Happy 2016! The beginning of a new year is such an exciting time. We're filled with feelings of potential, and the world seems to be full of opportunity. This time of the year is also marked by resolutions. I think sometimes we make resolutions because we feel like we should - it's like an unspoken social pressure that then hurts even more when we don't actually keep them!
The other day someone told me that I seem, "free." It's one of the most unique and meaningful compliments I've ever received. And it got me thinking - when do I feel the most free? I'm probably like many of you - always busy, always working, a people-pleaser. But I feel the most free when I'm traveling. When I'm disconnected yet totally plugged in. When I'm in a no wifi zone and it's just me and a map, and however far my feet will take me. When my senses are keen and every sight, sound, and smell is foreign yet comforting. When I'm filled with feelings of potential and the world seems to be full of opportunity.
I didn't make a New Year's resolution this year, but I have been reflecting on a few travel lessons I've learned along the way, and how to maintain these ideas in 2016. Maybe one of them will be your perfect New Year's resolution!
Don't be afraid to get lost // We all talk about how much we rely on technology these days, but it's actually amazing to me how much we rely on technology to navigate our lives, physically. Just think - in a new town or city, how would you know what to do? You might Google activities and famous places to visit, and then use Google Maps to get there. But what if you couldn't connect? And what are you missing?
If you're planning on visiting a new place, make a resolution to get lost. Trust me, I'm a planner, but once I get to my destination, it's so exciting to just explore. Wander a little bit - it might seem scary, but as long as you're paying attention to your path and the signs/landmarks around you, you'll be just fine. Use an old-fashioned paper map. Be curious. Don't be afraid to ask locals for help, either. You never know what you might discover when you're not trying to find something else.
Be mindful // Getting caught up in a space and in a moment is absolutely wonderful - but it's important to be mindful while traveling. Always be aware of your surroundings and your belongings - both for your safety and for your overall experience. Barcelona is one of my favorite places in the world, but it's also a major city for pickpocketing. Being mindful helps me to be cognizant of how the people around me are behaving and how my belongings may or may not be vulnerable. I always recommend that if you carry a purse, use a cross-body bag and keep your hand over top of it, however is most comfortable for you. Your positioning and body language can give cues that you are aware. If you just carry a wallet, stick it in a front pocket so that you can monitor it more easily.
It's also important to be mindful to enhance your overall experience. Being as receptive as possible to every stimulant around you can really help you take it all in!
Pay attention to the little things // Sure, you saw the Statue of Liberty, the Great Wall of China, or the Eiffel Tower - but what were the people like? What were they wearing? How did they get around? Interact with each other? Interact with the things around them?
If the only thing you remember about a trip is the monument or famous thing that you saw, did you really experience all that the city/town/country had to offer? Culture is so important to the way people live and operate. Make a point to take in the culture, not just the sights. It will make your memories of that travel experience so much more meaningful. You don't have to totally agree with the culture - but understanding and recognizing it is important. It gives you a new perspective and can help you to appreciate things differently. Sometimes it really is the little things that make the biggest impact!
Not being afraid to get lost, being mindful, and paying attention to the little things are 3 lessons I've learned throughout my travel experiences in the past. These lessons have helped me to experience travel in a new way, and I think that's why I love it so much. I hope that these lessons could become resolutions for you in 2016, whether you're traveling or just trying to experience your hometown differently. Embrace the possibilities and opportunities of this new year, and be free.