It’s that time again when we look back on the previous year and look ahead to a new year. It’s a time when I evaluate two of my great loves—food and travel. Did they meet my expectations? Did they give me joy? What did my food and travel experiences teach me? And what, if anything, do I want to change around food and travel in the New Year?
Two things about food and travel tend to be true for many of us. We get stuck in ‘food ruts,’ eating the same foods at the same places over and over. And we either put off travel until ‘next year’ or ‘when we have more money’ or we settle for returning to the same places again and again. Like you, I’m guilty of both of these things. The key to letting food and travel change you is to get out of your comfort zone and explore new things.
Here are a few resolutions to perk up your food and travel experiences in the New Year.
1. Go somewhere really new. Familiar is comfortable, even when it’s boring. I know a woman who travels with her family every year to the same park. They even camp in the same spot—every year. While there’s nothing wrong with returning to someplace you love, consider exploring a different place. Take a different trail, look for a different park, consider a new country, especially one that has a really different culture like Bali, Morocco, or China where the foods, the language and the customs aren’t familiar. You’ll only grow if you get out of your comfort zone and try something new.
2. Explore the area’s cuisine. Eating regional food is the entire premise of Real Food Traveler.com, but I’m as guilty as anyone of relying on foods I know and love and not exploring more widely. In the New Year, commit to trying each area’s ‘signature food.’ If you’re in Louisiana, try the boudin (rice and pork sausage) or cracklins (crispy fried pork skin). In Maine, put on that lobster bib and try whole steamed lobster. In Spain, be sure to enjoy the Iberico ham. Never eaten whelk? Try it; it’s delicious. The possibilities are endless.
3. Eat more REAL food. I’ve never been a big junk food eater, but increasingly, at least in North America, processed foods are more and more available. I know, I know, they’re easy; they’re convenient. They’re also filled with fat, sugar, and salt. Try eating foods that have fewer ingredients. If you can’t pronounce or don’t know the ingredients on a food label, skip it. Try shopping the perimeter at your local grocery store. That’s where you’ll find fruits, veggies, lean meats, and dairy. And, as much as possible, go for local foods. They’re fresher, tastier, they support local farmers and producers, and the carbon footprint is less because these foods don’t have to be shipped thousands of miles to get to your plate.
4. Make great food and travel a budget priority. You put your money toward things that are a priority for you. In the New Year, consider making great food and interesting travel a priority. For years, I didn’t have money to eat out or travel because I didn’t make it a priority and save for it. When I had the time, I wouldn’t have any money. So I committed to saving 5% out of every check in a travel account. Guess what? Now I have the money.
The other reason to travel now is that time is a limited commodity for all of us. Really, friends. None of us have unlimited time. Right now I have a friend in her early 60s who has just entered hospice. Time for enjoying food and travel has run out for her. And none of us has a guarantee about the time or good health we have left. If traveling the world and exploring wonderful sights, exotic foods, and interesting people is important to you, make time for it and do it now.
Happy travels and good eating in the New Year. – Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor