Happy New Year one and all! I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been one for resolutions. They’re so easily broken by about the middle of January, and as someone with a birthday in what is considered one of the most gloomy of months, I can’t promise I won’t do anything I please to celebrate another year on this great planet.
This isn’t just a new year though, it’s a new decade and so it’s a good time to take stock, and I am making a commitment to make small changes in order to live a better, more rounded and healthier lifestyle, both at home and when I travel. So I’m looking at ways to lead a better, fitter life, but also at some of the best destinations to visit in 2020 for more fulfilling travels. It’s a new year, new you approach to my home and travel life.
Moving swiftly from one year into the next, we can all too quickly forget the importance of looking after yourself and finding a little me time.
Whether it’s making changes towards a healthier lifestyle at home, finding ways to improve our diet and sleep, finding time to relax, treating ourselves with a wellness break, or learning a new skill, there are many ways to become a better version of yourself this year.
Here’s our take on ways to refocus on your mind, body and soul this year, including where to travel in 2020 and things you can do to make a difference at home.
Where to travel in 2020 to discover a new you
Travel is a wonderful way to awaken your senses or help you discover a new talent or flair for something you never realised you had. We have taken part in numerous creative travels on our adventures and would thoroughly recommend creativity as a way to engage with your destination more deeply.
Here are seven places to help you discover a new you, be that with a cooking experience, art holiday, learning a new language, or perhaps with a restorative break.
1. Learn to cook in Thailand
Thai food is so tastily authentic it seems impossible to recreate the divine food experiences there back home.
But after a class at the internationally-renowned Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts (SITCA), in Koh Samui, you will have learnt how to create a Thai masterpiece in less than three hours. I loved my class there and have cooked Thai food regularly since – bringing the rounded flavours of Thai herbs to dinner parties and every day dining.
If you’re a real foodie, treat yourself to SITCA’s six day cultural immersion course to really discover the art of Thai cooking and culture, with sixty dishes to master from spicy papaya salad to stir-fry. You can also read about another of our Thai cooking experiences, learning to cook while helping transform the lives of families in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand.
2. Get arty in France
France’s rolling fields of fragrant, purple lavender and everlasting sunshine all sound worthy of a painting.
If you’ve ever longed to pick up a paint brush, book a holiday to Provence for some real inspiration and a week to paint to your heart’s content. And you won’t need to venture far to spark some ideas, with cherry orchards, vineyards and olive groves all vying for their spot on your canvas.
Arts in Provence runs summer courses of acrylics, oils, watercolours or mixed media with prices starting at €885 for one-week of tuition including full-board accommodation.
3. Master Spanish in Spain
Learning a language can be tricky, but combining it with a holiday can be a perfect way to learn.
There are an overwhelming number of courses and locations in Spain where you can learn the lingo, but we think there’s something quite special about Barcelona. Camino Barcelona is located in the heart of the city, so it won’t take long before you can practice what you’ve learnt in the classroom out in the real world.
Priding itself on being the city’s only language school offering accommodation, the school has received great reviews and offers real-life scenarios with guided walks to help you perfect your dialect.
4. Snap the perfect photo in Greece
If you have always had a bit of flair with point and shoot cameras and longed to capture life like a pro, a photography course is a must for a new you.
And if we could handpick one place where you should travel in 2020 to do it, it would be Greece. Azure blues, whitewashed buildings and ideal natural light are the sort of picture-perfect settings you can enjoy there.
Santorini-based Ollie Taylor Photography offers tours in May, June and October to help take your skills to a new level, with the opportunity to picture both the iconic and lesser-known island sights at various times of day during a one-week stay on the island.
For something less intense, Shotz Tours offers a one-day private tour of the island to help you find the best places for your compositions, while also brushing up on your photography craft.
5. Treat your body like a temple in India
We often talk about spa breaks and getting away from it all, and a wellness retreat in the foothills of the Himalayas certainly fits the bill. Ananda Spa offers a combination of Ayurveda and international wellness treatments, with numerous therapies tailored to a personalised plan to treat the mind, body and soul.
Centred on luxury, the spa overlooks the River Ganges providing a tranquil setting in which to rediscover your inner self.
6. Learn to scuba dive in the Maldives
The Maldives is one of the most luxurious locations for learning to scuba dive. Plus it’s one of the most colourful, with rich marine life to observe – from elaborate coral reefs to playful dolphins.
