6 mins

New Year, New View, New You?

Looking for a new challenge in 2021? Seeking a fresh perspective on life and work – or just on yourself? Well, here’s how travelling can offer you just that...

Young woman using laptop computer on a beach (Shutterstock)

1. Mix work and play on a workation

If there’s one big learning from 2020 it’s that those of us who previously worked in an office can work successfully from home. So, if all you need is decent WiFi, the next logical step is why work from home if you can work from somewhere more exotic? Forget staycation, the big new word is ‘workation’ (or ‘workcation’).

Some countries have been quick to see the potential in this and are actively trying to tempt a new type of ‘digital nomad’. Antigua and Barbuda have introduced a ‘Nomad Residence’ visa. The Cayman Islands has introduced a Global Citizen Concierge Programme that allows eligible individuals and families to work remotely from the island for up to two years. In Europe, Croatia, Mallorca and the Czech Republic are all trying to woo workationers post-pandemic.

Hotels around the world are catching on to the trend too and promoting WFH (working from hotel) packages. Whether you book an off-season stay in a lovely UK hotel, rent a Greek beach villa for a month, or decide to spend a year based in the Caribbean, this looks like a trend that isn’t going away.

2. Walking with animals

Animals are good for us. We’ve woken up to the fact that it is not good to ride elephants, and not everyone is confident riding a horse. But why ride an animal anyway when you can walk with it? Chances are that you’ll learn more about it, form more of a relationship with it and feel more at one with nature too.

In Nepal you can walk with elephants at Chitwan National Park, and in Thailand an increasing number of ethical elephant sanctuaries are offering it as an experience.

The UK offers walking experiences too. Whether it’s treks with llamas in the Black Mountains (oldkingstreetfarm.co.uk) or hiking with endangered fell ponies in the Lake District spending the time communing with a four footed-friend will slow you down and keep you focused on the moment.

3. Explore your backyard

We’re all guilty of ignoring what is under our noses, or having the attitude that “it will still be there when I’m too old to travel overseas.” In the UK it is always shocking when meeting a keen traveller who has never been to Scotland, Cornwall or the Lake District.

But it’s so easy to always think of ‘travel’ as somewhere overseas. So, think about bits of your home country that you haven’t visited yet. Away from the honeypots, there will be so many secret spots waiting to be discovered. Visit more popular places out of season when your visit will be appreciated. You could even go somewhere really close to home; staying a night or more in a different environment can open your eyes and prove more of a travel experience that you’d ever imagined.

Stand-up paddle boarder (Shutterstock)

Stand-up paddle boarder (Shutterstock)

4. Let's get physical

Make 2021 the year you stretch yourself physically as well as mentally. It doesn’t have to be an Everest Basecamp trek or mountain bike challenge (unless that’s what you really want).

Do you usually go for gentle pub walks where you live? Try a multiday hike instead, whatever degree of difficulty. Not been on a cycle for years? Fear not, electric bikes are here to save you. Perfect too, if you have a fit partner or friends who want you to join them on a trip.

Stand-up paddle boarding is seeing an explosion of interest and can be tried in so many places, at home or overseas. There’s a growing interest in canoeing and kayaking too.

And if it really is just a good stretch that you need, yoga will improve your flexibility, balance and mental wellbeing. Try it in Costa Rica, India or Bali and you really will return recharged.

5. Go foraging and eat outside

Get a deeper understanding of nature by foraging for your food. The experience of gathering wild foods is fascinating and fun, and best of all, you get to eat it.

In the UK you can of course look for wild mushrooms (make sure you have someone who can identify them!), wild garlic and good old blackberries. Try a dedicated experience such as the ones that the Tudor Farmhouse Hotel offers in the Forest of Dean.

The joy of foraging is that you can do it anywhere in the world, and courses are now sprouting up everywhere.

Do try a foraging experience where you then cook outside – the food always tastes a million times better. And, if feeling inspired, we recommend you ask for Wilderness Chef: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Outdoors by Ray Mears as a present.

6. Stay in nature

There’s recently been an explosion in unique accommodation – yurts, treehouses, ‘bubbles‘ – situated in wild places.

A stay in a treehouse is a way to really feel in nature; the evocative smell of the wood, the creaks and swaying as it moves. There is also something very special about sleeping under a glass dome with perfect views of the surrounding countryside by day and of starry skies by night. It really helps you feel a connection to nature. And look out too for places with an outside shower or bath... sheer bliss.

Best of all is to sleep outside if the weather permits. Whether you hunker down on a ‘star bed’ in an African safari camp, next to a fire in an Arabian desert, or on the deck on an Egyptian gulet, this is the very best sort of sleeping experience.

Narrow boating along the canals (Simon Chubb)

Narrow boating along the canals (Simon Chubb)

7. Try a different mode of transport

The pandemic has made us rethink our contact with other people, and it is therefore no surprise that campervan/ motorhome rentals are rocketing and that many people are planning self-drive holidays. If there is a year to first experience #vanlife it will be 2021 – look out for an upcoming feature. Likewise, canal cruising in a narrowboat has proved to be incredibly popular (see Wanderlust/ November issue).

We predict that 2021 will also see a boom in cycling holidays, especially by e-bike. If you fancy bikepacking, where you take everything with you, look at the really useful bikepacking.com website as a starting point. If you want more support, and your luggage taken for you, then a host of specialist tour companies offer exciting itineraries.

But let’s not forget the romance of rail. There could well be fewer people travelling by train in 2021, making this your time to take a grand tour by rail or have your first sleeper train experience.

8. A new skill

Enforced lockdowns and working from home led to many people taking up a new interest or skill in 2020. Make 2021 the year you take that a step further and combine learning a new skill with travelling.

It could be that you want to finally get round to learning a language. It’s so much easier to absorb a language in the destination, whether doing a formal course or simply practising as you go around and about.

But this could also be the year to learn how to make fresh pasta on a cooking course in Italy, learn to tango in Buenos Aires or learn bush skills in the Okavango Delta. Whether a day course or a dedicated week or longer, the opportunities are increasing all the time. And your travel memories will be all the stronger and longer lasting for your new skill.

9. Live like a local

Understanding how locals live really gets you under the skin of a destination. There are dedicated tours, and there has been an explosion in experiences you can book through sites such as Viator, Airbnb, Get Your Guide, Urban Adventures and Tripadvisor. Pick wisely and you can learn to make sushi in someone’s house in Kyoto, or prepare tacos in a Mexico City home.

Use travel communities to make contact with locals. You could use an app like Meetup – which brings together people with shared interests (eg running clubs, choirs, photography clubs) and highlights activities and events.

Some tourist boards have schemes where you can meet a local; West Sweden for instance has a Meet the Locals scheme enabling you to go crab fishing, walking or learn about railways with people from the area. The Global Greeter Network connects you to volunteers who can show you around their hometown.

Another way to get an insight into local life is to be a repeat customer in the same café or local shop several days in a row; forget your smartphone and just hang out.

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