Bobby is a Principal with a background in History and Social Studies. He first traveled with EF Tours in 2010 to Rome and Paris, and now leads a student tour every summer. He believes that young people should experience life outside of their communities, and that understanding other cultures is imperative to solving global challenges.
Each year as the calendar turns from one year to the next, millions of people around the world make New Year’s resolutions. And as January turns into February the vast majority of these people will have already given up on their plans to lose weight, exercise more, and to eat healthier. I’ve decided that this year, instead of resolving to drop a few pounds or to drink less soda, I’m going to resolve to become a better traveler. As my fifth tour with EF approaches this June, the following list of New Year’s travel resolutions will hopefully make me a more efficient and better traveler
1. I resolve to pack lighter and more efficiently. I’ve heard all the tips, I know all the secrets–roll your pants, only pack one pair of shoes, wear pants that zip off into shorts (sorry, my wife says I’m not allowed). However, for some unknown reason, each summer I roll out my (insert the name of your favorite small car) sized suitcase and cram it full of everything imaginable. I pack sneakers, flip-flops, dress shoes, casual shoes. I pile in blue jeans, dress pants, shorts, and swimming trunks. And before you know it, my suitcase wheels are straining under the weight of nearly 50 pounds of shoes, shirts, pants, and toothpaste. Now do I plan on packing only two pairs of pants for a 12 day trip and washing them in the sink of my hotel bathroom every third day? No, certainly not. There are several items, however, that I can easily live without. Swim trunks? Gone. The cargo shorts I’m wearing will do just fine. No need for a black and brown belt, one will work just as well as the other. And how about shoes? I’m taking just one pair this year. Packing lighter doesn’t mean having to wear smelly clothes or foregoing your toothbrush, it simply means using some common sense and asking yourself if the heavy jacket you packed ‘just in case’ is really worth hauling all over western Europe. My guess is, probably not.
2. I resolve to keep a better journal. Each year as a gift to my student travelers, I give them a journal to write down their experiences. I encourage them to put as much detail in as possible–what foods they ate, the new friends they met, etc. Admittedly, I have not heeded my own advice. While I have a lovely journal full of stories recounting the fascinating foods and amazing sites from my first trip to Europe, it unfortunately is the only journal I have. The good news is, this is an easy fix. Writing in your journal at the end of the day can take as little as five or ten minutes, while the memories you record will last you a lifetime.
3. I resolve to take better pictures. Notice that I said ‘better’ pictures and not ‘more’ pictures. These are two very different things. During my first trip to Europe several years ago, I took pictures of everything. Arriving at the Vatican–picture. Standing in line at the Vatican–picture. Entering the Vatican–picture. You get, well, the picture. While it’s only natural to want to capture every possible moment of your trip, taking a million pictures invariably leads to blurry pictures that you are likely to not even remember what you were snapping. Do I need ten more pictures of the Eiffel Tower to go with the 50 I already have? No, but I can wait until the tower twinkles for five minutes each hour on the hour after dusk. Now that is a better picture.
4. I resolve to buy authentic souvenirs. When traveling in Europe you will soon discover that there are souvenir shops on nearly every corner. And you will also discover, as my students do, that every shop sells nearly the same identical things. Now there is nothing wrong with buying replica Eiffel towers in Paris or a gladiator helmet in Rome. Just understand that these things weren’t made and produced in these cities (or probably even these countries). These type of souvenirs make great gifts for little brother and sisters, or if you’re a married adult male, your mother-in-law. However, take the time to buy something truly authentic for yourself. My most memorable souvenirs are olive oil from Tuscany, a leather jewelry box made in Florence, and a British made windbreaker I bought across the street from St. Paul’s in London. Bringing back a true piece of the places you visit is priceless and something I resolve to do a better job of in 2014.
If you are a returning EF traveler I recommend creating your own list of travel resolutions. If you are preparing for your first tour or considering it, I encourage you to take these resolutions to heart and apply them to your own travels. New Year’s resolutions are about improving and bettering ourselves. With traveling there is always room for improvement and in 2014 I look forward to becoming a leaner and sleeker traveler.