The Question: My New Year's resolution is to travel more. How can I make it happen?
Coming up with the dream list – kayaking in the Bay of Fundy, touching the crumbling wall where Joan of Arc once stood, grasping the rough coat of a camel as it lurches to its feet – is the easy part. Finding the time, money and liberty is the hard part. Here's how to dust off your passport this year:
Tackle the challenges: What's stopping you? Sit down and figure out how to overcome roadblocks. Is there an easier season for you to get away from work? Can someone else feed your cat while you're gone? Are you afraid your children won't survive the journey?
"Don't worry too much about it," says a working mom I know who always seems to be preparing for her next trip with her two sweet-cheeked boys. "Kids are much more flexible and adaptable than we think they are. They can survive for a few weeks outside their routine and – gasp! – even enjoy it."
Be open to possibilities: Remain open-minded when you're planning, says Ann Kirkland, who abandoned a career in health administration to create the literary travel company, Classical Pursuits ( classicalpursuits.com). But do set a deadline to decide where and when to travel, and yes, even, make a non-refundable deposit. "You can dream forever, just as you can plan forever. For people who are anxious about travel, starting with something small and manageable is almost certainly better than taking off for Africa by yourself."
Fuel your inspiration: Research your destination. If you're planning a trip to Italy, sign up for a language class. Always dreamed of Spanish culture? Take a flamenco course. And read, read, read. Before I travelled to India
I devoured fiction about the country that proved as inspirational as guidebooks. And on the nitty-gritty side, sign up for e-mail alerts from airlines or travel companies about your desired destination. Recognizing a good deal on a New York hotel can spur you to book.
Be creative with finances: Use up those banked holiday days. Choose "time" instead of money when working overtime. Start an automatic monthly savings account and label it: Machu Picchu 2012! Or plan a trip to a destination where our dollar stretches further.
"You can get a lot of mileage in the Western Hemisphere," says Robert Reid, a spokesman for Lonely Planet ( lonelyplanet.com) and the author of countless guidebooks. "Meaning if you only have a week off, and a limited budget, Central America gives a very exotic punch for little money, no jet lag, and not much travel time. One of my all-time favorites is studying Spanish in Latin America."
Consider a B-city: Think about going to Lyon over Paris, or travelling off-season, says Kirkland. "Ditto with seasons. London in February actually feels like spring and prices are comparatively good."
Just do it: This is what the travellers with the battered suitcases say over and over. For me, setting foot in a new place is just something I want to spend money on. And it doesn't have to start with one around-the-world-ticket (although that would have been nice in the stocking, no?). I'd rather have the experience, than a new couch. (And you should see my couch.)
There's just so much to gain in travel from true R&R to a beyond-the-headlines immersion into another culture. Sign me up!
Send your travel questions to email@example.com. Follow Karan Smith on Twitter: @karan_smith.
Special to The Globe and Mail