A new year comes our way and although there’s a lot of naivety that comes with thinking we can only become our best selves after the clock strikes 12am on the first of January, it’s hard not to get swept up in the “new year, new you” state of mind. Of course I’m not judging anyone for this, I do it too but I also want to encourage you to reflect upon how much you changed throughout the year and not just in January. It’s been an especially tricky one this year too, so celebrate the self growth from the whole year!
I’ve put together 12 suggestions for travel-themed goals and aspirations, not to pressure you into thinking all of these will make you the best globetrotter ever or that you HAVE to do all of them, but to help inspire you to better your own travel experiences and have a more positive impact on our shared environment.
1. Learn a new language
Start to learn a new language or brush up on one you already have an understanding of.
It’s a skill that will always prove useful and be impressive. My top tips for choosing a language to study are:
Pick one that means something to you – though I don’t dedicate enough time to it my choice is French because my Mauritian family speaks French. Michael has been intermittently learning Brazilian Portuguese because he loves the culture.
Pick one that you can practise often – maybe you travel there frequently or have friends and/or family who can help you improve.
Pick one that is widely spoken – Spanish is a good example as it is spoken across many continents and has similarities to other languages that make it a little easier to comprehend them. When I was living in Paris in my early twenties a waiter told me to learn Spanish not French as it is spoken in more countries and it has really stayed with me.
Due to my complexion I have had more people speak Spanish to me around the world than French and I wish I had chosen Spanish over French. Of course, in saying that, there’s no time like the present.
“A year from now, you may wish you had started today” – Karen Lamb.
A great resource for this is the Duolingo app – not sponsored, I just enjoy using it as it presents every lesson as a game.
2. Make sustainable swaps
Make a sustainable swap that eliminates a single use plastic in your daily travel routine.
Travelling around the world, as magical as it is, just isn’t all that good to our planet. Of course I want us all, who are able to, to be able to explore and appreciate the beauty of Mother Earth and explore not only what she has on offer but also self growth and healing that comes from the freedom of travel, but to be able to do so responsibly we must make more of an effort to help to restore her.
How? The most responsible thing you can do to protect and help the environment heal is to use up what you already have before purchasing something else. So start there. Unfortunately choosing to purchase reusable, biodegradable and non-toxic products comes at a higher cost which I appreciate makes things a little more complicated and annoyingly the large corporations who can afford to make these items more affordable haven’t been held accountable enough to do so. The best thing you can do is to use and and reuse what you have. A few examples are:
Instead of purchasing a new tin or sandwich wrap for your lunch use a washed out margarine tub. They’re also great for storing leftovers, cookies and holding your veggie scraps in the freezer until you’re ready to make homemade stock. Sure they don’t look as cute but repurposing is far cuter than overflowing landfills, right?
If you don’t have a reusable coffee cup, aren’t ready to buy one (check out my reusable coffee cup guide when you are), but want to stop using single use coffee cups then dig out an old camping flask or use an old pickle jar for your iced coffee.
Use up your skincare products before buying more. I was so guilty of switching to clean and more responsibly packaged products before using what I had and I didn’t acknowledge it until I was cleaning out my draws whilst packing for Canada in early 2020. I was so proud of myself for reducing my skincare routine to fewer products that were more responsible but I had disregarded the heaps of half used bottles in my drawers. I used up what I could and gave the rest away to friends and family so it wasn’t wasted but it was a big lesson in not turning my back on what I already have. Take advantage of those half full bottles and pack them for your trips – they’ll be lighter than new products and you’ll get through them in no time.
If the hotel you stay in has a bar of soap, pack it before you check out. Some hotels participate in a scheme where it gets reused but if you aren’t aware of them doing that, keep it so you can finish it to save it from getting thrown away.
When you are ready to purchase eco-conscious products to swap out single-use ones in your day-to-day life and/or travel routine then take a look at the following blog posts I wrote that will help you to make effective, sustainable swaps on your travels:
3. Tick off a bucket list location
If 2021 allows it and it is safe for you to do so (be smart about this one) then plan that trip that’s been on your bucket list for who knows how long! If 2020 has taught us anything it’s to seize the moment and book that trip because you really don’t know when that opportunity will no longer be available to you, right?
My top five bucket list trips for your possible inspiration are:
India – I really want to see the Taj Mahal
China – to walk along a part of the Great Wall of China is a major goal of mine
Skiing – I haven’t been skiing since I was 14 and I really want to give it another go (hopefully in Canada), I want some major Wham! Last Christmas music video vibes on this trip
A train ride through some jaw dropping countryside
Polynesian Islands – any one will do!
