Alastair Humphreys

Alastair Humphreys


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White out in winter (www.alastairhumphreys.com)

New Year's resolutions


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28th December 2011

New Year. New resolutions. Travel closer to home this year and make the most of what's around you, says Wanderlust blogger Alastair Humphreys

Father Christmas might have brought you a few new travel books to fire your enthusiasm for adventure. You might be planning new journeys, new discoveries in all sorts of wonderful places (my 2012 wish list: Antarctica...). I hope you are!

But this is a plea not to neglect discovering new places closer to home. Last year I deliberately did not go on any major overseas trips: I dedicated the whole year to exploring my own country. I called it a Year of Microadventure. To my surprise, it was a wonderful experience.

The key for me was to stop thinking of my country as a place I knew, lacking in those surprising new discoveries that make independent travel so magical. Once I did that my eyes were opened to a country as beautiful, historical and culturally diverse as any on the planet: my own.

So buy a guidebook for your own country, and make a resolution to spend some time exploring it this year. Travel with the same open attitude that you do when you are on the other side of the planet: a curiosity to try new things and a willingness to chat to strangers about life.

You can travel as cheaply as you like, from hitch-hiking and wild camping, all the way up to hotels and the new explosion of posh campsites. Switch off your phone and your email and immerse yourself in places like the ones listed below.

1. The islands of Scotland

In Scotland you are allowed to camp anywhere you want, within reason. The money this saves and the breakfast views it gives you easily cover the cost of driving around for a week. Hire a car, chuck a tent in the boot, and go. Skye and Shetland are two fantastic places I visited last year.

2. A long-distance trail

Britain has some excellent long-distance trails. Slow down your life and immerse yourself in the detail of the landscape. Try the South or North Downs Way, the Pembrokeshire or South West coastal paths, or the remote hike to the wild Cape Wrath in northern Scotland.

3. Try a bothy

If you love wild places but hate camping then you need to experience staying in Scotland’s network of bothies. There are some absolute hidden gems, far too magical to share with you here! You’ll just have to go discover them for yourself. Have a look here for more information about the world of Scottish bothies.

4. House swap

When in Bangkok or Belmopan, independent travellers think nothing of staying put in one city for a while. Explore the markets, seek out little cafes, get some brain spinach in the museums and galleries. Why not do the same in the UK? Websites such as Guardian Home Exchange allow you to swap homes with someone who lives somewhere really different to your own normality.

Ditch the big city for a small village for a week, or vice versa. This is a ploy that will be infinitely more rewarding if you pledge a week of no TV, no phone calls and no internet.

5. Canal cruise

I confess that I have never done it, but I love the idea of getting a few friends and pootling so slowly down Britain’s canal network for a few days. It may not be cool, but then again neither am I! Slowing down for a while is always a good thing. But I also suspect that it could give a really interesting and different perspective on my own country.

Suggestions welcome for other places, please: I am aware that I barely scratched the south-west, Wales or Northern Ireland...

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My New Year's resolutions: change my travel attitude | Advice... More

Check out our UK travel guide for more advice and inspiration | Plan a trip... More

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