For those who spend a good portion of the year on the road, it’s easy to slip into bad traveling habits — whether it’s hasty packing jobs or predictable dining decisions. With New Year’s Eve behind us, there’s no time like the present to resolve to be a better traveler. Here are five good habits we plan to pursue in 2014:
Learn a new language
Brushing the dust off of your high-school Spanish may help you get by on your long weekend in Belize, but learning a new language is a rewarding challenge — especially if there’s a trip at the end of your studies. This year, resolve to visit a city that’s not necessarily English-friendly and sign up for language classes or tutoring in advance. You’ll be surprised by how easy it is to converse once you’re in the thick of it, forced to rely on your newfound skill, and you’re more likely to be welcomed by the locals if you make an effort, no matter how small.
Try something new
It’s often when we’re most out of our element — in a foreign country where we don’t speak the language or a dauntingly big city with myriad options — that we tend to panic and seek out the familiar. But visiting a recognizable chain restaurant or coffee shop when there are local options is a missed opportunity. Instead of beelining to a familiar franchise, make a mini-adventure out of your next meal or morning coffee. Hotel concierges are usually happy to recommend something in the area, especially if you emphasize that you’d like to dine like a local — not a tourist.
Whether you have a half-day on either end of your travels or a free night to fill, the best way to make the most of your next trip is to delve into local arts and culture. Especially in larger cities, there are often same-day discounts on ticketed events, and the concierge desk is usually happy to help make arrangements. Just think: Instead of spending another pedestrian night at a ho-hum bar, you could take in a production of the local opera company or enjoy a live music set with the natives.
We’re not talking about snow globes or refrigerator magnets, either. Instead, consider collecting something travel-specific that’s unique to your personal adventures — we’re inspired by Exposure CEO Raoul Shah’s “Do Not Disturb” sign collection — and will never let you forget everywhere you’ve been. Better yet, expand the range of items you already collect and covet, whether it’s antique trinkets or rare whiskey. Bringing home a unique addition for your collection means you’ll have a fond reminder of your time away, even if the trip itself was all business.
One of the most rewarding travel resolutions is something you can practice no matter where your next trip takes you: little luxuries. Warm up your home away from home with a travel candle such as Henri Bendel’s Lemon Verbena, stowed neatly in a covered tin (just leave the matches behind). Pack a mini-humidifier to ensure a restful night’s sleep in recycled-air hotel rooms. We’re fond of Satechi’s portable USB humidifier, which screws into a bottle of Evian to silently mist a small area. It may not sound luxurious, but unpacking immediately upon arrival goes a long way toward feeling at home, rather than living out of a suitcase. Better yet, slip into that complimentary robe and slippers (or bring your own — we like Muji’s) and kick up your feet.
Photo Courtesy of iStock