I turn 71 in 2023 and consider myself, along with many of my friends and travel companions, still “approaching senior status.” It might be because I surround myself with outdoor-fanatic, health-conscious, earth-friendly, recycling gurus. We don’t wait until January to start downsizing, be friendlier, kinder, or start emotional or physical self-care programs because we work on these issues daily as an essential part of our lifestyle. But there is always room for improvement.
I was extremely proud of myself last year for downsizing into a 1,000-square-foot cabin burrowed in a quiet forest from a much larger and noisier home in the city. But I have since realized after a religious study class that I may not be quite at home plate yet. According to our class discussions, my effort to simplify should have brought me joy.
Hmmm. Instead, I’m frustrated at my mini kitchen, miss everything sold in the garage sale, and complain about the long drive into town to buy groceries. I’m still working on “letting go,” but more importantly, enjoying what I currently have — a roof over my head, good health, amazing friends, and a reliable fixed income provided by Social Security.
Disappointingly, I changed nada in my travel ritual, and wonder if that is why many of my journeys have become less joyful than when I was younger and working an 8 to 5 job. After much thought, I realized that simplicity was only one aspect necessary. I needed to craft more into my journeys of what gives me personal joy on days between journeys.
Here is how I will achieve this lofty goal to experience more joy during future travel journeys with these 2023 New Year’s resolutions.
1. Forget That I Am Working While Traveling
As a travel journalist, I sometimes get so wrapped up in seeing a zillion places, squeezing them into a few days because of cost and missing the joy of the journey. In the future, I will aim for places on my bucket list, enhancing my experiences immediately because I really want to be there.
I also need to acquire a better way to take notes, so I can reduce the stress of missing a detail that might be important later in an article. And most importantly, I will narrow my focus on that particular trip to what is really important to that particular place, and not spread myself too thin. For example, many cities have zoos, but I will only visit those that are unique such as the amazing Africa section at Columbus, Ohio’s zoo. Feeding the giraffes was such a joy!
2. Purchase A Much Simpler And Smaller Camper
I specialize in (and have always loved) nature-based travel and was a tent camper for over 30 years. But as I matured, stiff bones felt stiffer every year getting up from the ground in a sleeping bag. But of course, I went overboard on my first camper. Today, I question whether I really need space and fancy gadgets since I am usually out and about most of the day.
This goal will be my first accomplished resolution. I pick up my “new” used camper in late January, a pop-up that is half the weight and easier to maneuver. Savings on gasoline alone will be a joy! Campgrounds fill up fast these days of COVID, and a smaller RV or trailer fits in most campsites, plus it’s easier to zip in and out of places to see between campgrounds. Less stress equals more joy.
3. Embrace Historic Lodging Choices
I love historic places, buildings, and cars. My home is full of antiques that tell so many stories in themselves. When using my camper is not possible, historic bed and breakfasts will be the first choice for lodging. Not only are these places a beautiful part of a place, but also fit my lifestyle values of recycling an older neighborhood instead of building new.
The hardest aspect of this resolution will be cost, as bed and breakfasts are usually more expensive than the hotels that are affordable on a writer’s budget. However, financially supporting the owners of these establishments will be part of the joy of my travel experience. Sometimes, the house and homeowners become part of the unique story of a place.
4. Let Go Of Luxury
Do I really need pools, spas, four enormous pillows, or deep-pile carpets? Is the food in a five-star restaurant better than an established busy mom & pop café? I’ll do more research and choose small family-owned establishments. The cost savings can be spent on an event, tour, or just more delicious food. In the end, I believe I’ll find joy in meeting people just like me, learning about places that feel like home, and devouring the unfussy cuisine I love to eat — all waiting right outside the door of luxury.
5. Choose Earth-Friendly International Trips
Focusing on nature-based places means I’m already earth-friendly. But the situation changes when traveling to a different country or my destination is a large city. In the past few weeks, I have learned of many “green” and carbon footprint-sensitive travel companies and the list is growing. My goal for 2023 is to choose one of these travel agencies for my next international trip.
In addition to visiting “green” destinations, rubbing shoulders with fellow travelers that support my values will give me great joy. A good example is a trip a few years ago to Guatemala that was lovely and inspiring. This small, beautiful nation banned plastic bags and liquid containers throughout the whole country. I sent many photos to friends of stylish glass water bottles, products wrapped in leaves, and cloth-lined trash cans. I have my eyes on similar places in Africa, Thailand, Borneo, and Norway.
6. Support Environmentally-Conscious Businesses
I belong to many reliable non-profit organizations for resources to find businesses that support “green” services or products. I am now planning road trips for 2023, and this goal is at the forefront of deciding where I stop along the way to various destinations. Historic lodging choices are part of this goal, but I will add businesses that sell or support green products and services ranging from clothing to electric cars and bicycles. Organic wineries and farmers markets are top of my list!
7. Dine More On Vegan Cuisine
Dining while on a trip sometimes does not match my preferred healthy choices. I am not vegan but I eat more veggies than meat and prefer foods grown organically. The farm-to-table trend is growing, and many food establishments offer at least one vegan dish on their menu. I love to learn how chefs do their magic with a simple potato or locally grown vegetables, so this year I will research chefs instead of places and focus on vegan cuisine. Devouring a delicious chef’s signature vegan dish and writing about it will give us both joy.
8. Refuse Plastic
I have often written about the hazards of plastic to our planet, and now carry my own metal straws, cloth bags, and silverware in my car. I refuse plastic straws at every restaurant I visit and give my elevator speech to the trapped table service person. They are always very kind as they take the straws back. Some even thank me. This year I will go a step further and carry tin or glass containers with lids to carry leftovers from a restaurant if they do not offer no-plastic options. I will also support businesses that strive to reduce their carbon footprint by reducing their use of plastic.
9. Drive No Faster Than 65 Miles Per Hour
I already made a pact to use airlines less and drive more. Driving at 65 mph has been proven to be a conservative use of gasoline. Many of my road trips are off-the-beaten-path country roads, so this is not usually a hindrance. However, in 2023, I will drive no more than 65 mph no matter what the speed limit. And who knows — maybe slowing down will uncover a secret place perfect for a leg stretch break.
10. Take The Train Or Bus More Often
I have considered a train trip for many years, but for some crazy reason hop into my car instead. This year, I will really do it, for at least one trip. A little research has already got me excited about Amtrak’s Yosemite Vacation Package. A peek at the new amazingly comfortable Greyhound buses was also a nice surprise. Instead of renting a car when flying into a large city, I’ll first consider their city bus, taxi, subway, or trolley systems.
The best part of my travel resolutions will be knowing I made a difference to mend our planet, followed my principles, supported vendors that also share my ethics, and stayed healthy along the way. All this will give me great joy, and the icing on the cake is telling my story to my readers.