New year, new me. Year after year, it’s the same old game for many of us: Draw out a long list of resolutions sometime between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, go at them feverishly for the first couple of weeks, and then decide, “Eh, maybe next year.” Of course, there are some people for whom New Year’s resolutions come easy. But for most, changing old habits and developing new ones takes hard work. It takes soul-searching; it takes practice; it takes a whole lot of dedication and discipline.
If there’s one thing that can help you keep your resolutions this year, it’s travel. Piling into your car and hitting the road (or plane, train, or boat) can challenge you, change you, and, yes, help you tick some goals off of your list. If you’re not convinced, keep reading to learn how travel can help you keep eight popular New Year’s resolutions.
1. Exercise more.
Anyone who’s ever taken a vacation knows that they involve a great deal of walking. Walking alone is fantastic exercise — and even better when you get to enjoy sights and attractions — but planning extra active vacations has never been easier. Usually, travel to outdoor destinations naturally involves hiking, skiing, swimming, climbing, or another active recreational activity that presents a physical challenge. If you prefer to travel to city destinations, though, you can still meet your exercise goals with no problem: Take advantage of the large infrastructure and walk or cycle instead of taking the bus, subway, or a taxi. Plus, with the rise of wellness destinations and health-focused retreats, it’s easy to find like-minded people to exercise with while on holiday, and having a buddy can make you more likely to stick to your routine.
2. Eat healthier.
Even if you’re the kind of traveler who treats every vacation as a free-for-all when it comes to food, traveling can actually help you stick to your New Year’s resolution to eat healthier. You can actually schedule entire trips around your healthy eating goals. Some examples: take local cooking classes that use fresh ingredients; spend a weekend at a wellness resort where food is much healthier than your standard hotel complimentary breakfast; retreat to a farm bed-and-breakfast where you can even pick your own food, like the Elm Tree Bed and Breakfast in British Columbia, Canada. Or, just focus on eating real food instead of processed food, even if that real food is a big plate of pasta in Italy.
This isn’t to say you can’t indulge in the local delicacies of wherever you’re going, but just know that there are boatloads of ways to experience healthier vacations without sacrificing delicious food.
3. Spend more time outdoors.
Spending more time outdoors is a tremendous New Year’s resolution. Science shows that connecting with nature can reduce stress and lower your risk of several chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Plus, getting outside and seeing new sights can inspire creativity, help you reset and recharge, and make you happier.
Luckily, the world is home to legions of striking landscapes and no matter what you fancy, you can find a destination that suits you. The US alone has nearly 100 million acres of protected park land governed by the National Park Service, featuring everything from rugged coastlines to granite monoliths to ice-cold waterfalls flanked by white pines and red firs. Even in bustling big cities, you can dig your toes into the earth. In New York City, for example, Central and Prospect parks offer acres of greenery and ample opportunity for sighting wildlife, albeit small fauna. You don’t have to hike up a mountain to appreciate the outdoors — even just taking the time to pull over at scenic viewpoints can be a peaceful experience.
4. Spend more time with family.
The holiday season has the unique power to make people realize they should spend more time with the people they love. If you’ve been feeling as if you have missed out on important quality time with your family and have resolved to fix that, allow travel to serve as your vessel.
Family vacations have become sort of quintessential — piling six people into an SUV and shuffling to a tacky tourist destination is the epitome of modern family life. Of course, you needn’t travel to a tourist-crammed park or town if you don’t want to. Family ski trips, backcountry expeditions, and farm stays are all good options that kids, teens, and adults alike will love. While traveling with toddlers and planning multi-generational holiday trips are certainly not the easiest things, the long-lasting memories and strengthened family bonds will be well worth the effort.
5. Get out of your comfort zone.
Few things push your comfort zone like traversing unknown roads, hiking to new elevations, trying a new sport, or frantically trying to secure accommodations when your original plans fall through and you’re in a foreign country. Traveling brings about the opportunity for a stockpile of learning experiences, so if you’ve resolved to get out of your comfort zone this year, a vacation may be just what you need.
When you’re willing to jostle the boundaries of your safe place, you evolve as a person, as a professional, as a creative, and as anything else you want to be. You may endure both intentional and unintentional challenges — intentional being things like signing up for a coast-to-coast bicycle race across the US and unintentional being things like getting stuck in snowfall while driving in wintry conditions for the first time. Deliberate or not, travel presents novelty, which the brain craves and requires for growth.
6. Unplug and stress less.
As mentioned earlier, spending time in nature can help you destress and improve your mood. To amplify those benefits, travel to a location where you’re forced to unplug by way of nonexistent cell service.
Even just a day or two of disconnection can totally revitalize you. I’m living proof of this, as I live in the Los Angeles area and trek to Los Padres National Forest whenever possible to escape the haste and hecticness of city life — just a few hours without access to the internet makes me feel more centered and calm. If you plan on being out of service for more than a day, it’s a good idea to let your friends and family know. But after that, it’s all unplugging and destressing.
The popular #vanlife hashtag on social media has inspired a new wave of travelers who live with less. When your entire home is just 100 square feet, you’ve got to get rid of many belongings. If you already live in a van, camper, or another type of mobile home, you probably know this and have likely already adopted some forms of minimalism. If you’re new to the nomad life, however, you may be in for a big lesson on just how powerful travel is for decluttering. You might find that you don’t need 12 coffee mugs (even if they are all adorable); that your stack of magazines can be minimized to a handful of favorites; and that oftentimes you don’t really need those “just-in-case” items you throw in your bag.
If you aren’t ready to purchase your own van or camper, you can simply pick one up at the depot of a rental company and roll out on your vacation. This is a great way to see if vanlife is right for you before chucking change for a van of your own.
Travel can help you declutter in other ways, too. If you prefer to fly instead of drive, challenge yourself to fit everything you need for a trip into a carry-on only — or even a personal item, if you’re so inclined. Ditching the bag check will not only save you time but show you that you really can have more with less.
8. Take up a new hobby.
If you’ve been dying to try out a new activity and this resolution sits high up on your list for 2020, allow travel to be your personal assistant. Any time you travel, you’re faced with an array of new activities to try. Depending on where you go, said activities might be as simple as picking blueberries, as challenging as ice climbing, or as unique (and, quite frankly, peculiar) as extreme dog grooming. Hey, people like what they like.
So if 2020 is your year to take up a new hobby, consider planning a trip to a place that celebrates that activity. For example, if you want to learn how to surf, head out to California’s golden coast and spend a week along the Malibu coastline, where residents and vacationers alike surf day-in and day-out. If you want to learn to crochet, check out the very real world of crochet retreats, such as this one from Mountain Hollow Farm in Tazewell, Tennessee.
Experiencing an activity in a place where many others express enthusiasm over it can offer a lasting impression that inspires you to stick with the new hobby for the long-term.