Travel Resolutions for the New Year

I admit it. I love New Year resolutions. That probably won’t come as a surprise to the people who know me.

A new year is a fresh start. It’s a time of contemplation. It’s a place on the calendar to mark your good intentions.

So here it goes. Topping my list of resolutions this year is the more dedicated practice of reflection, especially when it comes to my travels. That’s where Snapshot Traveler comes into the picture.

In the spirit of reflection, here are my travel-related resolutions based on learning moments in 2012.

Resolution 1: Say yes more.

I’m a shy person by nature, so I’m stepping out of my comfort zone when I connect with people during my travels. In most cases, it has ended up being a rewarding experience when I say yes to trying something new - whether it’s a game of ring toss with a local in Beijing or trying the roadside juice ladled out of a plastic barrel in Manzanillo, Mexico. On second thought, it’s OK to say no to a few things.

During a Sunday stroll at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, a friendly gentleman invited Don to join him in a game of ring toss. Little did we know Don had a talent for catching these colorful, fabric circles with his head.

Resolution 2: Don’t be camera shy.

The more you bring out your camera, the better shots you’re going to get. I love the saying of “f/8 and be there.” I learned it at a photography workshop when I was in my 20s. It’s a good travel philosophy. Getting the shot can come down to putting yourself in the best position to capture it. Whether it’s getting chatty with a vendor or hanging back to watch a scene unfold, take your time and have your camera ready. At the same time, it sometimes means leaving the heavy gear behind in favor of being fully there to savor the experience.

Snapping away gives you the best opportunity to capture those spontaneous smiles that warm your heart like the one on this proud and doting grandmother in Yangshuo, China.

Resolution 3: Keep calm and carry on.

It’s hard to remember the last time we didn’t carry on baggage - even for trips spanning several weeks. It’s now our accepted way of travel. After all, you’re likely to wear the same stuff over again as you gravitate toward your wardrobe travel favorites and there’s always laundry service. Avoid lost luggage, eliminate extra fees and simplify your travel choices by packing to carry-on. It’s a truly liberating and calm inducing.

We ditched the baggage and lightened our load for this road trip through Death Valley National Park. Yes, this outfit got a lot of repeat wears, but who really cares in the middle of a desert?

Resolution 4: Seek the ordinary to receive the extraordinary.

It pays to be cheap. That’s what guided us out of our hotel to find a local laundromat to wash our clothes in Madrid, Spain. If you apply Resolution 3, you’re likely to experience this firsthand. It not only helped us land a great local breakfast, but became a cherished memory of trying to navigate the streets of Madrid armed with a plastic bag filled with dirty laundry.

Don holds our bag of clean laundry. In the background is the pizzeria where we had one of the best breakfasts of the trip.

Resolution 5: Take it easy and ditch the itinerary.

A little research and game plan removes the stress of figuring out how to make the most of your travel days. But each day should be based on your energy level and mood first. I need to remember that my travel to-do list is merely a suggestion and to prioritize our must-see and must-do items first. The best experiences come from getting off the beaten path a bit.

Tired of being in a constant state of travel, we changed course and traded a multi-hour car ride for a visit to this market in Lijiang, China.

Resolution 6: Tune into my travel partner.

When you’re traveling with your husband - or anyone for that matter - remember it’s not all about you. While it’s good to push one another to do new things we wouldn’t necessarily try on our own, it’s important to consider whether seeing that museum with yet another porcelain collection is really worth it. After all, it’s more fun to reminisce over photos where you both enjoyed the experience. That’s the sweetest reward.

Traveling well as a pair requires a little give and take. Don followed me to this late-night eatery churning out churros and chocolate into the wee Madrid hours.

With a little reflection and applying some lessons learned, here’s to making 2013 a travel year to remember!

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