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New Year Travel Resolutions

Sun rise of the new year

The beginning of a new year can be scary and intimidating but it can also be liberating. There's a sense of freedom that comes with starting over, and when we combine this sense of freedom with the wonder of travel, our experiences can be far greater than we could ever have imagined. This year we want to give a salute to all the places that have touched our hearts, to the adventures that have left us afraid and enthralled, and the experiences that have enlightened and sometimes shocked us.

If your resolution is to relax more, then a tropical paradise like the Greek Islands will leave you feeling "de-stressed" and excited for the year ahead. On the other hand, if you're keen for more adventure this year, then you'll find the Marble Caves in Chile very interesting. And finally, if you want to make 2014 the year of giving back then you can hop on a reading bus to Zambia, or help with elephant conservation in Thailand. Start packing those bags people, because the start of a new year brings with it a world of opportunities.

Travel To Different Places

2013 was a great year for travel. Tourism in Asia continued to thrive, companies specialising in adventure travel noted a rise in the number of thrill-seekers wanting to experience something different, and more people ventured away from the popular destinations in search of the hidden gems tucked away at the bottom of the Himalayas or hiding in plain sight in England. We continue the trend for 2014, but we've also added a few of our old-time favourites, rounding up a rather impressive list of the places you have to see in the new year.

Visit Different Places Beachy Head Chalk Cliff in Southern England

Greek Islands

Greece has long been a popular destination with many travellers. With the clear blue waters contrasted by the white buildings of Santorini screaming of old-time luxury, the ample marine life in Crete and the architectural wonders of Athens, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more tempting holiday destination. However, this time, we're doing it slightly differently. Forget the crowds and throngs of tourists in Mykonos, Santorini and Corfu. Greece has over 6000 islands and islets such as Paros, Samos and Cephalonia - with only about 200 being inhabited. Imagine spending your days along an unspoilt coastline with just the wonder of nature at your feet, ready for you to dive in. It would be any holiday-maker's dream. Some of the oldest European civilizations, like the Cycladic and Minoan civilizations, developed on the Greek islands, giving each island a unique and distinctive heritage that has led to fascinating local traditions.

Greek Islands Greek Islands consist of over 6000 islands. Image courtesy of Visit Greece

Scotland

Scotland is one destination you won’t want to miss this year: besides being well known for its castles and picturesque highlands, Scotland will be home to the 2014 Commonwealth Games, as well as the Year of Homecoming, a year long celebration of everything Scottish, with events and activities to get everyone excited about Scotland.

For those who are already familiar with Scotland, Year of Homecoming is a great excuse to rediscover this fantastic country. And for those who have never been, this is your chance to immerse yourself in Scottish culture and life.

Scotland Scotland will be hosting Year of Homecoming 2014

Durban

When most people think of South Africa, Cape Town is usually the first port of call for travellers, and with Table Mountain as a backdrop, an abundance of clear blue beaches with soft, white sand, and a lively mix of cultures, it's not surprising. However, another South African city that should be on your New Year's travel resolutions is Durban. This cosmopolitan city, known as South Africa’s playground, has just as much allure as Cape Town. Durban was recently voted the friendliest city in South Africa, as well as being in the running for New 7th Wonder City.

Durban is a multi-cultural city that has strong ties with India - walking through the markets and tasting the delicious food, you might be forgiven for thinking you’re in the middle of New Delhi. It boasts one of the few natural harbours on the East Coast of Africa, is rumoured to have the best weather in the country and, of course, the one thing that makes any city worth visiting: friendly people. For surfing lovers, Durban is the ideal destination. It's the surfing capital of the country and is the birthplace of renowned surfer Shaun Thompson. The best part about being in Durban is that you still get to experience great safaris - including whale and shark watching - with all the other African wildlife you have come to expect. It's an eccentric, modern city that has managed to hold onto its African flair.

Durban Durban is an eccentric African city

Yorkshire

Having a new year's travel resolution doesn't always mean you need to plan a grand escape and go abroad. Exploring your own country is just as great, and you can start with Yorkshire. It's a haven for creative minds - Bradford, the capital city, became the first city in the world to receive the UNESCO City of Film award. This isn't the only accolade Yorkshire holds though, it was also nominated as one of Lonely Planet's Best of Travel 2014 and Harrowgate was voted as the happiest place in Britain. That's a lot to live up to for England's biggest county, and it's up to you to decide if it deserves all those awards.

