Second week into 2016, and Hashtag Jetlag is back and better than ever, amirite? Can you say the same? I'm not sure I can.
I'm not really one for New Year's resolutions. I am of the opinion that if there's a habit you want to break, a goal you want to achieve, or a behavior you want to initiate, why wait for January 1? It's just another day with an overpriced, overhyped, anticlimactic "holiday" attached to it. And probably a hangover too. Plus, when you inevitably break that resolution somewhere between mid-January and February, you'll also inevitably feel like shit about it. And where does that get you? Guilt-ridden and $86 poorer with nothing to show for it thanks to that gym membership you're not using.
All that said, maybe it's worth it to make a resolution every day. At the risk of sounding preachy and cheesy, why not wake up determined to be the best person you can be? Whether it's a matter of being nicer to shitheads (always a challenge), working harder, being truthful to yourself and your goals in life, or just like...you know...sucking a little less, why wait? Why put it off until some arbitrary date that someone else chose? (This was more or less the point of my "Giving Tuesday" rant that no one really got.) This just happens to coincide with the new year, but for completely non-resolution-related reasons, I have found myself on the path to a new volunteer opportunity that I'm really excited to start in a couple weeks.
This volunteer opportunity got me thinking about ways to make 2016 just fucking BETTER than 2015, because holy crap, what a piece of shit that year was.
So in general, I think travel is a great way to make yourself a better person, and not just because really good cheese and wine will make you more pleasant to be around. Rather, it does so because seeing other parts of the world will give you insight into how other people live, which will in turn put your life and all your problems (#firstworld or otherwise) into perspective and challenge stereotypes you never even knew you had. Really, I can't tell you how many people are still skeptical when I tell them that Parisians were nothing but warm, welcoming, and helpful to me and Jen the entire time we were there. But it's true! They aren't ALL snobs who hate Americans!
Look, I'd be lying if I said I go on vacation with the primary goal of becoming a more pleasant, more worldly person; really, that's just a fortunate byproduct. But if you're looking to take travel a step further, resolution-related or not, voluntourism is the way to go. Through some really rad organizations, you can go on vacation AND do some pretty cool shit while you're at it.
These aren't all the most affordable, but if you're looking for some incredibly unique and rewarding experiences, I've done some research and picked my top five for you to check out.
Considering this is a two-week program where you get to play with cheetahs and leopards, I actually find the price quite reasonable. But money aside, as you know, I am quite the cat lady, and hanging out with big cats in a wildlife sanctuary and then in the Namib Desert sounds so flipping awesome. Me-ow.
If you're one of the nature, outdoorsy types (unlike me), and you're interested in visiting Peru (like me), this is a cool gig contributing to reforestation efforts. Bonus: the time commitment is flexible -- one to 12 weeks. Sabbatical, anyone?
This is a longer-term deal, but if you go to Thailand to teach English, I will happily come visit you in Chiang Mai. And in the meantime, you'd be teaching English (or art) to Buddhist monks. Who are teenagers. Buddhist monk teenagers. I don't know why that strikes me as funny, but it does. I guess I never thought of them as being teenagers...ever. But anyway, that's neither here nor there. As someone who has recently become very interested in Buddhism (Jew-Bu?), I think this would be an amazing thing to do, and Thailand looks amazing.
Kids, beaches, and sports -- that's what this one has to offer. The communities of Ada Foah and Keta are coastal and are in need of swimming lessons and water education. Plus, as you know, sports are good for kids to get in physical activity and learn teamwork, responsibility, community, yada yada yada.
I snorkel, but I don't scuba dive. Frankly, it's one of the only things out there that actually scares the absolute shit out of me. That said, I think it's cool as hell and I wish I did it, largely to be able to go on a trip like this. If you are certified to dive, you can go to Nicaragua, dive the Caribbean coast, and help build an artificial reef giving a new home to the marine wildlife suffering from damaged ecosystems.
So, what will you do with 2016?