January arrived, and with it semi-serious promises of a drastic lifestyle change. Yes, you can commit to intermittent fasting or cut back on expensive lunches, but there are plenty of New Year’s resolutions that are rather joyful and will enhance your travel experience.
Perhaps in 2022 the thought of boarding a plane for your summer vacation filled you with dread, or a day by the pool seemed out of the question due to your lifelong fear of water. Maybe you couldn’t stand the thought of speaking anything other than English. Fortunately, there are solutions to all these worries and more – so make a New Year’s travel resolution to enhance your 2023 travels.
Fight your fear of flying
The fear of flying may not actually be as simple as the fear of boarding a plane. As Dave Smithson of Anxiety UK says, aerophobia can actually mean “fear of crashing, catching an illness, being confined in an enclosed space, not having access to medical help, extreme turbulence, being high in the air or just embarrassing yourself in front of other passengers”. That’s quite a long list, which may seem hard to beat. For those who want to overcome them, however, there are a range of options, from self-help courses to clinical hypnotherapy.
The latter, according to Smithson, can be particularly transformative. “Therapy teaches you to enter a state of deep relaxation, so you can ease your emotions during the flight.”
For something more intense, the airlines themselves offer courses for anxious customers. Starting with boardroom lessons, the courses take the nervous passenger all the way from check-in, through security, to boarding the real plane. “This gentle approach can be really effective,” says Smithson, “because it increases the level of exposure until you basically become fear-proof.”
As for those who can stand getting on a plane but really, really hate doing it all? Distraction is key – watch movies, listen to music, get stuck in a crossword puzzle or two. Guided breathing exercises can also help. But if watching Mamma Mia on your BA flight to Athens isn’t helping, it may be time to seek professional help.
Learn a new language
There is a certain awkwardness that bewilders the British when it comes to speaking another language. No matter how many vocabulary books you’ve read or how many times you’ve mumbled “est-ce que je peux avoir…” into the mirror like a strange French curse, there’s an undeniable sense of embarrassment at the crucial moment. . This year, take the worry out of it by committing to lessons long before you leave.
Vanessa Villalobos, who maintains a directory of Japanese language teachers in London, says reflecting on a culture that interests you can help – and use that as an entrance. “For example, etiquette is just as important as the Japanese language,” she says. “It might be interesting to learn about it through language rather than separately.”
For Esteban Touma, a tutor at the Babbel language learning app, the key to learning a new language is taking the time to practice. “It can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life,” he says, and can be achieved with just ten minutes a day.
Of course, travel can be a great motivator – when ordering Spanish paella in Spain, you can just throw in some extra shellfish. But Touma believes that tools specific to your context are also important, whether through an app like Babbel, through a customized self-study program or through the more traditional path of private tutoring that Villalobos offers.
Or perhaps the most useful advice? Lower your expectations. “You won’t be able to reproduce perfect pronunciation or correct grammar right away, but that shouldn’t stop you,” says Touma. “It’s like jumping straight into a cold lake – you’ll have fun once you’re there, but it feels very scary at first.”
There’s also a serious component – learning even a small amount of a new language can improve your memory and ability to empathize, both of which are valuable skills.
Both Touma and Villalobos believe that language learning can be a great excuse for low-level culture: watch kitschy TV from the country you’re learning, or listen to really simplistic podcasts. Or better yet, go out for a drink with a friend and try to speak only French to each other. If nothing else, it will be an excuse to order another bottle.
Go on a solo journey
Abigail Akinyemi runs The Lady Who Travels, a blog for women who travel alone. He believes that the fear of traveling alone has nothing to do with the destination, but rather our shame of not being able to complete basic tasks on our own. “I always say it’s like shopping at another grocery store,” she says. “The elements are familiar, but the layout is unfamiliar and can cause disorientation.”
It’s worth remembering that every activity you do abroad you’ve probably done before: jumping on a bus or ordering at a restaurant may seem intimidating, but realistically you’re probably capable. But traveling alone forces you to seek new experiences: you can’t rely on the bunch of friends you usually travel with (and all the stories you keep telling yourself about Marseille 2003).
For Akinyemi, traveling alone can necessarily boost our self-confidence: you are completely dependent on yourself to plan, budget and execute your trip. “It’s a great way to develop intuition muscles,” he says, not focusing too much on personal development.
“I always recommend people start with an overnight stay and then move on to a bigger trip,” he says. Then book this mini Cotswolds getaway. Another option is to join a dedicated package tour to pick up some footwork, although you may miss out on some of the random experiences you inevitably stumble upon when you’re on your own.
Travel with your baby
Traveling with a baby can put even the most determined parents off. If it’s a car trip to the in-laws, expect a furore on the M6. Train ride? It is certain that you will have delays. When it comes to your baby’s biggest travel challenge – the plane – you’ll need a military-grade planning schedule to synchronize your sleep schedules and take off.
However, it is entirely possible. Some airlines allow children as young as seven days old to fly, and all operators realize that this is probably a very stressful time for parents. It’s worth remembering that while a graying baby may feel like imposing on other passengers, probably everyone thinks about their vacation to care too much. Even if they do, they’ll forget when they’re finally lounging on the beach.
Carrie Bradley, former flight attendant and Flying With A Baby blogger, says preparation is key. “Do a lot of research to arm yourself with all the information you need,” he says. There are many factors to consider, from baggage allowances to snack menus. Writing a final packing list is undoubtedly the best place to start.
What about securing a row together? Some airlines, such as BA, allow parents to choose their seat directly upon boarding at no extra charge – others do not. “Cheap flights may not be that affordable when you consider all the extra baggage and reserved aisle seats,” says Bradley.
Packing should also be considered. A spare set of clothes, small Calpol sachets and extra diapers are always a good idea. Plus some fortitude – “whatever your fears, the flight will be over,” says Bradley. After all, you’ll be sitting in a hotel bar, with six hours of wailing as a distant memory.
Learn to swim
According to Swim England’s latest calculations, a third of adults in the country are unable to swim 25 meters. While confidence in the water may be ideal for a Mediterranean or Caribbean vacation, visions of classmates in armbands may deter you from taking lessons.
However, there are many options. Adult travelers can now combine a trip with adult swimming lessons, making the learning process much more enjoyable. BodyHoliday, a resort in St Lucia, runs week-long all-inclusive beginner courses taught by Olympians. Or for those who want to change their fitness more holistically, Pine Cliffs in the Algarve combines adult swimming lessons with pilates, badminton and yoga.
For most, however, it’s probably more reassuring to start locally. The operator of the Every Active Leisure Center has created a range of resources to help adult swimmers wanting to ease their fears. Jacqui Tillman, director of Aquatics and Wellbeing at the organization, says the discouragement is understandable. “However, swimming is a great low-impact activity where water holds up to 90% of a person’s body weight,” she says.
Still intimidated by the prospect? Apparently the pandemic has led to a new wave of adult learners who are curious to learn a new skill, so you won’t be alone. Tillman believes it pays to build confidence by visiting the local swimming pool before lessons begin. “It can help to stand at the shallow end of the pool and get used to the non-swimming environment,” she says, “or to practice breathing techniques out of the water.”
Every Active also has a policy of allowing swimmers to wear tight-fitting clothing such as leggings, t-shirts and swim dresses, which means no need to squeeze yourself into an old swimsuit from a decade ago. In the summer, swimming pool anxiety may be a thing of the past.