Yorkshire is England’s largest county, with four main areas including the City of York, North Yorkshire, East Riding and West Riding. So wherever you decide to go in the county you’re bound to be in for an action-packed trip, from attractions and museums to sports and galleries. Yorkshire has a varied and picturesque landscape with a breathtaking countryside. There’s certainly no shortage of attractions, from World Heritage Sites like Fountains Abbey to mining museums and castle ruins. You'll even find serene gardens and unique breweries, thrilling rides and lots of industrial heritage.

Yorkshire Yorkshire has been voted best for travel 2014. Image courtesy of Vaidotas Mišeikis

Bali

We're in an era where we are extremely aware of the benefits of healthy living - from exercising and taking care of your body, to growing spiritually and maintaining a healthy mind. For most people, this year brings promises of living better and healthier lives. If you are one of those people, then Bali should be on the top of your travel destinations list for the year. You’re bound to get in touch with your inner self when exploring the rich, welcoming culture and discovering the tropical beauty. It's a place where the world of spirits, temples and legends mix with contemporary boutique hotels and world-renowned chefs cooking up a storm of local dishes. Most importantly, the people are gentle and incredibly charming. If this hasn't managed to persuade you, maybe the voters will: in 2013 Bali was voted the best value long haul destination in the world - now that's a bargain worth going far.

It comes as no surprise that Bali has some beautiful beaches, as well as incredible water sports and activities. As with any place, Bali is best experienced when embracing the diverse culture. Getting out of town and seeing the real Bali is far more rewarding and fun. Venture into the small fishing village of Tulamben, ideal for a quieter visit where you can still enjoy the best of the island, or Ubud, a town in the hills, surrounded by temples and rice fields. Whether you’re a returning visitor or just looking to get away, Bali should be a strong consideration for you.

Bali Bali is a timeless destination

Brazil

Other than a good cuppa, nothing gets Brits more excited than a good game of footy. So naturally, Brazil in 2014 will be a treat for football enthusiasts and anyone else wanting to take part in the festivities. And if there's one country that knows how to party it's Brazil. It's already well known for its festive, vibrant and lively atmosphere. Images of Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro fill my head; with the intricately bejewelled costumes, beautiful Brazilian people and that sassy and sensual music that you just can’t help but move to.

I could fill pages talking about all the wonderful things you can experience in Brazil, from the breathtaking landscape with 62 National Parks, to the more than 200 beautiful beaches that stretch along the coastline. And if crowded beaches aren’t your thing, a couple of them are preserved ecological sanctuaries, meaning you can still enjoy the beauty without the crowds. When you're there make sure that you try Capoeira, a martial art fused with music and dance, and the Bossa Nova, a musical fusion of samba and jazz. Both have made their way to Western shores, but there's nothing like learning the dances from the very people who created it.

Brazil Brazil will come alive with festivities in the new year

By Sipelele Ndungane

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Experience Adventures

It's easy to promise yourself the little things – stop wasting money on greasy lunches at work, try to squeeze more exercise into your daily routine, hold back on the booze, be kinder to telemarketers - the usual stuff. One of the main reasons New Year's Resolutions don't hold for more than a week or so is a lack of direction – there's no goal. A few slip-ups here and there, and you're off the wagon, washing your pub lunch down with a pint before going home to watch telly.

By giving your little promises big things to work towards, your year will take shape in a new way. Travel is a great way to focus your resolutions – you've got to be money-conscious to do it, healthy, friendly and open to trying new things. In this section we're going to look at adventures in 2014 that work with resolutions and shine like a beacon in your new year, giving you something to look forward to.

Adventure Go on an adventure

SUP Yoga: Wanderlust, Oahu

Yoga is the antithesis of cross-fit. You don't see people bragging about their Downward Dog pose on Facebook or trying to recruit newcomers with the fervor of a cult leader. It's a calm, balanced activity that chills people out and carves hidden muscles without making a scene. Quite recently, yoga has been married to another relaxing activity - stand up paddle boarding (or SUP for short) - one of the world's fastest growing recreational sports. Everyone is doing it – from celebs to serious athletes, little kids and older folk. SUP has been making a splash in every country with an ocean or open water - dams, rivers, lakes or reservoirs; in many ways, it's the inland answer to surfing. When combined with yoga, you get one of the most tranquil workouts known to humankind. Stand up paddle boards come in at around nine to twelve feet long and offer enough stability to perform yoga poses, with an added balance factor that makes it more challenging – yet still accessible to beginners.