This one doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend top dollar to pull it off by the way. Before I was supposed to move to Canada I was a smidge disappointed that I never put in more effort to explore the south west of England as I really wanted to go to Devon and Cornwall. A silver lining to a really pants side effect of the pandemic meant that I was able to safely explore (when domestic travel was encouraged to boost local tourism) both of those places and I had a summer holiday in England that I never expected but absolutely adored. No expensive flights or fancy hotels necessary!
4. Carbon Offset
Carbon Offset all your air travel as the year goes on.
Think positive thoughts! Travel will be a possibility again and when it is you can make a world of difference by offsetting your air travel.
Air travel is a significant contributor to rising greenhouse gas emissions but unfortunately it is often the only practical way to travel overseas. There are ways to lessen the environmental blow to the planet and one is to offset your air travel.
Realistically, reforestation (planting trees) won’t be enough to offset the carbon footprint air travels creates for every traveller on the planet but there are organisations you can donate to that will help to provide clean and renewable energy sources around the world such as hydro power, wind and solar energy. If every traveller made the effort to invest in these causes every time they travelled by air then that would make a difference.
Atmosfair are an amazing company who develop renewable energies and finance environmental education in 15 countries around the world.
To find out more about carbon offsetting your flights for 2021 including other companies that I use and recommend then take a look at my blog post, How to carbon offset your flights.
5. Save pennies
Create or add to a savings account dedicated to your travels.
9 times out of 10 seasoned travellers already have a dedicated travel fund so the advice of starting one will probably be lost on you but I have a few ideas for how you can keep it topped up:
If you have a regular pay cheque then set up a Direct Debit that takes a fixed amount – one that you can comfortably afford to put away – every month and pays into your travel fund.
Say you’re self employed, a regular pay cheque isn’t a luxury you can always count on so try settling on a percentage of each pay cheque to go into that travel fund. (This is what I do).
Most online banking apps allow you to “round up” your spendings and direct that to a specified savings account.
Spare change was already a dying concept but the pandemic really wiped that one out but if you do ever get some then the OG of savings accounts, the piggy bank, is a trusty contributor to your travels.
I’ve been doing at least one of the above since I started working when I was 14 years old and I have always had a travel fund because of that. It might not have always been able to take me around the world, but I never had an empty travel savings account because of these methods. Even for the period when I first moved to Paris, was still applying for jobs and was eating a lot of lettuce and microwaveable fries (I didn’t have an oven… or morals) I was never broke because I had saved a set amount from each pay cheque that summer for my travels.
6. Explore your own country
Take a leaf out of the book of 2020 and make a special effort to explore part of your own country that you’ve never been before.
The path less travelled might be one of the best trips you take. I mentioned earlier in “Tick off a bucket list location” that I was able to see more of England this year and it was a trip I will always cherish. Sure, it is super sucky that I can’t currently get over to Canada and as of the publication date of this blog post it’s been over 8 months since I was supposed to move and I’m still in England but the extra summer I got here (and when it was encouraged to safely travel England to boost the economy – didn’t exactly work out for us all did it, but we’re learning from that mistake) meant that I could see parts of England such as the Cotswolds, Jurassic Coast and Cornwall that I didn’t think I would get the chance to before leaving for Canada.
It was one of the greatest gifts from such a crappy year. At first glance I still think this photo of a beach in Cornwall is Portugal!
Not being able to travel far and wide encouraged so many of us to see what we had nearby and if you didn’t I really do recommend taking the opportunity to, especially whilst we still cannot travel internationally. It will also be a far more cost-effective trip as you can get a train, bus or drive yourself.
Take a look at my Eco-friendly Airbnb packing checklist for ideas on how you can make a local trip more environmentally conscious.
7. Try something new
Is there something you’re eager to do or eat?
This is one that doesn’t have to be achieved right at the start of the year and it’s also something that can happen multiple times throughout the year. These are my favourite kind of goals for the year ahead, one where you can reflect at the end of the year and see what amazing things you achieved that made the whole year one to be grateful for. Even 2020 can be a year of gratitude, I’m serious, take a moment to acknowledge positive experiences from this year. Did you learn to cook something from your travels for the first time (was it my amazing banana bread??), did you take an online course on something you wanted to learn more about, did you start a new exercise regime or did you find inner strength by surviving your most fragile moments during lockdown/quarantine/isolation? These are all accomplishments that can be listed as new things you tried this year just gone.
8. Journal about your travels
Journal about your favourite travel moments so that you can reflect on them in years to come.