With 26 atolls to choose from, diving in the Maldives’ extraordinarily calm waters is more a leisurely drift, so it’s made for beginners hoping to find their feet beneath the waves.
There are countless operators offering diving courses, but you can’t go wrong with the acclaimed Banyan Tree brand of hotels and resorts. Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru is home to a PADI Gold Palm 5-Star Resort Dive Centre and a Marine Lab run by certified professionals.
And after a day out at sea, you can relax in your luxury accommodation and toast the new you.
7. Cheese and wine tasting in Italy
Become the expert at your next dinner party after a stay in a beautifully converted 17th century farmhouse in Tuscany where you’ll learn all about olive oil, wine and cheese-making with Go Learn To.
During a three-night stay amid the region’s rolling hills, you will visit the estate’s vineyards and get to taste the delectable fruits of the farm’s labour.
Surrounded by olive groves, orchards and a vineyard, the charming resort setting between Pisa and Volterra is well-positioned for exquisite food adventures.
Planning on doing something different in 2017, inspire us all and share it below.
Discover a new you at home
You don’t need to travel far to find ways to improve your lifestyle. Here’s some great products we discovered recently that will make a difference to you in 2020.
1. Stand and deliver: work from a Varidesk
I am writing this from my new standing desk, which I hope is going to help make me more active. You see amid all those trips around the world, where I might be hot-footing it around a city or even hiking in the mountains (well, not so much of the hiking, but I do walk a lot on trips), I lead an oft sedentary lifestyle. Really it’s a sorry tale of two lives – I go from 0-100mph between my home work life and my travel work life.
So when I was approached by Varidesk to “office test” their new range of stand up desks I thought it would also be a great opportunity for me to get moving this new year. Varidesk claims that standing at your desk for just four hours a day, five days a week can burn up to 1,000 more calories a week, plus standing is better for your posture and reduces back pain.
I have to admit standing isn’t the easiest of positions for me, as I usually will feel some discomfort in my legs and feet after a while, but the the Varidesk has two solutions for this. First, it is actually a sit-stand desk that sits right on top of your existing desk, meaning that you can convert it from standing to sitting in seconds.Next, you can also purchase mats to go with your Varidesk. There are three versions but I tried the activemat which has ridges at the front and sides which you can use to stretch your leg muscles a little – you could even do a few mini lunges if you wished. I was surprised at just how comfortable the active mat was for me, and how much I have taken to standing and working. It is said to make you more productive – perhaps because when you’re standing you’re more alert – and I think that’s actually the case.
It has certainly improved my working environment and also helped with my new year fitness regime. I’m feeling rather smug that I can work and get just a little fitter at the same time.
There were a few small downsides – the desk and mat aren’t enormous, but they did take up a bit more space than I had anticipated, especially the mat. So if you have a small office it may overwhelm your space. There is a tiny bit of shake to the desk when it’s fully extending and you’re typing, but it isn’t too bad. My greater concern though was that the active mat seems to have an oily film over it when it’s new, which makes it slippery, as well as the floor around it. After a few days that started to wear off, but it is a bit hazardous on something you’re supposed to stand on.
All round though I would recommend a Varidesk and active mat – it’s transformed the way I work and my general well-being in the office, and I’m really impressed with it.
2. Sleep well with Kokoon
It’s perhaps unusual to consider using a pair of headphones to help you get off to sleep. But perhaps you haven’t come across Kokoon before.
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to staying healthy and reducing stress levels. But so many of us suffer from insomnia, or poor sleep – getting just a few hours, or we’re woken by a snoring partner.
This is where Kokoon comes in. They have created headphones with sleep scientists, to help you relax and sleep using audio based on clinically proven techniques.
The headphones work with you to adjust audio so you are not disturbed when you sleep, meanwhile they have ventilated ear-cups made from soft silicone that molds to the shape of your head, plus silicone sensors in the headphones so you don’t even feel them as they monitor your sleep patterns. The Kokoon app controls the sounds you listen to, or you can play your own music as you nod off into blissful slumber.
Add to that they are just like other wireless headphones, which you can connect to your devices to listen to music at home or when you travel.
Surely we all owe it to ourselves to be as healthy physically and mentally as possible, and I’m sure it helps our families to live better lives with us too. Hopefully, 2020 will be a whole lot better for all of us if we can make use of some of the suggestions here. A new year and a new you awaits.