It’s a new year and a new decade, and a perfect time for reflection and goal setting. Maybe you’re not the resolution type, but a new year is always a perfect opportunity to take stock of what’s going well in your life, and where you want to make changes. Here are five things you should put on your to-do list to get done or at least started in this fresh new year.
- Travel – Of course we put traveling at the top of our list. It’s the single most important decision I made when I first decided to go overseas and it has had the biggest impact on my life and career. Hyperbole? Hardly. While not everyone makes a career out of teaching abroad, you certainly can. If it’s only a year or two, you’ll make great friends from around the world, eat a bunch of delicious food, and learn more about a new culture than all those people who only know foreign countries as places to vacation. This applies to you if you already live abroad too – go to Vietnam, it rocks. Start saving up for Japan – it costs more but it’s a must-see. Places I’ve never been but heard are incredible include Taiwan, Borneo, and the Philippines. While your cousin is going home for every holiday and arguing with family, you’re on a beach, in a high-rise, hiking through ruins, doing anything but the usual.
- Save some money – This is totally obvious but for so many young travelers with liberal arts degrees and the invisibility of youth, we forget to build up savings that becomes oh-so-necessary in a decade or two. It’s very easy to celebrate all the ways your life is different from your friends at home, so don’t forget to do the important things they’re doing too. The good thing about this is that it’s an easy thing to plan for the year, set up how much you want to save and how you’re going to do it, and then you can go back to your crossword.
- Learn a language – Learn some Chinese for crying out loud. Believe me, I understand how easy it is to live in China and not learn the language, but there are so many reasons to get started. Obviously it helps to be able to ask for directions or explain to your taxi driver to turn left, but it also changes how you look at the country you’re living in. When you understand a language, you start to understand how to think differently and it’s liberating. The only downside is when you go home and your mom asks you to “say something” in front of her friends and like a parrot you come with a sentence you learned, like “I’m from Idaho.” or whatever.
- Try something new – forgive me for the corny and obvious resolution. However, just like eating right and exercising, it’s a darn good resolution. This “something” can be anything really. Start knitting, try the darn chicken feet, buy a puzzle, brew beer, anything. Small is fine – just keep your brain moving and learning and exploring new interests. The older we get the more we go about business as usual, but don’t be complacent, be that interesting person who takes up the piano later in life.
- Write letters/call home – whether you’re already living abroad or about to, don’t forget to keep in touch with all your people at home. I know no one writes letters anymore, but you should. It’s cathartic to write, it’s an important skill, and who doesn’t love getting a letter? Make your dear old mom happy and write her. If you can’t, then call. Calling is so much easier now than it was 20 years ago when we had to cram in a smelly phone booth to check in with grandma. Now you have What’s App, Skype, WeChat, Viber (does anyone use that anymore?) or whatever other option is out there.
That’s a great start! Lets make 2020 our best year yet!