I’ve tried to keep up travel diaries and journals, I would attach crumpled plane tickets, scribbled on maps, napkins from my favourite restaurants and ticket stubs and write out everything I did that day but I never end up finishing them because I wanted to live in the moment and before long I’ve forgotten many of the details of the trip like the location of the restaurant I loved or name of the beach I watched sunrise from. It doesn’t mean the feeling has escaped me, that stays, but the details fade. If you too are like this then my suggestion is to write out the following prompts and answer them either on your trip or on the flight home:
Where did you stay? Did you like where you stayed?
What was your favourite meal of the trip and where did you eat it?
What are your top five moments from the trip?
Did you try anything new? How did it make you feel?
Would you come back to this place?
What from this trip would you recommend to someone else?
Did you learn anything from this trip?
These examples will prevent you from falling behind on a daily entry from your trip but they will keep the details if you ever need to go back on them. Whether you want to fill in your own blank, recommend to a friend or start a travel blog, these notes will help jog your memory of what was important on that trip.
Donate to a local cause somewhere you are going or have travelled to.
It doesn’t have to be the kind of donation that gets hospitals and libraries named after you, I’m pretty sure that only happens in the movies… but every little helps someone in need and there are so many options:
Disaster relief organisations – say there’s been a wildfire or oil spill, your donation can help to stop and prevent the crisis plus it will help to rehabilitate those whose lives have been gravely affected. The Red Cross is always a good choice.
You can donate some books and stationery to a local school or church in need.
Organisations fighting to end period poverty in lesser developed communities. ActionAid is my recommendation or if you are ready to purchase a menstrual cup then get one from Saalt as they donate some of the profits and cups to communities in need.
You can make purchases form companies such as 4ocean which will help to fund ocean clean-ups on a larger scale that combat our plastic pollution crisis.
Disease relief organisations in countries who don’t have the means to provide medication to everyone – Sightsavers is one of my top choices.
Keep an eye out for a donation basket in the supermarket if you shop in one abroad that is donating food to shelters. Ideal foods to donate are: pasta, rice, jars of sauce, tins of fruit and vegetables and cereal.
Organisations such as Greenpeace, WWF and the Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation are my top choices for environmental projects that cover everything from climate change to poaching.
Find something that means something to you or that affects somewhere you cherished visiting and your contributions will save lives.
10. Travel lighter
Pack less to take a load off your mind, away from the plane and out of the washing machine.
I’ve been working on packing lighter for a long time and I’m finally getting much better! I’m one of those people who likes to be prepared for everything so packing light has always been a challenge but I consider these three main points to focus myself into packing less. It’s less stressful because there’s less to squeeze into my luggage, it makes the aeroplane lighter which saves on fuel consumption and it means I have less to wash when I return home.
Consider packing clothes that form a capsule collection that you can put together multiple outfits with and use accessories to your advantage. The benefits of packing less greatly outweigh having to lug around makeup you didn’t use, shoes you didn’t wear and clothes you didn’t need.
11. Plan a road trip
Road trips are one of the greatest ways to travel! You get more time to experience where you’re visiting, you can add, drop and change things last minute and you can see way more places in one trip than a single destination. It gives you the chance to slow down and savour each moment plus it’s a really good way to help you get into the habit of packing light.
There are so many incredible places around the world to map out road trips but my top countries are:
USA – there’s just SO much choice
Italy – just eat your way across the country
Canada – the national parks are incredible
United Kingdom – from sunny Cornish beaches to the snowy Scottish highlands
I have a whole section here on Postcards from Hawaii dedicated to road trips so check it out for inspiration of where to go and what you need to pack, plus there’s some very popular Spotify playlists and a movie watchlist that features 10 movies all about road trips.
12. Go OTG
Take time off social media to be more present and mindful of your surroundings.
This is a particularly difficult one because we live in an era where everything gets shared on social media in the moment. In this final suggestion I want to let you know that I don’t mean for you to not take photos and videos, but instead of sharing them straight away, take a moment, a few hours or even a day away from uploading them to social media so you can enjoy the moment that you’re taking the photo of.
I’ve had too many moments when I’ve shot videos for Instagram Stories and then spent 20mins uploading them (adding captions, GIFs and sassy comments) and missed something whilst I’ve had my head down. If it doesn’t need to go live right that second then simply save it and upload it later on. This way you get content but you also get to enjoy what you’re doing, it’s less scary than you think.
Pledge to read your favourite travel blog, Postcards from Hawaii, every week!
Remember none of these have to be done from the first day of the year to be successful or impactful, do that at your own pace and when it feels right to you. When you feel more financially secure, when you’ve used up products you already own and when you can dedicate more time to yourself. New Year’s goals are to improve your whole year not just the first week of the month.
Happy New Year, Gabriella