This article was originally published on January 7, 2020 on The Restless Viking website.
“So, do you have any New Year’s Resolutions”, I asked the young lady next to me. She seemed to be listening in on our “resolutions” conversation (that Poppins and I were having with the bar keep). It was early and our regular watering hole was empty. It gave me a sense that she wanted to engage with people, to chat a little. Maybe to take her mind off something.
Asking about her “resolutions” seemed to be a good conversation starter and tell us “who she was” – as a person. She was alone, having lunch at the bar. As it turned out, she was about to go on a job interview and recently divorced herself from a tough situation. Poppins was next to me and leaned in to hear the answer.
She started by (saying something to the effect of), “I don’t do resolutions, etc, etc”. Then suddenly said, “To Travel More!” This answer could lead into a number of directions. But being a travel “encourager”, I wanted to know if she was actually committed to “travel more”.
“You mean to travel back-and-forth to work more?”, I asked.
“No. . . I want to go to Seattle and Mexico”, she responded. Now we were getting somewhere. She seems to have given it enough thought and might actually pursue her goals. We chatted a bit about her plans, why she wanted to travel there and why travel was the resolution she picked. Her time was short and she had to excuse herself for her interview.
“To Travel More”. . . I hear that goal a lot. What exactly does it mean? I think it means something different for everyone. It seems like a popular notion, to want to travel more. We say we will, but a year goes by and we still haven’t “travelled as much as we thought we would”. We all have a sense that travel is good, goals are good. But, if our resolution is to “travel more”, we might be missing the point. What. . . exactly. . . does “travel more” mean. I’ll let you decide. I’ve always been interested in actually inspiring others to “travel more” and here are a few things that might get us started.
When setting goals (especially lofty ones) it helps to break them down to simpler, easily attainable ones. Kind of like the saying, “You eat an elephant. . . one bite at a time”. I thought it might be good to offer some thoughts on easy travel goals.
Here are “10 Doable Travel Resolutions” that you might consider.
Get a Passport
This one depends on your resources and travel plans. You really only need a passport if you are going out of country or you want to fly domestically but don’t have a compliant ID.
But, this is (honestly) the most often “I can’t travel” excuse. “I’d like to go to Canada with you next month, but I don’t have a passport” – or something along those lines. (You really don’t need a passport to travel to Canada, by the way, but that is for a later article.)
If you really want to travel, then get a passport. It costs $145 and can take up to 2 months – which isn’t easy or fast. But, if you can clear those obstacles early, it will be easier to pull the “travel trigger” later. They are good for 10 years and it eliminates one of the most often used excuses.
Just do it – then use it.
Use Your Damn Vacation Time!!
Did you know that workers in the US left 768 million vacation days on the table last year? That averages to 5.12 days per working adult (about 150 million working adults in the US)! Even more vexing, 236 million were lost forever (use it or lose it). That is estimated as $65.5 BILLION in lost benefits.
You do understand that is 5 days a year that you get paid to go on vacation, right?
You don’t have to travel to the far reaches of the globe either. You could spend a day visiting friends, exploring a national park, a staycation in your city or staying in your backyard relaxing.
I don’t think we have to recite the benefits of taking time off. You only die once, but you “live” everyday. Take those vacation days – ALL OF THEM.
Go Way “Off The Beaten Path”
Ever spent the night in a lighthouse? Camped in a tent in Tanzania? Visited the Cree People in the Subarctic? Travelled an Ice Road?
Skip the hotel or campground and visit some unique destinations. You don’t have to go to a far off country or spend a lot. You can do unique (and inexpensive) adventures nearby and on the cheap.
Here are a few ideas:
- Camp in an abandoned Rock Quarry in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
- Stay in the White Shoal Lighthouse
- Take an Ice Road to a place called “Moose Factory”
- Visit the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike
- Visit a modern Cree Settlement in the Subarctic (and a bonus of driving one of the most remote roads in North America)
“Comfort Zone” is an overused phrase these days. But It can open a door to “bucket list living”, which is inestimable for a rewarding life.
You don’t have to scare the crap out of yourself, you just have to try something new. After all, isn’t it why we travel?
You could take a flight lesson, go bungee jumping, take a sailing course, or even try Hákarl (fermented shark) in Iceland. (Actually, I wouldn’t recommend the Hákarl – I’ve tried it a few times and I’m still wildly uncomfortable with it).
Here are some ideas in Michigan to try. I started flight lessons last year to get over a stubborn fear of flying and here I am after 14 hours of lessons. That desire to get out of my comfort zone has opened up a lot of “travel doors” in the near future (without even owning a plane). Did you know you can rent airplanes in far off places? Not to mention, by conquering a fear of flying means I’m good with commercial airlines again.
Travel more and get out of that comfort zone.
(At lease once)
Why? Why not? If you haven’t experienced solo travel, give it a try. You will probably learn alot about yourself and get a different perspective on things. Travel is an escape from your typical life. When you travel solo, it seems like that escape is richer. For me, solo travel makes me more observant . . . of my surroundings, my weaknesses, my troubles, my happiness and my strengths. At the same time, solo travel offers freedom and independence. . . like unscheduled diversions. Personally, I cover more ground when travelling solo – which has pros and cons.
Worried about travelling solo? That is usually a pretty good indication that it might be a good time to consider it. Try a weekend trip or an overnight first. It isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth a try.
Travel WIth a Family Member
(Or Close Friend)
While travelling solo offers freedom and independence, travelling with someone close to you can offer interdependence and perspective. Travelling with a loved one can offer deeper connections and even allow you to rediscover someone. Can it cause tension too? Sure, but if you plan the trip well and help maintain realistic expectations you’d be surprised how rewarding it is. I also find it rewarding to help others accomplish things on their bucket list.
