By Amy Heritage
Forget diets and detox - this January, why not welcome in the New Year by promising to become a better traveller?
I will… Re-discover Snail Mail
The internet may make communication very easy but letters will always be much more personal. They offer the writer a chance to take a break and really reflect on the past, weather you’re scribbling late into the night from a hostel bed or sitting in the corner of some local café, watching the world go by.
Nothing really compares to the excitement of getting a genuine letter through the post, either – and the receiver will feel much more connected to your journey if they’re receiving something physical, as opposed to digital. Even better - local postcards, photos and cards capture and immortalise a very specific moment of time in your journey.
As a collective, the folks here at ‘Map The Gap’ have sent loads of envelopes home – containing everything from love letters, to flowers picked from local plants, soppy letters to mum, recipes, sketches, paintings and travel diaries. So, in 2012, resolve to send at least one letter home – even if it’s just for someone’s birthday.
I will… Do Something Out of my comfort zone
As a backpacker, you probably think you’re pretty adventurous. But the truth is – you’re not. All of us have our comfort zones, and it’s rare that we ever step out of them as part of our own free will. So, even if you’re hiking in Antarctica – there was probably something that made you want to do it in the first place.
The thing is, a good traveller will try to see as much of a country as possible whether it’s something they’re usually interested in or not. That way, you get a much more rounded view of a place – not to mention, you might discover something new about yourself too.
Obviously time can sometimes be tight when you’re travelling, as can funds – so you’re going to have to prioritise the things that you really want to do. None the less, in 2012 why not make a pact with yourself to try more things you think you’d never like to do – whether it’s visiting a local museum, climbing a glacier, or trying Balut. You never know, you might surprise yourself.
I will… take less photos
Wait – shouldn’t this be take more photos? Take better photos?
Nope. Take less photos. Here’s why – taking photos is great, and you should definitely document your journey. But there comes a point when something incredible is happening and all you’re thinking is ‘I’ve got to get that shot!’
We at Map The Gap know that, sometimes, losing your camera is the best thing that can happen to you. It makes you really open your eyes to the world around you, and can actually greatly improve your memory of key experiences – not to mention your enjoyment at the time. Plus, photos aren’t the only way to document things – all too often a digital flash can be too quick and disconnected. Taking less photos will encourage you to get creative with the ways you cement your memories.
So, in 2012, make a pledge to control your camera – instead of letting it control you!
I will… Be a better hostel buddy
Everyone’s guilty of being an annoying hostel roommate at one point or another. Don’t try to pretend you haven’t. Whether it’s stumbling in noisily at four in the morning, turning the light on to read whilst others are sleeping, or rummaging through plastic bags to find shampoo at six am – we’ve been there. And we’ve been on the receiving end too.
Which is why, this year, you should make a mental note to be a bit more thoughtful in hostels. It will generally improve the enjoyment of travel for everybody. Including yourself.
I will… pack light
Some backpackers have got the whole ‘one small backpack’ thing down – and we envy them. We really, really envy them.
There are just so many things one needs in one’s life; clothes, shoes, books, notebooks, first Aid Kits. Before you know it’s you’re carrying a full 85 litre backpack, a smaller day bag, and a handbag. As hard as it may be though, it really is worth the effort to cut down. Carrying less not only means carrying lighter, carrying less awkwardly, and carrying things that will actually fit into luggage racks on public transport – it will also teach you what’s truly important in life. Which is… not a lot. Or at least, not a lot of material goods. Once you learn that ‘stuff’ isn’t important you’ll be a very enlightened traveller, nay, a very enlightened human being.
So, no matter how well you think you’ve been doing – 2012 is time to drop a couple of items from the pack. Just don’t forget your passport and you’ll be fine. *
*And a towel. Never forget your towel.
So, here’s to better travelling in 2012 – Happy New Year Everyone!