1. Never skip breakfast
First things first. Never miss that morning alarm, as you’ll miss one of the best introductions to a country. A morning filled with locals breads, teas, coffees, and whatever the local morning delicacy is, is hands down the best way to start exploring a new culture. I never used to be a breakfast person, but after tasting some of the world’s best breakfast foods this year – from South Indian Dosas to Pasteis de Natas in Lisbon – it’s now officially my favourite meal.
2. Some of the kindest, most welcoming people live in places other people may fear
This year I visited Jordan, a country which borders Syria and The West Bank. Despite the wars in neighbouring countries, Jordan remains very peaceful, yet tourists have stayed away from the whole region. What I found in Jordan was some incredibly welcoming people, beautiful landscapes and a unique culture I would love to see more of.
3. Making a home is not so scary
After almost three years of living out of a backpack, this year I settled down and made a home. That doesn’t mean I stopped travelling, not even slightly. But having a home helped me grow relationships, my career and it made me feel more safe and secure. While life on the road is constantly exciting, making a home has its own excitement too, and it’s granted me many wonderful experiences this year.
4. Europe can be fun too
I used to only desire to travel to the far flung corners of the world. The more exotic, the better. While my heart still belongs in Asia, moving back to the UK this year has made me see how great Europe can be. Not only is it full of history, beautiful culture and wonderful food, it’s also a damn sight easier to travel in. Plus, there are just so many cultures to explore, all only a cheap flight away!
5. There are treasures right on your doorstep
People visit every country in the world as a tourist, including the one you live in. There are so many beautiful places to explore, some maybe not too far from your own front door. In the North of England, I am lucky to have a host of beautiful National Parks just an hour’s drive away, as well as great markets and small towns within reach.
6. There are so many amazing, kind and open-minded people in the world. Do not define 2016 by Donald Trump or Nigel Farage.
It’s easy to think of 2016 as the year of Donald Trump or Nigel Farage. But travel (and life) has taught me that there are many more people who ought to be celebrated this year.
7. Returning to destinations you truly love is very rewarding
Often we fight off the desire to return to places we’re already been in order to discover somewhere new. While new countries are exciting and unpredictable, returning to places we truly love can also be very rewarding. This year I got the opportunity to return to India and Nepal, two of my favourite countries in the world. I loved seeing the countries with more mature eyes, returning to familiar places and feeling a little bit at home even in a place so far away.
8. Always take plane snacks
As a vegetarian, eating while travelling can often be a little challenging. Sometimes the airlines don’t get the message that you’re a vegetarian, leaving you with a bread roll and miniature salad. I now fill my bag to the brim with snacks, so I’ll never again be hungry on a 12 hour flight back from Tokyo!
9. Make way for last minute plans, they are often the best kind
While I love making plans, booking plane tickets months before and researching endless Pinterest boards and rummaging through guidebooks, you still can’t beat a good old spontaneous trip. Leave time in your schedule to allow for adventure to take hold – who knows where it might take you!
10. While fancy hotels and restaurants are exciting, it’s the home stays and local street food that will stay with you the most
This year I got the opportunity to stay in some rather beautiful hotels. I loved the experience of staying in beautiful architecture, enjoying luxury breakfasts and floating in infinity pools. But I’d still trade a 5* for a local guesthouses with tons of personality! Nowhere can come close to those little hole-in-the-wall local restaurants, or traditional home stays which stay with you forever and give you a true taste of the country you are in!
11. Wherever you travel in the world, make sure you see sunrise there at least once
I’ve been a big fan of the sunrise for a few years now, but it has been this year that cemented within me just how magical this time of day really is. This sunrise in Varanasi, India was one of the most memorable I’ve ever seen.
12. Buy things that you truly value, spend the rest on travel
‘Things’ are much too overrated in our modern world. We always need the latest ‘thing’, whether that be fast fashion or gadgets or homeware. But do we really need these things? Do they actually add value to our lives? Throughout 2016 I’ve been thinking about this, and in the end I have realised that many of these things are just temporary pleasures. In 2017 I have decided to spend less on things, buying only things that truly bring value to my life. The rest of my money will go on travel and experiences!
13. Local markets are still one of the best ways to really understand the heart of a country
I’ve always been a strong advocate of a local market. I consider it one of the best ways to discover a local culture and place. This year I’ve visited wonderful markets in Lisbon, Berlin, Copenhagen and India and they have made up some of the most memorable moments of my trips.
14. Travelling to a country after a natural disaster can be challenging, but endlessly rewarding
In 2015, Nepal suffered a huge and disastrous earthquake. It ruined homes, killed thousands and left many ancient sites in ruins. I visited Nepal in February 2016 to observe to earthquake damage with my own eyes. What I saw was a country fighting to get back to normal, and people endlessly happy to have tourists returning. Trekking routes are open, they are just waiting to have you back. If you’ve ever dreamt of visiting the Himalayas, now is the time to go!
15. Even with all the internet, you still can’t beat a good guidebook
I’ve always loved guidebooks, Lonely Planet books being my favourite. There’s still something special about holding a book in your hands, and using expert advice to find the best of a country. While I now use Pinterest, blogs, websites and Instagram for travel advice, I still always carry a guidebook. At time when you can’t find any wifi and no one speaks much English to tell you where to go – they really can be essential!
16. Despite what the news may tell you, the world is not a scary place, so don’t be afraid to get out there and explore!
2017, I have faith in you! Let’s GO!
Photographs by Annapurna Mellor and via Unsplash