While starting yoga or paddle boarding is an adventure on its own, you can give yourself something to work for by setting a goal – like a big festival. Wanderlust is the biggest yoga, SUP yoga, music and feel-good festival franchise of its kind, and this year it'll be taking place in five countries: Chile, Australia, Hawaii, USA and Canada. Each festival is headlined by the world's top yoga instructors, making it as much a learning experience as it is a party. Imagine going to an athletics festival where you can get lessons from Usain Bolt during the day and then have drinks with him in the evening over live music and amazing food.

SUP Yoga SUP Yoaga at Wanderlust, Oahu. Image by Melissa Longfellow

Visit The Marble Caves, Chile

There are certain places that floor your senses and bring you back to the reality that earth is a pretty beautiful and unique place to live. The Cuevas de Marmol, Marble Caves, do this. It's located on a far-removed glacial lake in Patagonia, sharing territory with Argentina, and only accessible by guided boat tour - getting there is an adventure on its own. It's expensive (especially compared to most of the more commercially accessible destinations in South America) and the weather can be tempestuous, but the rewards are worth the challenges. The caves have been formed over thousands of years, through waves pounding the cliff sides, forming a bizarre and spectacular cathedral of blue, swirling patterns. If you're an adventurous traveller looking for something massive to define your year, get planning for this.

Marble Caves Explore the magnificent Marble Caves in Chile

A Cuban Dance And Music Tour

We all know it's far easier to talk about taking a ramba or salsa class than actually going to one. When push comes to shove, it's a big effort after work and it's scary – most of us don't want to step foot on a dance floor before throwing back at least two glasses of wine. You can challenge yourself and get out of your shy shell in 2014 by combining dance and music with travel. Tourism in Cuba continues to rise, branching further afield than the streets of Havana and offering a unique alternative to the stock-standard beach-side holiday experience you'll get at a resort. Its rich culture of dance and music is more than just a stage show for tourists – it's a part of daily life. Intrepid are offering a nine day tour that takes you on a dance and music tour of Havana, Trinidad, Camaguey and Santiago de Cuba, offering dance classes, music workshops and performances. The experience is driven by local dancers and musicians, who'll have you moving before the end of your first Cuba Libre.

Dance and music tour Havana, Cuba

Go Ape At Home

We often look far away for adventure opportunities when there's actually a host of them within reach. If Cuba, Hawaii, Chile or Australia aren't on the cards for you this year, try visiting your nearest Go Ape venue for a forest adventure in your back yard. They offer zip lining, segway tours and treetop adventures in 29 destinations around the UK. I'll be the first to admit that segways aren't the most hip means of transport, but they're a world of fun, especially when you're cruising through the countryside with a group of friends. The zip lining tours are amazing and give you a unique reminder on the beauty of the British countryside. Starting in February, “visitors can experience a liberating sense of freedom as they swing through the forest on zip wires, cross wooden walkways and bridges, climb tree-top ladders and fly through the air on Tarzan Swings whilst safely attached to a harness.”

Segway Tour Go Ape Segway Tours

By Clayton Truscott

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Do Something For Others

Anyone who has ever volunteered before will tell you how rewarding the experience was. Even a small gesture can make a difference, and the relationship between volunteer and survivor is mutually beneficial. As a volunteer, you may be giving your time and resources, but what you get in return cannot be measured in monetary value. Unfortunately, many of us feel that we don't have the time to give to others. Instead of taking your usual trip to the beach, you can try out one of the thousands of volunteer travel opportunities around - give a helping hand to nature, people or animals. It's up to you, and it's a decision you'll find worth your while.

Animal rescue Take part in travel volunteer work

Reading Mentor, Zambia

It may sound obvious. It’s been done before so many times, and there are a wealth of other things to do. The truth is, there’s a reason being a reading mentor is so important. There’s a reason why it’s one of the most popular ways to volunteer, and while running with wolves and feeding endangered lions is something different and exciting, becoming a reading mentor really does make a difference to someone’s life. Imagine changing the course of someone’s life simply by donating a few minutes of your time? And now imagine doing this surrounded by new places, new experiences and a diversity of people. It’s something worth getting involved in at some point in your life, whether you’re in your 20s or 70s.

In the east of Zambia, some 600 kilometers away from Lusaka, is the South Luangwa Valley, a remote place where roads get washed away during the rainy season and children don’t have access to some of the most basic facilities. Surrounding this somewhat dreary atmosphere is Luangwa National Park, an expanse of towering greenery, fertile land and animals running wild in their natural habitat. While your journey and destination will be an unforgettable experience, it’s the work you’ll do as you embark on this journey that will really stay with you.

