Why wait for January? Why wait for the end of the silly season to make your resolutions, to plan for the year ahead? Surely now, before all the food and the drink and the regret, your mind is clearer.
Now is the time for travellers to plan for 2020. It's the time to think about where you want to go and how you want to tackle it. It's a time to knock a few jobs off your list. It's a time to figure out how to spend your money wisely. It's a time to make yourself a better traveller.
Cut down your flights
How many flights did you take in 2019? Perhaps five or even 10, for those of us who love to travel. Maybe more than 20, if you travel regularly for work. Maybe more than 30. Or even more than that. In 2020, try to cut your flights down. Plan holidays that involve just one flight there and one flight back. Only take business trips that are essential. Take trains wherever you can. It's better for everyone.
Do something that scares you
This is another way of saying, "get out of your comfort zone". Go somewhere that sounds intimidating. Do something that seems strange or different to you. Push yourself to discover more about the world and its people, its quirks and eccentricities and hidden wonders. That's the way to travel.
Use your annual leave
So many people end up with all this annual leave banked up and treat it as an object of pride. That's crazy. Annual leave is there to be used, to allow you to enjoy yourself, decompress, spend some of that money you've worked so hard to earn. This year, use it all.
Go somewhere in Australia
Think about the reasons you travel to other countries and find something here in Australia that takes care of that. Love food and wine? Go to Adelaide or Tasmania. Love ancient cultures? Check out some Indigenous tourism. Want to lie on a beach? Go to WA. And so on and so on.
Use your frequent flyer points
This is like annual leave. It's so easy to accrue frequent flyer points and then just never get around to cashing them in, because the time isn't right or the restrictions don't work. In 2020, use your frequent flyer miles. Take an upgrade. Fly somewhere different. Make these things work for you.
Sort out your banking
If you travel a lot, you need to make sure you're not paying too much to access your money overseas. Get a credit or debit card that doesn't charge for foreign currency conversions or access to foreign ATMs. There are several in Australia worth checking out. Also, look into a mobile phone deal that provides the best global roaming package.
Buy less stuff, pack less stuff, have less stuff
It's tempting to buy so many souvenirs when you travel, to pick up trinkets and T-shirts and all sorts to remind you of an amazing journey. But maybe we're all collecting too much stuff. Maybe in 2020 it's time to tone it down, to buy less, to pack less, to have less. You'll save money, you'll help the environment.
See also: The amazing advantages of packing light
Go to an obscure festival
In 2020, steer clear of the popular celebrations, the ones that are being tainted by the sheer number of tourists getting involved: Oktoberfest, San Fermin, Carnival and so many others. Next year, go to an obscure festival no one has ever heard of. You'll see something interesting, go somewhere amazing, and you'll probably be the centre of attention when you get there.
Eat something weird
When I say weird, I mean weird to you. Not to the people who eat this stuff. If you want to understand a place you have to eat what its people eat. Try snails or spiders or eyeballs or whatever it is that's rated as a local delicacy. Maybe you'll love it, maybe you won't. But it will be an experience.
Learn another language
Obviously you won't be able to learn an entire language in a year, but there's no harm in getting started. Mastery of another language will change your travel experience – or at the very least ensure you get the sandwich you're after.
This ties in with the idea of flying less. In 2020, slow your travel down. Instead of visiting five cities in a fortnight, visit just one. Get to know it better. Allow time to explore, time to enjoy, time to go back to places you loved, time to appreciate nuance, time to just do nothing at all. That's an admirable ambition.
Make a "bucket list"
There are those who think it's a bit lame to have a bucket list, but I'm not one of them. It's a big wide world out there with uncountable destinations and experiences on offer. It can be helpful to narrow them down, to decide your priorities and your goals and work on making them happen.
Get a new qualification
I've written about this before, the benefits of getting yourself qualified: do a scuba course, get your motorbike licence, learn to drive a 4WD, take a photography course. Any new skill or qualification will widen the pool of experiences open to you.
Visit the Middle East
The Monastery at Petra in Jordan. Photo: iStock
In a world groaning under the weight over overtourism, here is an area with so much to offer, and yet so few visitors. Go to Jordan in 2020. Go to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Visit Iran. Check out Egypt. Take a chance on Lebanon. All of these are amazing destinations with history, culture and a friendly welcome.
Sell some stuff; go on holiday
Not only do we all buy too much stuff when we travel, but we all buy too much stuff full stop. I bet your house is filled with things you don't really need. So in 2020, turf it. Have a garage sale. Put stuff on eBay. Use the proceeds to take yourself off on a holiday, even if it's just for a few nights.
Do more research on voluntourism
Volunteering your time and your expertise when you travel is a great thing. However, make sure you ask a few things before you do it. Are there locals who could be performing these skills instead of you? Do you actually have necessary skills and experience to offer? Is your money going to the people you'll be trying to assist? This is important stuff.
Next year, try to think of your travel plans less as a set of destinations, and more as a set of possible experiences. What do you want to do when you travel? Do you want to eat well? Do you want to interact with locals? Do you want action and adventure? Do you want relaxation and sun? The answers will help you decide where to go.
Have a glass of champagne
Take the mundanity out of travel. Take the pain out of the airport experience. Remind yourself that this is fun, this is amazing, this is a great thing you're doing. Everyone will have their own ritual to make this happen, but I can advise a glass of champagne at the airport as a good way to get into the spirit.
Keep your money local
Next year, spend local when you travel. Buy food from markets. Stay in B&Bs or home-shares. Take tours with independent local companies. Eat at local restaurants. Drink in local bars. Ensure the proceeds of your travel experience go to the people who are most affected by your presence.
Do something just for you
Here's my final tip for the year, in my final paragraph. In 2020, do something you love, something just for you. Ignore what's cool or what's expected. Take others' advice (including mine) with a grain of salt. Go on the journey and do the things that you are truly passionate about and that truly bring you joy, regardless of how predictable or pedestrian or uninteresting they may seem to others. Travel for yourself, and you can't go wrong.
Merry Christmas everyone, and here's to a memorable 2020.
What are your goals for travel in 2020? What do you hope to achieve? Where do you want to go? What do you want to do?
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