I’ve been making a point to evaluate my life in travel at the beginning each year and to set goals to be intentional about pursuing this love of mine. As I did last year, this New Year’s Eve I am taking stock of the past year’s goals and setting aims for the year that awaits us. I didn’t quite meet all of my goals this year, met one by accident, and relished the memories of the goals I did meet. To review my 2019 goals:
Visit 1 new country. Goal met! I spend three weeks in Northern Ireland (part of the United Kingdom) and the Republic of Ireland doing exploratory dissertation fieldwork. I talked to people about Brexit, religion and politics, and the legacy of the Troubles. You can read more about my trip on UNC’s Center for European Studies Medium blog.
Visit 1 new US state. I didn’t think I was going to meet this goal, because I traveled less this fall semester as I completed my dissertation prospectus (which is now defended, so I’m officially a PhD candidate!). However, when I spent Thanksgiving with a friend in State College, PA, reports of imminent snowstorms across Pennsylvania sent me south earlier than planned. Thanks to another friend and her family, and after a harrowing drive through some loosely-defined state roads (don’t ever rely on Google Maps; I could have taken an interstate even though the distance would have been greater), I added West Virginia to my list of states I’ve been to. Cue all of the John Denver singing. I’m still planning a trip to Morgantown for a TCU-WVU game at some point though!
Explore 1 new town in my current North Carolina home. Goal met a couple times over! When I met my family in Charlotte, we explored a beautiful young botanical garden in nearby Belmont, including an incredible greenhouse. I spent an afternoon in the small and eclectic Winston-Salem before attending a wedding outside the city. Before my crazy fall semester got into full swing, I also spent Labor Day enjoying the calm of the ocean at Carolina Beach, near Wilmington. Finally, my partner and I imbibed in true Munich fashion at Red Oak Brewery in Whitsett, NC, near Greensboro. Of all the places I’ve been visiting around the state, though, the Triangle area remains my favorite!
(Clockwise from left): Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont; Sunrise on Carolina Beach; Downtown Winston-Salem; Red Oak Brewery in Whitsett.
Explore 1 new town in Missouri or Illinois while I’m at my original home. I attempted to meet this goal by visiting the small town of Shelbyville, near where my grandmother grew up. Unfortunately, the purpose of our trip, a quilt shop, had closed, and there wasn’t much otherwise open. It is always sad to see a town struggling to grow, and I hope this one finds some creative ways to bring business to the town.
Set apart an hour every weekend for travel pursuits: blog development, trip planning, photography or language study, etc. This goal started off really well and was often used for planning my research trip in the spring. Come fall, it went out the window. Math classes are inherently time-consuming for me, I picked up a new language (Arabic!), and I was finalizing my prospectus, all while teaching, so relaxing Sunday mornings of travel writing soon turned into more mornings of studying. When I did prioritize this travel hour, I loved it and made progress on a few drafts I’ve yet to complete. I don’t think life is going to slow down in 2020, but hopefully I’ll find (make) some time to finish some fun writing.
Add a US section to this blog. This goal is tucked away in the above-mentioned partial drafts. My goal over the remainder of my winter break is to publish an introductory piece for this section of the blog.
What’s in store for 2020?
Taking into account my overestimation of time for travel writing at this stage of graduate school, I’m setting fewer, more realistic goals for 2020. I’ll be writing the bulk of my dissertation and entering the job market this year, so I am already preparing for a simultaneously exciting and exhausting 2020. Nevertheless, maintaining a traveler’s mindset throughout all stages of life is a top priority for me, so I want to set meaningful, if small goals:
- Write 10 travel blog posts. I’m going for a concrete output goal rather than a weekly time goal this year to allow for greater flexibility. I’ll start 2020 by writing about traveling within your home country (finally I’ll have the US section started!), then finish some pieces on Egypt and Italy I’ve been working on.
- Do something new in the North Carolina Triangle once a month. Even at home, I believe in being a traveler. With Durham and Raleigh both a short drive from me, it’s easy to experience new nature walks, new art, and amazing new food even after I’ve lived here for going on four years. I will definitely be sad to leave this place when I graduate.
- Visit one new place. I’m keeping it open this year to a new city, a new state, or a new country. Hopefully a few new places will pop up as job interview locations!
What are your travel goals for 2020? How will you start this next decade of adventures?