Ten travel resolutions for 2017
2016 was an incredible year for travel.
In the wider travel world, TripAdvisor banned ticket sales to many animal attractions and David Attenborough's Planet Earth II offered world class footage of the natural world, and pleaded viewers to look after the environment.
We have exciting plans for 2017, and these resolutions will hopefully make our travel experiences our best yet - both for us and the world around us.
Nº 1 - Be better photographers
Until now, we've been fairly relaxed when it comes to taking photographs. We have both used DSLRs in the past, but these were long ago donated to siblings. Since leaving England, we've managed to get some surprisingly good shots with our iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy S6, Nikon AW110 and Matt's (now kaput) Panasonic Lumix TZ40.
The time has come for us to invest more time and effort in our photography: we love capturing moments through the lens and we want to do justice to the destinations we visit, with higher-quality and carefully edited images.
We have our eye on the Canon 760D and a few different lenses to allow us to take awesome landscape and portrait shots. Matt is also keen to purchase a drone... We're learning more about travel photography and videography online and are going to be a lot more selective with the photographs that we use on this blog and our Instagram feed.
Nº 2 - Be great global ambassadors for the united kingdom
We cringe at the thought of the 'Brits abroad' stereotype: drunken, sunburnt, shouty characters eating fry-ups in their Union Jack t-shirts, who think that if they say things slowly and patronising enough, the locals will understand their broken English. This list of complaints by British holidaymakers is hilarious, and only makes our desire to be responsible ambassadors for the UK even stronger.
We want people who meet us to have a positive impression of people from our country, which we hope will be enforced, rather than counteracted, by future visitors.
Nº 3 - Take things slow and be more spontaneous
Time is a luxury, and 2017 will be the first year that we have had more than a month of vacation to play with.
In the past, advance planning has been essential to our trips. In 2017 we are going to make the most of our (relative) freedom from time constraints. This will be more of a challenge for Rachel than Matt, who is used to organising travel and packing as much into every day, but we're determined to experience slow travel, go where the wind takes us and hopefully change our travel habits for the future.
Nº 4 - Pack Smarter
In the past six months we've lived in a campervan during our Western Australia road trip, taken a two-week holiday to Bali, explored New South Wales' vineyards, national parks and beaches, and experienced city life in Sydney.
We've realised what we couldn't live without and what would have been best left at home.
With 100 litres of backpack space between us, we vow to prioritise and downsize, replacing impractical items with high-quality gear and ruthlessly ridding ourselves of the clothes, toiletries and entertainment that will weigh us down.
Nº 5 - Engage with local life
With tourist shuttles and tour groups sometimes being the convenient and inexpensive option, it can be easy to visit a place and have minimal interaction with the locals.
Whilst we always try to engage with local tour guides and visit authentic restaurants when we travel, we know we can do more. This means learning more than 'hello' and 'thank you' in the local language, starting more conversations, finding more homestays, and being more open to new experiences to increase our chances of having meaningful encounters.
Nº 6 - Say 'yes'
Travel fatigue and fear of the unknown are two culprits that have encouraged us to say 'no' in the past. We want to make 2017 the year of saying 'yes': to doing that sky dive, to eating that questionable, unidentified meat dish, to accompanying that local back to their family home for dinner.
And although sleep is important, we want to put aside those feelings of groggy tiredness and head to the night market - it sure beats room service in a dodgy hotel!
Nº 7 - Look after ourselves
We're guilty of letting ourselves go on the road... of drinking copious amounts of cheap beer, binging on deep-fried street food and lazing about in the sun, and then being shocked when we step on the scales back at home.
It's easy to forget about your health and fitness when travelling, and doing so can have more devastating consequences than just putting on a few pounds.
We are going to be keeping our first aid kit stocked up, researching the health information of each country we visit, and making sure we are exercising and eating (relatively) healthily on our travels.
Nº 8 - Travel sustainably and responsibly
News of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef saddened many of us around the globe, but seeing the amount of rubbish on the streets of Bali was enough to make us realise that we can make small changes to travel more responsibly, and sustainably.
We're going to invest in a water purifier or filter such as these to avoid buying so many plastic bottles, choose independent accommodation, find ethical organisations when we wish to join a tour group and take public transport.
Nº 9 - Read more books
No, we're not going to start reading Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings!
The 'History' sections of the Lonely Planet guidebooks may be interesting, but they cannot offer a insightful awareness into a country in a matter of pages. Whilst we understand that living in a country is the best way to get to grips with local society, there are some brilliant books that offer authentic accounts of past events, politics and daily life.
Being aware of a country's sufferings, celebrations and customs makes travelling more worthwhile and enjoyable.
During our English degree, we read a number of travel and history books on Afghanistan (some of which are featured here) and found it to be an enlightening way to learn about a new country.
Nº 10 - Detox from digital technology
Having a travel blog and associated social media accounts makes this difficult sometimes, but we want to unplug and forget about staying connected for at least one week in 2017.