2020 resolutions: Make it best travel year
The beginning of the year is one of the most momentous times in most people’s lives. It marks the perfect opportunity to create new habits or change one’s lifestyle in A bid to have better experiences. With more and more Kenyans realising the vital role travel plays in mental and general well being, it seems to be featuring majorly in new year resolutions. HARRIET JAMES picked some experts’ brains on how you can make it work
In an era where happiness, mental and just general well-being are highly sought after, more and more individuals are appreciating the role travel plays as a great stress buster that helps the mind relax and rejuvenate. According to government statistics, one out of four Kenyans is suffering or will suffer from a mental illness at one point in their lives. This accounts for about 11.5 million Kenyans. Travel, particularly experiential one, assists us reinvent ourselves and grow our minds. It widens our perspective and makes us more aware and open to new experiences.
“It increases your sense of empathy by interacting with people, where you learn about different cultures, eat various dishes and also dance to different rhythms,” says psychologist Ruth Mwaura.
All the more reason why travel ought to be part of your plans this and any other year, and not just something undertaken during the Christmas season or only when going on honeymoon.
Emily Nderitu barely travelled before she understood its value, so much that she began a blog, Kenyatalii, to assist others gain knowledge and appreciation for the activity, and also plan trips. Travel has given her the opportunity to unwind, interact with the environment and explore various parts of the country.
“Before my blog, I did not travel much, apart from that occasional work related trip or just going upcountry to Central Kenya. I did, however, aspire to explore various parts of the country, and when I took my first camping safari to Naivasha, there was no turning back. Touring Kenya and discovering different locations, interacting with different cultures as well as unearthing some hidden gems that our nation has to offer has been a part of my life for more than five years now. The more I toured the country, the more I desired to travel,” she explains.
According to her, starting to travel in your own city is a great motivation for those who want to start this rewarding habit.
“To achieve a travelling tradition, pick out ideal locations you would like to tour, draw a budget, save and travel. A day trip around Nairobi should cost you very little: learn about the monuments of Nairobi, historic buildings that have a significance to Kenya pre and post-independence, tour the National Museum, Railway Museum and others, or even take a bus ride courtesy of KWS for a tour into the Nairobi National Park. David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage is another ideal place to tour,” she advises.
Set a bucket list
The first thing to come up with is a bucket list for 2020. This will guide your travel plans for the year. Research should follow. “Find out more about the destinations in your bucket list. Know about prices, the best times to visit, etc. You can get help from a tour operator. After collecting information, plan your budget. Save, and pay in bits if it works better for you, as some tour operators allow for this,” Eliud Ndungu, a travel planner and expert advises.
He also believes that even after drawing out a plan, one should be flexible to allow for any unforeseen circumstances.
Work with a travel agent
Sometimes it might be tough working out a travel plan on your own or even venturing into it, hence a travel agent comes in handy. Nowadays, there are various companies that always have deals and affordable plans for the weekend or longer. For Gitonga Wandai, a trekker and mountain climber, the year is already scheduled with different hiking destinations for both his clients and for his personal expeditions.
The mountaineer has been hiking since his campus days. He joined the International Award programme while in Kenyatta University, and his first hike with the team in Kangundo, Machakos county in 2004 made him fall in love with the activity, gain more knowledge on it and now, through his company Hikemaniak, he designs special itineraries for those who want to explore various parts of the country. He believes that people should take up hiking as a means of decluttering the mind from the hustle and bustle of the city, as it is calming and also helps one keep fit.
“For those looking for a good challenge, an eight to nine-hour hike in the Aberdares is just what the doctor ordered. Hiking is really personal self-care, allowing you to connect with yourself and nature,” Wandai says
According to him, for a person planning to begin hiking, a reasonable schedule would be at least once a month. “This allows you three other weekends to attend to your other family and social commitments. If prepping for bigger mountains such as Mount Kenya or Kilimanjaro, two to three hikes a month is recommended,” he adds.
Having a schedule of different destinations in the country where one wants to hike will assist in planning themselves in advance, in terms of time, budget and also what they need to buy for the trip,” he explains.
Save save save
Assess the destination and compare what you need for the trip with your financial situation. “Once you have a general idea of where you want to go, compile a spread sheet, list all your expenses versus what you’re willing to spend. Check what you can cut in order to make your dream a reality,” says Timothy Kamau Ng’ang’a, CEO of Wild Springs Adventures Tours and Travel. If your goal is too big, it will call for hard decisions to cover the required costs.
You should have long-term and short-term saving plan goals for your trip and, for cost-effectiveness, check for other cheaper ways of achieving your vacation. You can create a travel account and feed it monthly or even daily depending on your ability. Make it a painless, fun and natural habit, always focusing on the ultimate price of relaxing in your dream destination.
“A saving plan helps one to be consistent in saving, so as to achieve their travel goal in a stipulated time. For example, a trip costing Sh12,000 can be paid for in installments of Sh3,000 in four months,” adds Ng’ang’a.
Get travel insurance
You have identified a destination, researched and saved, but don’t just up and leave. Get travel insurance, especially for out of the country trips. Anything can go wrong during travel such as an accident or loss of belongings while in a strange land, and while insurance cannot help you avoid a misfortune, the monetary compensation will go a long way in assisting you deal with the situation.