There's nothing like a change of scene, new flavours and new experiences to keep our sense of adventure alive. Travel is more than just a way to relax and recharge -- it gives us the chance to learn and engage with the world around us.
Admittedly, most people can't can be world travellers all of the time -- but there are ways to find some variety and enjoy new experiences regardless of your budget or plans. Here are some goals to try this year:
Visit a new place in your hometown. Maybe it's that little historic house or private art gallery you've always been meaning to see, or that new restaurant that's caught your eye. What about the cathedral down the block, the neighbourhood across town or your area's mosque or temple? Have you shopped the farmers' market lately, or visited a farm? There's usually something new to see, even close to home.
Keep an eye out for your area's Doors Open event -- that's when you'll find free admission to many sites as well as a peak inside buildings that are normally closed to visitors.
Attend a free event or festival. Are you taking advantage of your community's free activities? Find out what you're missing by adding at least one community event to your calendar this year, like a concert, hike, walking tour or cultural event.
Where can you find out what's happening? Look for event listings and calendars on your city's website, through the tourism bureau, in the local recreation guide or through media outlets like radio and TV stations and newspapers.
Explore a small town. Imagine a traveller coming to Canada and only seeing Toronto or Vancouver rather than experiencing the smaller cities and towns we know and love. Each place offers their own charm and attractions, and they're often within day trip distance. Stroll the streets, shop the boutiques and meet new people at the local watering hole. Not sure where to go around town? No need to plan -- ask the locals for recommendations.
Visit a World Heritage Site. We seek them when we're abroad, but there are many closer to home we may have overlooked. UNESCO World Heritage Sites are internationally recognized sites of cultural and natural significance that are worth preserving. Canada has 15 of them -- including Dinosaur Provincial Park and Old Town Lunenburg -- plus several on the "tentative list". The U.S. has more than 20 to choose from, like Grand Canyon National Park. (Visit the World Heritage Centre for a complete list.)
Cross a border. There's something inherently satisfying about leaving your province or state -- or heading out of the country altogether. No need to hop on a plane -- it's more fun to do it on the ground. It could be a cross-border shopping trip or a cross country road trip, or even a day trip if you're close enough to a dividing line.
Discover a country you've never considered visiting. No, you don't have to go -- but you'll learn a lot about what makes a country unique. What sites and attractions would you visit? What are the must-see places and must-do activities? You might even find something to add to your wish list.
And feel free to play "what if". Where would you go if money, safety and politics were no obstacle? Many dangerous countries we hear about in the news have fascinating cultures and interesting historic sites.
Try a different ethnic food. Trying new tastes is part of the travel experience, but we're not so adventurous when it comes to eating out or grocery shopping. Allow yourself the chance to sample something different this year -- and don't be afraid to make a mistake. Try a different restaurant, take an ethnic cooking class or host an international potluck with friends. Look online and at the library for new recipes and techniques to try.
Alternatively, try a different eating style. For instance, make a meal to eat with your hands, or skip the restaurant and go on a picnic.
Travel vicariously with a book or movie. Can't get away? Take a mental break by escaping into a book or movie. Go narrative -- like Eat, Pray, Love -- or pick up a factual book or documentary. To keep the fun frugal, look for ideas at your local library. In addition to books, DVDs, CDs and magazines, many libraries also offer a digital collection, allowing to you sign out e-books and audio books online and download them to your computer or devices.
Plan an outing with someone from a different generation. Multi-generational travel is taking off for good reason. Not only does it give families a chance to get some valuable quality time, but sharing experiences with someone from a different generation also helps you gain a new perspective. Revisit your parents' or grandparents' favourite memories on a return trip, or share the wonder and excitement of youngsters discovering a new place for the first time. You may also find yourself enjoying activities you might not otherwise have considered.
Borrow someone else's travel style. Over the years, we can fall into patterns surrounding our favourite activities and destinations. Try thinking beyond those habits. For instance, if you're used to museum and monuments, make this the year to try a cruise. Usually head to the beach or resort? Consider a trekking trip or volunteer vacation. Always sticking to major cities? Explore the different regions of a country, like Tuscany, Italy instead of Rome or Venice. Even if you don't choose to go, it's still fun to consider the options.
Try a different mode of transportation. How many different ways have you travelled? Since getting around is part of the experience of travel, try to add a new mode of transportation to your list. Don't worry, there are plenty of options including bicycle, canoe, kayak, sailboat, tour boat, train, ferry, street car, motorcycle, subway, bus, airplane, dog sled, horse drawn carriage, toboggan, zip line, rickshaw and gondola, to name a few.
Build your vacation fund. Even if you aren't travelling this year, it's never too early to start stashing away some cash for your next adventure. It doesn't have to be a lot -- maybe a small sum each pay cheque, or a portion of "found money" like a tax refund or bonus. A contribution towards a trip also makes a great gift idea. You can even boost your savings by taking on a freelance project or selling some of your unwanted items. However you do it, the point is to keep travel a priority in your budget.
Unplug. The latest electronic gadgets can make travel easier, but experts also warn that we might be losing some perspective. It's natural to want to capture and share your travel experiences, but the goal is to experience what's in front of you . This year, put down your camera, leave the laptop or tablet at home and turn off your phone – at least once in a while.
Still want to capture memories? Pack a journal and same tape to jot down your thoughts and paste in some mementos -- like ticket stubs and postcards.
We know travel will be on your brain this year, but obstacles like budget and commitments don't have to get in your way of discovering new things. Try a couple of these suggestions, or set your own goals for the year.
What are your travel resolutions for this year? Share with us in the comments.
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