By this time last year I had my mind made up, 2016 was going to be my year of travel. Written down among my short list of goals were the words 'go on at least 4 holidays'.
At first planning a holiday can seem slightly daunting; the thoughts of 'Who will I go with?','Is this place even safe?' and 'Do I even have enough money for this?!' float around in your head (as well as the WhatsApp group chat convos that start off promising but end in utter disappointment) and as a result travel plans end up being pushed into the 'maybe next year' pile.
I was very determined for this not to become my reality and as soon as the opportunity arose, I welcomed it with open arms (...or shall I say it welcomed me). Not too long after my first trip I realised that I had caught the travel bug...bad. 1 trip turned into 2, which turned into 3 and by the time my summer had ended I had gone on a grand total of 7 trips, the most I've ever done in a single year. 2016 was an interesting one full of ups and quite a few downs, but travelling for me had made it one of the best years (particularly one of the the best summers) I've ever had.
I want to give you 3 reasons to start travelling this year. No more 'maybe next year's and no more failed group chat plans! Just a year full of great experiences and memories!
1. To get out of your comfort zone
Do you ever feel like you've gotten so use to a place that because it's so homely and comfortable you can't be yourself? I always feel like going away and getting out of the place I call home is such a breath of fresh air. I feel so liberated knowing that I can be myself but also do things out of my ordinary. You try things you've never tried and do things you never thought you would do, which also make for great stories when you return home.
Which brings me to my next point...
2. To find out more about yourself
I believe that travel can build and develop your character, when you do those things you wouldn't usually do, you realise a lot about yourself. I believed that I was a shy person, I didn't really go out of my way to talk to new people and for the most part I would really only engage with people if they initiated it first, but going on holiday really stretched me. Being out of my comfort zone meant that because I was already uncomfortable, I truly had nothing to lose. By the time I returned home I realised that I actually enjoyed talking to and meeting new people and it became quite rewarding! I continued doing things that were out of my comfort zone even when I returned back to London. I started going to different events on my own, reaching out to new people and just being generally more outgoing and people noticed. Had I not had those experiences away I wouldn't have felt the need to push myself to do new things and make new connections with people. Even the sheer fact that as a student I was able to provide enough funds to go on the many holidays I did, proved to myself that I could save and exercise self control, it taught me not to look at my current situation as final but to be determined enough to not accept 'no' for an answer, even in the little things.
3. To see, explore and understand life from a different perspective
One of my favourite things to do when I travel is immerse myself in the culture and imagine that I'm one of the locals. Whether that be staying in an AirBnb or a hostel instead of a hotel or learning phrases and participating in the different traditions that country may have. It's always nice to see and understand the different ways people live, and it makes for great conversation when you meet a person from that same country. Learning about new cultures really allows us to become more open and understanding. We are all different and unique in our own way and I think that travel is a great way to celebrate that!
"How do I start?"
So you've got all these reasons and you have no more excuses. You'll be please to know I've got some tips for you!
1. Start by writing down 2-3 places you want to visit this year. They don't all have to be far away and could be in the same country/continent you currently live in.
2. Always open a new private browser window when searching for flights and hotels. When cookies are enabled they are able to track and store information from your search which can eventually lead to you paying more money. (Scary and true, technology eh?)
Sky Scanner is great because you can search by month and compare prices for different days or you can search by the cheapest month.
4. Check out websites like GrouponandWowcher for package deals and Hotels on offer.
5. After you've found the perfect flight price you should start looking for the accommodation to match, check out websites likeBooking.com for hotels, apartments and hostels.FlipKey, a partner company of Trip Advisor is great for finding apartments. Websites like AirBnb are great but can be a little pricey especially when it comes to paying everything all at once. Both Booking.com and FlipKey have options on select accommodation to pay at hotel with a free cancelationup to a few days of your selected dates, which is perfect for spreading the costs so you can save up a bit more money a few months before you're ready to travel! Oh and of course don't forget to check the reviews on Trip Advisor!
6. You've found the perfect apartment but you're not sure what the location is like, my top tip is to find out the address or the area of the apartment and look it up on google maps. This tip has saved me from some pretty sketchy neighbourhoods! Taking a virtual walk around is great because you can see how far the local metro is and where the nearest supermarket is located. You'll be walking around like a local in no time!
I hope this has been enough encouragement for you to start travelling this year!
Like anything, it just takes a small step so go ahead and start writing all those travel goals down!