New Year’s resolutions are like fresh flowers: They don’t last very long. So might it not be a good idea to dispense with New Year’s resolutions altogether? No, that would be the wrong approach.I have plenty of faith in my own willpower, but not in calendar dates. Anyway, you can make good travel plans with the wrong intentions – or go to the wrong place with the right intentions. I once decided to forgo alcohol for a while. I didn’t intend to let beer, wine, or even an eggnog truffle pass my lips – and then I flew to Brazil. Italy also turned out to be pretty much the wrong destination when I resolved to lose weight.
We don’t need to stress ourselves like that. It’s far better to go someplace first and then decide which bad habit would be easiest to lose. Smoking, in the U.S.; spitting, in Singapore; swatting every insect in sight because it might be a mosquito or the like – a Buddhist country. But watching how tolerantly Tibetans treat mosquitos hasn’t stopped me killing them, I just do it with compassion.
And of course, when making resolutions, it’s always a good idea to factor in the time of year as well as the destination. If I decide never to sin before nightfall, I should start in the winter. Taking small steps is well known to encourage progress, and a good resolution is like a good man who knows his limits – and the difference between a covenant with God, a deal he makes with himself, and a New Year’s resolution.
Our columnist, Helge Timmerberg, an irrepressible globetrotter since 1969, writes travel books and contributes monthly to our magazine.