I am not one for bucket lists or New Year’s resolutions. This is not because I can’t keep them but because they often seem quite insignificant on the grand scheme of things or the timing is just off for me. While I like the clean cut that comes by the year changing and find that it gives me an emotional clean slate somehow, why wait for January 1st to make new, better choices in your life?!

Today is December 31st and I am taking some time to reflect after having decided to finally spend New Year’s Eve as I always wanted – all by myself. I seem to develop a bad case of FOMO that returns every New Year’s Eve but as soon as I am at whichever party I’ve dragged myself to I get mad at myself because it never lives up to my secret expectations. But this year there seems to be an overall end of the year fatigue surrounding me and so I finally booked a date with myself tonight. I am preparing some homemade ravioli, have spoilt myself with a beautiful bottle of Pinot Noir, and have some of my favorite shows waiting on Netflix. In addition, I really want to take the time to think about 2018 and what lies ahead for 2019.

The travels of the last year have been amazing and turbulent, exciting and exhausting with trips to Uganda and Kyrgyzstan and now I have finally some time to sit down, reflect and see which direction I am going for the new year. Not just where I want to live or rather travel to (I am currently a full-time digital nomad) but also find answers to why and how I travel. With that, I have realized that for the first time ever I actually do have some New Year’s resolutions at least when it comes to traveling which I wanted to share with you.

1. Travel Greener

This one is a biggy for me. To be honest, I have never been the most environmentally conscious person but over the last couple of months something clicked and I tried to adopt a more green lifestyle. I am far from perfect or where I would like to be but I am making small changes in my life on a daily basis. I have realized that these changes are a lot easier for me to stick to when they come with positive reinforcement rather than with criticism – whether that is from myself or others. I don’t scold myself for doing something (or not doing something) but rather praise myself for the times I don’t. For me, there is something incredibly inspiring about positive words and affirmations and those make me want to do even better.
With that said, I want to travel greener in 2019. I don’t want to point fingers at others – countries or people – but rather lead with a good example and do my own little part. What this will entail? Slower travel and offsetting my carbon footprint from the flights I take, reduce my own use of plastic, and eat less meat.

2. Stay fit on the road

No, I will never make a resolution to hit the gym more often and lose 5kg (have those worked for anyone ever?) but I do want to be more active while traveling. While I have no problem getting back into my regular yoga routine when I am home, I am terrible while traveling and tend to treat each trip like a holiday – yummy food nonstop and no workouts.
Needless to say, this attitude has taken a toll on my body in addition to long, cramped flights and jetlag. 2019 I want to incorporate more activities into my daily traveling life – whether that is a hike, a walk in the park, discovering the local yoga studios or actually using the fancy hotel pool for a swim. And of course, spend as much time as I can underwater!

3. Speak more, learn more

I have been invited on some amazing press trips this year and went to Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, and Uganda for the first time. Once I arrived in each of these places I realized I didn’t know a thing about the country I was about to travel through – no greeting in the local language, little knowledge of the historic and current political situation, nothing about the life of the local women. I had become complacent being handed an itinerary, pack my bag and show up at the airport on time, something I am actually embarrassed to admit now.
No more of this in 2019! Whether I am going on my own or on an organized trip I will do my research before and also learn just a few words in the local language because literally, nothing makes communication easier and allows you to make a connection with locals.

4. Be more social

Of course, I am the one who is making a face – at least I am having fun!

I am very much an introvert and I don’t mind it one bit. In fact, I don’t think I could travel the way I do if I wasn’t as I spend a lot of time on my own as a solo traveler. As it is, I rarely get bored on my own or lonely and being by myself is how I recharge my batteries.
However, over the last year, I had some memorable moments with people that really inspired me, made me laugh till my belly hurt, and made me see that I too am still a somewhat social creature who needs human connections. Whether that was a lovely date, a surprisingly deep conversation with a stranger or reconnecting with some old friends.
I learned that I can actually have my cake and eat it too and that I do need both – my alone time and time with people. So whether that is a frivolous but fun moment or a deeper connection as long as it feels good I want more of this in 2019. I guess that implies to get off the couch much more often, make time for friends, and dare I say even reinstall that damned Bumble app.

5. Do new things

Biggest challenge of 2018 – learning to free dive in Koh Tao.

Hand in hand with that is my next resolution – do new things. You may find it hard to believe but I am a terrible creature of habit even when it comes to traveling. If I am not traveling for work, I tend to go back to the same places I like over and over again and once I am there I will stay at the same guesthouse, eat at the same places, do the same things. Yes, this routine is necessary for me as it allows me to recharge but it has also become a bit uninspiring – how can a full-time traveler be in a rut??
For 2019 I want to find a new place to explore for a few months and I am thinking Mexico might be it. Once I am there I don’t just want to settle for one favorite taco joint but try them all. I do want to go back to some of my favorite places like Bangkok or Marrakech but I want to play tourist again, try something new and really make the most out of being so lucky to live this life.

6. Give back

I easily get swept up in sweating the small stuff: the bus that is late, the road is bumpy, and new people with what I consider weird idiosyncracies next to me. Luckily this feeling changes, usually long after the hot bumpy bus ride with those ‘weird’ people is over and I have had a cold shower and a cold beer. Then I realize how incredibly fortunate I am to live my life the way I do and usually I am well aware just how privileged I am. Especially when I travel to countries where women live a very different life, have fewer chances and advantages, this contrast is stark and I know it. This has made me realize that I want to give back more or pay it forward, depending on where you stand. I love what I do, but I think I need to do something more tangible and lasting than to write posts which hopefully inspire you to travel.
What this is, I don’t quite know yet. I don’t just want to write a cheque to an organization I believe in, I don’t just want to do the occasional beach clean up or volunteer somewhere (especially as that can be an iffy subject) – I want to do something a bit more lasting. I am already surrounded by incredibly inspiring and successful women like my friend Sarah who founded Girls that Scuba and Nikky who started Unearth Women, a print travel publication exclusively by women for women, and I want to follow suit. While both of these are business enterprises they also give back in so many ways and I want to do that as well. So while this resolution is probably the least defined or easy to achieve it is the one I feel most strongly about and lucky for me, I have the feeling 2019 is going to be just the year to get it the ball rolling.

What are your travel resolutions for 2019?

This post was written by Annika Ziehen who was a Travelette until 2019. Originally from Germany, Annika has lived in New York and Cape Town and now travels the world full time. She considers herself a very hungry mermaid and writes about her adventures, scuba diving and food on her blog The Midnight Blue Elephant. You can also find her on Instagram here!