It’s a new year, time for resolutions and other halfhearted attempts to change aspects of one’s life. I stopped making resolutions a long time ago, figuring that if I wanted to, I could do it any time. I don’t need to wait for the new year to make a commitment to change.
That said, I thought of how 2013 is going to be different for me as a traveler. A reader once asked me how I was going to top 2012. I backpacked in Europe for 70 days, wrote the viral post Date a Girl Who Travels, and was interviewed by CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg himself. What will I do in 2013 that would exceed my accomplishments last year?
If I took the question seriously, I would probably be stuck in stasis, for in fact, there is nothing I can do. I didn’t mean to achieve those things. It just happened.
It just happened.
My clinical psychology background rebels at that statement, of course. It sounds so passive, when, in fact, the opposite is true. I made things happen. I decided to backpack in Europe, and I wrote the viral post. I had also decided to accept Peter Greenberg’s invitation to be interviewed on radio.
My point is that no matter what I had done last year, it was already in the past. This year, I will definitely not obsessively try to exceed my achievements in 2012. I will just do what I want to do and what I think is best for me, and one of them is to have more meaningful travels, whether solo or with others.
A meaningful travel is not the same as voluntourism. I will not pay a tour operator in Thailand or Cambodia to bring me to an orphanage so that I can feel good for a few hours. I have worked in the social development field for over eight years, and I have seen firsthand how well-intentioned travelers can directly or indirectly harm the people they want to help when they volunteer for a few hours without considering the impact of their actions on the community in general.
I would want to stay longer in a place and work strategically with an organization that works in the community. I don’t know if I’m ready to go back to counseling abused women and children again, but I can certainly offer other skills. I’m already excited thinking about where I can do that!
In the meantime, I’m planning my backpacking trip in northern India, reading lots of articles on how to travel safe there as a woman. Given the news about the Delhi rape case, safety is definitely on top of my list to consider before my flight to Calcutta.
No matter what happens in 2013, whether I live up to the expectations set by the events in 2012, there’s only one thing I can say, to paraphrase a saying that has been going around lately: it’s not where I’ve been that matters, it’s where I am going.
And in 2013, I’m going forward, I’m moving on.