginning of a passion for travel (and with it a fondness for the UK) that has never subsided. It just continues to grow.
A life passage of sorts? I suppose. In any case, the realization of this 'anniversary' spawned several moments of reflection about how I travel, where I choose to go, and why. Who isn't vulnerable to quiet reflection when caught up in the spirit of the holidays, reunions with old friends, a wonderful ramble through the countryside – not to mention a good pint?
I'm not much for New Year's Resolutions, but here's how I've decided to travel in 2014:
- I resolve to spend at least one day of every trip without a plan. I will get up in the morning and head out without map or guide book or any preconceived notion of how I'm going to pass the day. I'll step out of my hotel/tent/yurt/cabin, and just venture out to see what happens.
- I resolve to ask more questions of locals rather than resorting to any app or guidebook.
- I will ensure that I spend more of my travel dollars in small or family-run venues, be it restaurants, small inns etc. The rationale? I want to make sure my dollars stay local. (Note to self: that includes the day-old sandwich I bought in Dunstable.)
- I will refuse to book any accommodation that doesn't adhere to eco-friendly practises. (My rented canal boat was solar powered, which was good because the hydro power went out three times.)
- I resolve to stop asking for coffee to start my meal. No point in broadcasting that I'm from North America. (There's always afternoon tea.)
- I resolve, upon occasion, to visit a new destination this year that hasn't before crossed my mind–until very, very recently. (That can sometimes happen with surprising results. Anyone want to go to Luton?)
- I resolve to make better use of my frequent travel points.
- I resolve to always thank the air flight attendants upon leaving the plane. It's a hard job. I don't know how they do it.
- I resolve to always, and I mean always, learn a handful of phrases in the local language before arrival. (I've slipped a couple times this year. No excuses. And I'll learn not to giggle when I have to ask for "the loo".)
- I resolve to find a way of giving back whenever I travel, whether it's by frequenting cooperative-run eateries or not-for-profit artisan shops, or making a donation of much-needed cash or educational supplies.
- I resolve, as always, to appreciate the gift and joy of being able to travel freely about the world. My Canadian passport has always been my ticket to discovery.
- I resolve to spend more time sitting in a pub with locals each and every time I travel.
As the above pub name suggests, I mean to embrace these resolutions with all the "Good Intent" in the world. How will you travel differently in 2014?