This year, I plan to visit Sardinia with my wife and Iceland with my son – among other trips. You can learn a lot about someone, your relationship with them and even some things about yourself.
Change Your Mode of Travel
This one is a great way to add interest to your travels. So many explorers seem to miss out by not changing up their transportation. By doing this, you most likely accomplish a couple other resolutions on this list. Never been on a cruise? Try it. Rent a sailboat with a captain (it isn’t that expensive if you rent as a small group). Or maybe learn to sail a boat and you can take your own cruise in the British Virgin Islands. Take a short line train trip in Colorado. Fly in a small aircraft.
I’ve often found that our “standard mode of travel” gets ingrained in us. By simply exploring other options, you can open up more epic adventures.
Personally, I like them all. I am a pilot, I sail, I have an inflatable zodiac, I’ve been dropped off in the wilderness by train, hiked, bike-packed, kayaked, canoed and driven to the far reaches. My favorite trips are those that incorporate many forms of “off the beaten path” transportation. Each mode of transport offers its own perspective. It truly opens up a more interesting adventure.
Talk to Strangers
I remember disembarking from a river ferry in the remote subarctic of Canada on a windy summer day. I watched three motorbikers load onto the ferry while they completely ignored everyone around them. In contrast, we were about to experience Mamaweedow – a celebration of the Cree People. It was amazing. They welcomed us and we learned much about each other. But, we had to be willing to talk to strangers, to engage them with positive energy.
Later, I couldn’t help reflect back on those adventure bikers who had travelled one of the most remote roads in North America. That’s an accomplishment, for sure. But once they reached the end, you know what they did? Turned around and went back home. Truly, they missed out on the best part of travel, engaging with some amazing people with a rich culture.
We actually talked with the Cree strangers way up north, we were eating in real tipis, learning new skills, exchanging wild stories, getting pulled onto the dance floor, and finally taking a freighter canoe across 70 miles of arctic ocean. Talking with strangers is an opportunity that too many people miss out on.
I know, I know. . . you’re not suppose to talk to strangers. Well, certainly don’t go on a date or follow them down a dark alley 15 minutes after you meet them. Some places, you shouldn’t go. But, in most places, keep your wits and maintain your situational awareness. You can “talk” to them, but “trust” can come much later.
If you don’t talk to the people while visiting, you are only getting half the story.
After 3 decades of travel, I’ve learned that we humans, are more similar than different. Their perspective is as important as the “places” we explore. Great views and amazing sights are only part of the story. Learning about the people, other cultures and looking behind the curtain of life is where you find something. . . worthwhile.
Try The Local Food
Just try it. What are you afraid of? Uncomfortable taste? You’ll have a story to tell and often, you’ll be surprised.
Food uses a lot of our senses. Sight, smell, touch, taste. That is an experience. Unless you travel for reasons other than the experience, why wouldn’t you try the food? Isn’t it part of the experience?
Yeah – I know. It can be disgusting – like Fermented shark (called Hákarl). Hákarl is the “worst” and I say it as a descendent of Iceland. I’m not a fan of the experience. But, it tells a story. Icelanders didn’t eat fermented shark because they wanted to. (In fact, many modern Icelanders have never had it. A little secret – it’s for the tourists these days). Hákarl (in all its ammonia glory) was a necessity. Because of the acid in shark flesh, the meat is poison to humans when fresh. So, they ferment it, bury it, then hang it for 4-6 months. Then it is safe to eat. . . but exceedingly nasty. Being cured and less acidic, it was, at least, “edible” and lasted through long dark winters. Why did they do this? It was “eat smelly things or die” in the Iceland of old. See the story it tells?
While Hákarl isn’t a modern food, it tells you a story, using all of your senses. It tells the story of hardy people doing nasty things to survive. That terrible experience, is what shaped Icelandic culture.
But, more often than not, trying local fare can be pleasant. So, make a point of trying some cod tongues, poutine, empanadas, kimchi or green papaya salad. If travelling to Michigan – try a bottle of Vernors (best “barrel aged” ginger ale. . . ever) or pasties.
Help Make the World a Better Place
In other words, do good with your travel and your money.
We’re not going to save the world, but we can make a bit of a difference.
Whether you hire a local guide or use a travel service that uses local guides, that is a good start. Frankly, I prefer the services of a local guide than a professional out of towner. Local guides can offer a lot of interest to your visit.
Consider a bed & breakfast or small boutique hotel over a national chain and try to AirBNB with a personal owner and not a corporation. Dispersed camping or a private campground might offer better options then a crowded state park or national park. Consider places that are having a rough go of it – Puerto Rico or even non-tourist places. Many national and state parks are at capacity these days and some locations are being “loved to death” (to use a trite phrase). Frankly, avoiding tourist attractions is (in many ways) a better overall environment. Consider lending a hand and volunteering some of your time. Be a lighthouse keeper, disaster recovery volunteer, trail builder or citizen scientist. These can offer you a rare a peek behind the curtain during your travel.
So yeah. . . travel should be an adventure. Consider the opportunities ahead of you and embrace them. Lean into what travel has to offer, beyond going from point A to point B and “seeing things”. Experience them. Hopefully a few of these pointers help.
I look forward to any more thoughts or any resolutions out there.
Chuck and Martha Hayden, aka The Viking and Poppins, enjoy going on adventures off the beaten path. They also like to share their explorations with others. The Viking is a retired expedition leader while Poppins is a retired teacher. The two offer independent views of their journeys showcasing places, people, and cultures as they explore the world. Visit and follow them on their website and social media accounts. Website | Facebook | Instagram |YouTube