People always talk about taking their “dream vacation” — the one they’ve been planning to do for 10 years and dreaming about for many more. But largely what people mean when they say “dream vacation” is that every detail of the trip was planned flawlessly, everything went exactly according to plan, and the service and food were stellar. Every detail was perfect down to the tiniest detail. Nothing could have been better. 

But what if the key to having the best vacation of your life has just as much to do with how you approach traveling as it does with where you go and the number of stars on your hotel? What if you could have the best vacation of your life every time even if things don’t go quite as planned? Maybe getting lost means finding the best thing you visit on your trip. Or maybe the restaurant that didn’t have your reservation means that you go to the hole in the wall down the street which has the best tacos you’ve ever tasted. Maybe the wrong stuff can turn into the right stuff. With the right mindset, almost anything travel disaster can be salvaged into something amazing.

Here are 5 traveler’s resolutions you can make right now to make this the best year of travel yet:

1. I resolve to take responsibility for enjoying my vacation.

Sounds weird, right? Especially since we often think an enjoyable vacation means that nothing goes wrong. I mean, what if your flight is late? What if they lose your bags? What if the hotel shower has terrible water pressure? What if your passport gets stolen?  What if you get seasick — or worse?

Hallstatt, Austria
Hallstatt in Austria where the ferry boat will shuttle you to the charming lake town.

If you resolve to be the one who decides if you enjoy your time, then you get to decide how you’re going to respond to each situation and what you’re going to make of it. Is it going to be a catastrophe that ruins your trip — or fodder for an exciting story at your next dinner party?

2. I resolve to take myself less seriously.

Traveling is an act of vulnerability, especially if you’re headed someplace where the language, food, and culture are vastly different from your own. You don’t have to be an expert; you don’t even really have to know what’s going on. If you make a mistake, the world will not end. If you order something you don’t like, order something else. Point at the delicious plate of food the table next to you is eating. But take pictures of the strange plate you ordered so you can fully explain the story to friends once you’re home. The more easily you can laugh at yourself, the easier you’ll be to travel with — and the more fun you’ll have.

3. I resolve to stay curious and humble.

The world is full of surprises. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be amazed by what you discover. Ever wonder why it’s so much fun to see regular everyday “boring” things through the eyes of a kid? They don’t know that they’re supposed to be “cool” and avoid looking silly in front of others — they just experience everything as if it’s the most amazing thing that’s ever happened. And you know what? They’re almost always having way more fun than those of us over 30. As adults, we have the choice to let go of cynicism and embrace wonder. The world is full of it, we just have to retrain ourselves to see it.

4. I resolve to trust more and be more generous.

Anyone who loves to travel will tell you this: the world is mainly populated by good-hearted people who will extend help and hospitality when you need it. While it’s always wise to be aware and educated on potential scams and dangers — the truth is, 99 people out of 100 will gladly help you out of jam and will go out of their way to show you the best spirit of their culture. Open up a little and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you find. Inevitably you’ll have experiences and make real connections that will stay with you for years to come.

If you visit Chengdu, China you can take some clues from this panda: like going with the flow and enjoying a light snack whenever possible.

5. I resolve to let go of my attachment to The Plan.

Perhaps above all else, being a great traveler means you have to be flexible. Things don’t always go according to plan — and wonderful things can happen as a result. Think of the “wrong” turn you took that brought you to the most breathtaking vineyard you’d ever seen. Or the cancelled day trip that led to a day of meandering through spice-scented streets where you had the best curry of your life. Or the delayed train that allowed you to have late-afternoon tea with a charming shop owner in a crowded bazaar. He’s now on your Christmas card list, and you’re Facebook friends.

In the most significant ways, like all of the rest of life, the most valuable and memorable parts of traveling can’t be planned. That is the enduring beauty and draw of striking out on a new adventure.

A common thread among these resolutions is the ability to let go of anxiety, relax, and enjoy yourself. Easier said than done? Absolutely. But next time things go wrong on a vacation, try to let you of what is in the past and make the most of the present. You’re still on vacation in an amazing destination with so much to offer. Shake it off, and go find the fun. It’s probably right around the corner.

Although road trips never go exactly as planned, the journey itself is the reward like driving through Arches National Park in Utah.

Planning the best vacation ever?

Hiring a Travel Professional is one of the best ways to avoid the most stressful parts of travel altogether.Awaken Travels can do all the planning, handle all the details, and you get to enjoy. We’ll also be on call for you while you are on your trip to handle any complications or emergencies that may come up. Let us take all the stress out of organizing and leave all the pleasure to you. Let’s get planning!

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