You can hop on board the Book Bus, which allows up to ten volunteers at a time, and travel to Luangwa Valley where you will not only provide the children in the village with books and painting utensils, but also help develop their literacy levels by teaching them how to read. Each week you’ll travel from school to school and provide learners and teachers with much needed resources. The Book Bus team has become a familiar face around town and locals are always happy and willing to welcome volunteers. For the next few weeks you’ll be roughing it out - staying in tents pitched on the river bank. Meals and cleaning are social affairs, with volunteers gathering around the fire to exchange stories and tucking into some delicious local cuisine.

Book Bus Become a reading mentor in Zambia

Elephant Conservation, Thailand

It’s no secret that tourism in Thailand has sky-rocketed over the last few years. With friendly people, delicious local cuisine, a rich history and sparkling beaches dotting the shores, it’s the perfect place for an inexpensive holiday. But have you ever thought of mixing your holiday with the array of wildlife in Thailand? It’s a far cry away from the fancy hotels and meals you’ll find in the city, but it’s an experience worth that extra bit of effort.

Just south of Pattaya, on the eastern gulf of Thailand, is the Elephant Mahout Project. Volunteers learn how to ride and care for these intelligent, gentle animals. There are various community activities you can join while learning about the traditional life of the Mahouts (people who ride elephants). Instead of working with different elephants every day, each volunteer gets one elephant to look after. You’ll learn how to verbally command your elephant to follow directions, help wash the elephant, feed her and keep her living area tidy. As a volunteer, you’re also encouraged to help with general maintenance of the camp, Mahout village and trekking trail. From watching the Mahouts make jewellery from the tail hair of elephants, to helping with the cooking in the village, you’re guaranteed to experience a different side of Thai culture. And don’t worry, there will be plenty of time to relax in a hammock and a read a book.

Elephant Conservation Elephant conservation in Thailand

Hurricane Haiyan Relief Work, Phillipines

While early warnings of Hurricane Haiyan pointed to a devastating storm, nobody expected the extent of the damage to be this severe. Despite the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people, the destruction was catastrophic and the death toll is said to reach almost 10,000. In other words, as much help as possible is needed in the Philippines, and you can combine travelling with volunteer work this December.

China-based Young Pioneer Tours will lead a special group of volunteers to the Philippines. Anyone is welcome, although they are looking for people with specialised skills (medical professionals, relief workers and construction workers). They will work with other volunteer teams in Bantayan to deliver supplies, remove debris and rebuild destroyed homes. Alternatively, you can join Projects Abroad, which will focus on restoring schools and setting up child-care centres to look after children. Volunteers can stay as long as they want to for a minimum of two weeks. The project will focus on areas in the northern part of Cebu Island, including Bogo City, Tabogan and San Remigio. All volunteers will be accommodated with secure host families and will be supported by full-time staff. The experience will be challenging, and is certainly not far the faint-hearted, but if you have the resources and abilities, you can contribute to restoring the Philippines to the beautiful islands many have come to know.

The Philippines Help with relief work in The Phillippines

Jaguar Expedition, Amazon

This one is a little different, and the more adventurous traveller would excel a bit more than someone who is looking for something tame and somewhat simple. With the Jaguar Expedition volunteers, venture out into the rough terrain and unknown wilderness of the Peruvian Amazon. Say goodbye to you cell phone, laptop and warm meals, because the Amazon is a whole different travel ball game. And while you’re waving off modernity and technology, welcome adventure, discoveries and enlightenment through the door, because that’s exactly what you’ll be experiencing.

The Jaguar Expedition focuses on both the community and the environment. Volunteers support conservation research and develop sustainable initiatives through studies and the collection of data. From localised surveys that determine the effectiveness of protecting the area, to finding alternative ways to limit tourist disturbances, volunteers are required to engage in a wide range of activities. Be warned though, as exciting as venturing to a new place might be, the work is intense and would probably suit people who enjoy studying and learning just as much as adventures. For some people, assessing the health of the ecosystem isn't as exciting as running with the jaguars, but this doesn't make it any less important. It’s an activity that’s a little more specialised, but very few things come close to spending your days surrounded by some of Mother Nature’s most beautiful creations.

Greek Islands Explore the Amazon in search of jaguars

By Caelyn Woolward

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Last Updated: January 2014