Why my 2014 resolution has nothing/everything to do with travel

I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution before, but I’m planning one for 2014. Even though it’s apparently a really awful idea.

Psychologists say so anyway. Many claim big, life-changing resolutions overwhelm our willpower, or come off like false politics and have minimal chance of success:

88-percent-failOf course some of those guys got busted for plagiarism:

lehrer-cropSo who knows? Maybe it’s just the history of starting a new year with a promise that we can’t shake? After all, Babylonians and Romans looked to start things anew with every changed calendar. And in medieval times, knights made “peacock vows” of loyalty every year, a tradition later championed by one bored English poet who wrote of knights’ “noble vow”… then swallowed a bottle of acid after making her own wedding vow:


But I’ve chosen to ignore all this and make a 2014 resolution because I’M TIRED

I’m tired of being sold to, I’m tired of social media noise, I’m tired of virtual relationships over ones in person. I’m tired of push-button convenience and instant-gratification short-cuts like Instagram filters and drum beats on GarageBand.

I’m not going all-out analog (or giving up those handy filters). I’m just cutting back on the modern world, by doing these four things:

1. Walk or bike, alone, at least 45 minutes five times a week

Solo travel is the new meditation. In an essay on walking, Robert Louis Stevenson says a walk with company is essentially a picnic. It takes walking alone to find those “certain jolly humours” that can find the walker fully present — not distracted by daily concerns, or social media. It’s the same notion Alexandra Horowitz discusses in “On Looking” (which I’ve not read yet; perhaps I’ll add that to the pile for 2014 too). I often feel these “certain jolly humours” when I’m traveling. I need to feel that more often.

2. Eat analog lunches, ie away from the computer

It’s not just that sandwich crumbs fill those little gray canyons between the black “Chiclet” keys of my laptop that bug me, but that double-duty during work lunches means I’m not really paying attention to that sandwich. Or where my thoughts could go if I gave it a bit of free time.

3. Ignore social media on weekends

Because Twitter for me is chiefly a professional vehicle, I really don’t need to tweet on Saturdays or Sundays, and I’m going to stop doing it when I’m not on the road. That means keeping my phone on me much less too. (This should be easy enough till college football season comes around again.)

4. Take a class on something

The social aspect of going to a class is almost as useful as making yourself learn something. I took photography classes in college, and I wouldn’t mind re-submerging myself in a darkroom. Or learning what “poetry” really is, and why it’s important, or just more on writing. Or all three.

What all this means

These resolutions are steps, “micro-resolutions” for a bigger goal here, if it’s not clear already: simply to become more “present.” Spending less time in the company of links and #campaigns and virtual communities, and more with my immediate (analog, fingernail-dirtying) surroundings. And hopefully with more silence.

It’s not easy. But the reward can be that feeling that travel brings, particularly when we go to places where we turn off cellphones (due to access or roaming charges) and pay attention to simple physical details around us.

So 2014 is where “travel Robert” tries to come home.

About Robert Reid

Robert Reid is a travel writer (Lonely Planet, New York Times, ESPN), travel expert (Today Show, CNN's Headline News), travel videographer (76-Second Travel Show) and travel artist (don't ask).
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9 Responses to Why my 2014 resolution has nothing/everything to do with travel

  1. Sean E Keener (@SEKeener) says:

    Love this Robert. I’m in your camp on this.

    Let’s meet for an analog coffee. And then do a walk that we don’t talk to each other on for 45 minutes.

    Happy New Year to you sir.

  2. Robert Reid says:

    Thank you Mr Sean. Analog coffee is my favorite kind!

  3. Greg says:

    I have been saying this for years, but I have been told time and again it is not good for business… If your view that direct cultural immersion and human relationships are paramount, doing so over the binary world is a contradiction. If you were still in NYC, like Sean, I would meet you for an analog drink — though I am not sure it would be coffee on my side.

    Cheers to your 2014 resolutions!

    Mine is to regain my non-alcoholic 6-pack and read the thousands of books of literature that surround me while avoiding technical books where necessary.

  4. Greg says:

    To be clear, I meant so say that my own view is that direct personal contact is paramount (travel or not), and any binary contact I have is a convenient contradiction.

  5. Robert Reid says:

    Thanks Greg. I thought about putting “Moby Dick” as number 5. I need to read that. I also want to read something/anything on George Washington. It’s funny — being The Guy early on, and yet no one really seems to know a thing about him.

  6. Sheila Scarborough says:

    Wait, so our Twitter conversations are only for “professional” reasons? *crushed* :)

    I like the idea of eating meals at a proper table without a keyboard nearby.

    • Robert Reid says:

      Ha. “Professional” isn’t really the right word. It’s more like a playland for “Reidontravel” rather than a playland for Robert Reid. That’s more like it.

  7. Gary Arndt says:

    I’m switches my lunches from analog food to pure digital bits.

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