With more than 31 years of experience trekking around the globe, I consider myself an experienced traveler, but even veteran travelers fall prey to travel missteps abroad. This year, I resolve to be a better-rounded traveler and soak up every minute of time I spend in each new destination.
This sort of thing takes strategy. So I have a plan. I will follow these 13 travel resolutions in 2013.
1. I resolve to be incredibly patient when I check in for a flight that is delayed or overbooked, knowing that if I'm charming and smiling, the agents are more likely to help me before they help all those other folks screaming in their faces.
2. I resolve to make sure to buy travel insurance, even though I probably won't need it. But if I do, I'll be covered. In addition, I resolve to tell myself, each time I'm tempted to decline the coverage that the cost of the insurance is worth the peace of mind it brings.
3. I resolve to avoid giving money to people I meet as I travel in a misguided effort to help those who are asking (begging) for money. Instead, I resolve to support real outreach to those same people through programs that make a difference yet don't encourage a culture of dependency.
4. I resolve to look at the people I meet as I travel, no matter how different from myself, as flavors of ice cream. Some of us are plain vanilla, some are fruity strawberry, and some are exotic rum raisin--but we're all still basically ice cream (or people).
5. I resolve to learn a few words in the local language of the places I visit, like please, thank you and it's nice to meet you, as a gesture of respect.
6. I resolve to remember to behave according to how I would like others to perceive Americans. If I act like an idiot, those who may not have met many other Americans may assume we're all idiots.
7. I resolve to pack lightly; keeping in mind that except for North Korea or maybe Somalia, pretty much everything I need is locally available, in one form or another. The lighter I pack, the easier it'll be for me to get around, and the more room I'll have for souvenirs to bring home. Whenever possible, I resolve to travel with only a carry-on bag if I can get away with it to avoid extra fees and hassle.
8. I resolve to be patient with little, unexpected things that happen to mess up my schedule or cause minor inconvenience. I resolve to remember that the "best made plans of mice and men often go awry", and that the luxuries and conveniences of my everyday life may not be available to me as I travel. I resolve to be happy, relax and smile, and remember that the enemy of very good is always excellent.
9. I resolve to never exchange money to foreign currency before leaving the U.S. It always costs too much. Instead, I'll exchange money when I arrive at my destination and exchange more periodically as I travel, because the rates fluctuate, and in many places, I can pay for big purchases with a credit card.
10. Realizing that food is an important element of every culture, I resolve to try a new food I've never had before in every destination I visit. I'll do my research, though, or ask a local for pointers on what local dish I should try , so I don't get stuck with something that I just can't bring myself to swallow.
11. I resolve to travel without unnecessary frills and experience a destination hands-on. For instance, I won't get suckered in to buying first-class train tickets in Europe. The trains are great even in second-class, and the extra expense isn't worth it.
12. I resolve to turn off my "work brain" when on a trip. Sometimes it's difficult to concentrate on enjoying a destination if I'm remembering all the pending things waiting at the office. I work hard all year so I can travel, and when I'm visiting somewhere amazing, I won't be thinking about my to-do list in the office.
13. I resolve to take the time. I'll remove distractions, preconceived notions, and judgments and instead, do my best to take in every detail that makes a destination different from my everyday life. Simply stated, I'll immerse myself in the wonder that is travel.
Those are my 13 travel resolutions for 2013. What are yours?