Happy New Year!
New Years resolutions are usually about improvements we want to make during the year in order to become better humans. Grow or die, right? We challenge ourselves to advance in mind, body and spirit. Exploring fills me up in all of these areas. Take travel to new heights in 2023 by mapping out specific goals to nourish your entire being. Need some inspiration? We're glad you asked!
Cosy up to the fire with your journal and start dreaming ...
Before we break it down into mind-body-spirit, you need to envision a trip on the horizon - even if it is in the very distant future. Just setting the intention will plant the seed. You don't even have to have a particular destination in mind, just giddy excitement of new experiences that await. Our webinars starting late January will help you match the experiences you want with an itinerary to get you there.
Once you have that dreamy vision, we can break it down into travel goals. Let's begin...
My inner task-master likes nothing more than to hash out new goals. Of course we have to be careful not to overload ourselves with an exhaustive list that begs to be abandoned by mid-January! Let's take it slow and make it fun! These two categories can stretch your brain, but include a healthy dose of entertainment.
- Learn or improve your French
It is always a good idea to have at least a few basic phrases. Whether you are a complete novice, or know quite a bit of French already, there is always room for improvement! I do all of these things on a regular basis!
Take a class: check out your local chapter of the Alliance Française or other private French classes in your area. (We are lucky to have so many options in Minneapolis/St Paul, including Coucou Minneapolis). If you don't have local classes, there are many on-line options out there as well. (Our next blog post features some unique class options in France)
Podcasts: these are a great way to test your listening skills, and there are podcasts appropriate for all levels. Parlez Away by Babbel and French in Slow are just a few for beginners. Inner French is great for those at the intermediate level. At the advanced level you can choose so many topics of interest. I especially love On Va Deguster by François-Regis Gaudry that has a gastronomic topic each week.
French Films/TV Series: Netflix has so many wonderful options, but there is also TV5 Monde, plus channels seem to keep popping up with new content. While I love a good French film, there is a lot of learning that comes from watching a series. You get to know the accents and a lot of slang through the different characters. You can keep the subtitles on, in French or English, to assist with understanding.
Books and Magazines: I always have at least one French novel by my bedside. Reading aloud helps with pronunciation, and books help develop our vocabulary. French magazines such as Bien Dire help keep current with events. This one also has an audio component to improve listening skills. For a challenge, listen then repeat!
- Research a new area
Regions: Although France is a rather small country, there is so much packed in to every region! I spend countless hours researching before I travel. Not everyone has the time (or patience!) to be the research geek that I am, so I will be doing regional webinars to spell it all out in a concise and entertaining way, starting later this month.
Topics: If studying new areas isn't your thing, perhaps you like art or history, or want to learn more about French wines or gastronomy. There are tons of webinars for all interests. I particularly like "The Wine Workshop" by Jason Kallsen. He presents lots of information in a very relaxed and unpretentious manner. (Each workshop has a different theme, not all of them French, so you can choose what speaks to you).
We stretched your brain a bit, so now how about your body ...
Travel takes its toll on your body! Especially with the added risk of catching COVID or any of the other trending diseases. Plan to start your trip in tip top shape - well-rested, with a strong immune system and the strength to hoist that heavy suitcase wherever it needs to go! It may seem a bit extreme to "train" for a trip. I'm not suggesting you need to hire a personal trainer, but if you have been a bit sedentary you may want to amp up your activity level a bit before taking off. Here are some easy but practical ways to build the strength and endurance you will need.
- Walk: The first time I went to Paris as a student, I lost 10 pounds in 2 weeks. We followed the brisk pace of my professor to 3 different sites a day, and at one point I was left in the dust! (Don't worry - I went shopping when I lost the group!) Cities require walking, even if you take public transportation. When we are in Nice, I easily get in 15-20,000 steps per day. Compare that to my somewhat rural location in Minnesota where it is impossible to walk to a shop or restaurant. To stay in shape, I go for daily walks. It isn't the same, but it does help keep me in shape for travel. I also love to hike, which prepares me for those lovely perched villages and endless staircases! (For an added bonus, listen to French music or podcasts while you walk!)
- Bike: Home of the Tour de France, it's no surprise that the French love cycling. And with the growing popularity of electric bikes, it is easier than ever to see the countryside on 2-wheels. Planning even a half-day bike tour can add a new element to your trip. I had my very first experiences on electric bikes this past fall, and I am hooked. The first was absolutely magical - cycling around the island of Ouessant off the coast of Brittany. (See photos below). I wouldn't want to explore this island any other way. Later we switched gears and did a bike trip up the hills of Nice to picnic at a winery. Equally as amazing! The e-bikes still require you to pedal - it is just as if your friend gives you a nice push when you need help - so you will want to make sure you bike around a bit at home if you haven't ridden for 20 years!
- Lift weights: You don't have to become a gym junkie, but building your strength will definitely make travel easier. Try pilates or yoga, and use your body weight or hand weights to keep those muscles strong and fit. Or go all in! I forgot how much I loved lifting weights in high school until I went to the gym with my son. I ended up joining and have been feeling so much more energetic.
I have to believe that the purest reason we travel is to feed our soul.
The Old: Revisiting old favorites gives you that "at home" peace. You feel connected to a place and grow a deeper bond every time you go. Each time you learn more and the roots take hold a bit more.
“Once a year, go someplace you've never been before.” — Anonymous.
The New: There is something special about discovering something brand new. It opens all of your senses and makes you feel truly alive. If I am addicted to anything, it is this amazing feeling. Arriving at a new location, I am giddy with excitement and can't wait to take it all in. It requires stepping out of your comfort zone sometimes, but it is worth it.
If going to a new place isn't an option, why not try a new experience instead? Try a cooking class, travel by riverboat or steam train, attend a concert or sporting event ... there are endless possibilities out there to surprise and delight you.
Choose your word
I don't remember where I first heard about choosing your word for the year, but I have done it for longer than I can remember. (Next year's resolution - work on memory). Having a word to guide your year rather than a long list of resolutions is simple and efficient. I choose a word (or rather, it seems to choose me) that encompasses all aspects of my life - body/mind/spirit. This year my word is (drumroll please .... ) Ease. This may seem like a copout, or rather lame, but I guarantee I have put great thought into it. After a couple of years of post-pandemic struggle, I am ready to get into a new rhythm. To stop overthinking and pushing too hard, but to let things come easily, in their own time. Not that I won't challenge myself, (I prefer to grow, not die) but I will make it my intention to get out of my own way, and intuitively advance with ease.
My culminating challenge for my body/mind/spirit: St Jacques de Compostelle in May, 2023. I will do 10 days of this pilgrimage trail, leaving from Le Puy-en-Velay. And if I do it right, I will not only enrich my entire being, but do it with ease.
Meilleurs Voeux pour le Nouvel An!