The Odyssey
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Happy Holidays — New Years Resolution
    Another year has passed, and it appears that the doom-sayers were wrong.  The Mayan calendar most likely will not spell the end of the world after all, which means we can make resolutions to show how we intend to improve ourselves in the coming year.  So, what promises have you made to yourself to improve not only your appearance, but how you will change to become a better person (whether that means better educated, better off financially, or better than that sweet talking brother-in-law who always seems to get whatever he wants).  If you want to become a better traveler, here are some suggestions that will help you along your way.

     Resolution #1 — Stay healthy: Self-improvement begins at home.  And it works best when we know we have room to improve (something we all can use!).  It should begin with our health.  The worse thing that can happen during any trip is to get sick.  Whether it's from a virus or over-indulging in the local drink, it is no fun to travel when you don't feel up to snuff.  One of the best ways to stay healthy is to get into better shape.  If you feel like you could stand to lose a few pounds or should exercise more, then that is something you should do. First, talk to you doctor.  Get a physical and make sure the slump you may feel yourself in isn't due to some medical condition.  If he gives you the nod, then go out and walk every day - one of the best ways to not only loose a few pounds, but you get fresh air and improve your circulation. 

    Resolution #2 — Lose the extra pounds: If you feel like you need to lose several pounds, and the walking just isn't going to get you to your goal, then look into a change to your eating habits.  Dieting is a word we all seem to dread, but if you are overweight it may be a requirement to get to a healthy size.  First rule to dieting is this: learn to push back from the table after one serving.  You aren't given seconds at a restaurant (unless it's a buffet), so you should refrain from having a second helping (or third, or fourth) during mealtimes at home.

     Resolution #3 — Eat right: The next rule would be to eat healthy.  Stay away from the boxed and canned meals.  Read the labels.  Have you ever seen how much salt a dill pickel has?  I have heard the argument that healthy eating is more expensive than the "dinner in a box" fare, but that is simply not true.  Healthy meals are more filling, while the boxed meals are little more than empty calories.  Healthy meals will improve your overall health and appearance, and give you less troubles that may require a visit to the doctor. 

    Resolution #4 & #5 — Drinking and smoking: So, after exercise and eating properly, what else can we do to improve our health?  Drink plenty of water.  I didn't say drink plenty of fluids; I said "water".  Avoid the sugary drinks and the alcohols.  Make them a treat rather than a mainstay.  And, by all means, if you smoke, consider quitting.  That is one resolution you can make that will literally add years to your life - which to many of us is too short as it is. 

Resolution #6 — Learn something new: So much for our body.  What other resolutions can we (as world travelers) make?  How about improving your mind?  Learn something that you can use in your journeys.  Take a language class and learn to speak a few phrases in the tongue of the nationals of you next destination.  Read about where you are going to go, so you know its history and geography.  That will make your trip that much more enjoyable.  If you can, talk to people who have been there or who are from there.  You will never have too much information. 

     Resolution #7 — Good manners: Learn about the customs and manners of some foreign destination.  Knowing what to do and what not to do will not only make your journey pleasant, it may build some new friendships.  And, as my father always told me, good manners don't cost anything.

    Resolution #8 — Return with memories: Planning on taking pictures?  Learn how to use your camera.  If you're going to take snapshots then all you need is you phone, but if you want some real photographs that you would be proud to share upon your return home, take out your owner’s manual and re-learn the function settings of your camera.  And practice, practice, practice.  Don't wait until you’re ready to pack your bags before you pull your camera from its case.  Stay practices by joining a photography club.  Learn how to take constructive criticism.  Even the best photographer know that with every picture there is always something that can be improved. 

    Resolution #9 — Try something new: Shed any fears you have strange places, strange people, strange customs, and strange foods.  Go out and eat something that is a traditional dish from some other nation.  If you only read murder mysteries, or only saw slasher movies, or only listened to hip-hop, you are missing out on so much more that life has to offer.  So why only eat American?  Give your taste buds a treat with something other than the normal fare.  Experiment.  Grow.  Live.

     Resolution #10 — Keep calm: Make a resolution that you will be better prepared for this year and for the trips you plan.  Tell yourself you will be more patient and will not let things which you cannot control bother you.  If your luggage is lost or damaged, it happens.  If there is something you could have done to prevent it, learn from the experience and make sure that it won't happen again.  If the person responsible is not around, don't take it out on whoever is conveniently there.  That's like stubbing your toe in a darkened room and then kicking the dog for not warning you.

     If you make several resolutions and only manage to keep one or two, then don't worry.  Any step forward is a step in the right direction