Here comes 2009

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With new year’s eve just around the corner, I can expect to hear numerous people asking “where did 2008 go?” and “I can’t believe it’s been nine years since the millennium”. I often wonder to myself, had we not spent the majority of the year at work, would we be asking the same question? If we’d spent this year relaxing on a beautiful tropical island, would it matter what year it is or how the time had passed? Perhaps it’s just me.

New year’s eve is definitely a time for reflection, to see whether we’ve achieved everything we’ve wanted to achieve thus far and to decide what our future goals will be. I can safely say I’ve never met anyone who’s reached all of their new year goals by December 31st 11.59pm. However, we all fall into the trap of wishing for a prosperous new year and setting a handful of goals, even if we were far from completing the last batch.

 

happy_new_year_by_horeb

This year I feel like doing something a little different from the usual ‘lose weight goal’ or ‘save for something or other goal’, I want to throw caution to the wind and set myself something a little unusual. God knows I need a something to put a smile on my face with this massive economic recession looming.

Instead of feeling depressed after I’ve realised that I haven’t lost the love handles or can’t afford to up sticks and travel yet, I intend to set some exciting events which will highlight certain pockets of my 2009. I urge you to do the same, after all, what’s life without something to look forward to.

1) Spontaneous adventure. I would love to set aside a weekend or a bank holiday to jump on a train or head to the airport and travel to somewhere I’ve never been before. Grab a friend or partner and throw yourself into an unknown territory.

2) A hazy summer camping trip. Stick on your best walking shoes and find a field to set up your tent and bbq. Nothing could be better than laying on a blanket and basking in the summer sun whilst sipping on a cool beer.

3) Hire a barge. I’ve been thinking of this one for quite a while. I think it would be so extraordinary to wake up on a boat and set sail down a river, stopping at a rustic pub or two.

4)Visit relatives or have them to stay. This should really go without saying but I know I don’t see my family or extended family enough. 

5) Hire a house on the beach and invite your friends to stay. Get together and play Frisbee on the beach or dash into the freezing sea before retiring to a few hot toddies in the beach house. 

6) Go to a festival. The atmosphere at a festival is electric, I know it sounds corny but it just makes you feel alive.

7)Do something for charity. Whether it be a sponsored run, bike ride or even a cake sale.

8)Give blood. I am absolutely terrified of doing this and the thought of it  makes me go weak at the knees, however I know I need to get over this one day.

9) Take up a hobby. Instead of going home after work and watching the TV, get stuck into a hobby. I’ll be taking up dress making, wish me luck!

10)Do something to challenge your fears. Zorbing, wakeboarding, climbing, something physical which will push your limits. I plan to challenge my fear of heights in 2009.

11) One random act of kindness. Bit of an odd goal but one of the most important. Help a passing stranger with their groceries, hold a door open, help someone off the bus, give up your seat on the tube or pass your magazine to someone else on the train. I firmly believe kindness ripples like a stone dropped into water. Share a little happiness with someone else and it’ll be passed on.

12) Laugh as often and as much as you can.

13) My final point. Plan something spectacular for your birthday, it’s your one special day of the year. I hear Las Vegas or New York calling my name.

 

Happy new year.

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Two ideas for a winter holiday

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Something tells me I’m in the minority here, but I would rather spend a holiday in an Arctic wilderness than on a warm sunny beach. I guess to most people that sounds insane but I’m sure I can’t be alone in this. For me there is something hauntingly beautiful about expanses of snow and mountains that a crowded beach full of fat, sweaty tourists can never match.

The great thing about visiting one of the vast snowy expanses our planet has to offer is that you’ll most likely have huge areas of land all to yourself. Forget fighting the crowd for a tiny area of sand, you could be gliding over hundreds of miles of pristine snow instead. As we’re in the heart of winter here in the UK and it’s heading up to Christmas I thought I’d take a look at some of the winter wildernesses I’d most like to visit in the near future.

Alaska is the largest state in the US and also the northernmost. As a holiday destination it’s often overlooked, I’d guess mainly due to its remoteness and extreme climate. As a place to go for your week or two week break I’m not sure I’d really recommend it, especially travelling from the UK, but it is most certainly a place I would want to visit, probably as part of a longer travelling experience.

Boating in Alaska

Boating in Alaska

Northern lights over Alaska

Northern lights over Alaska

The state is larger than Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands and the UK all put together so there’s definitely scope for exploration and adventure while on holiday there. Alaska has more coastline than all the other US states combined and over three million lakes. Fishing and boating are popular activites along with dog sledding. A popular event is the Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race that starts in Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska. Dog sledding is the still a popular form of transport in parts of Alaska, due to the conditions making road and rail travel impractical. If you want to see some of the most beautiful scenery the USA has to offer then I’d definitely recommend trying to visit Alaska, just remember to pack warm clothes before you go.

For some of the most stunning coastlines in the world then Norway is a great choice for anyone wishing to visit naturally beautiful place with a sub-arctic climate. All along its vast western coastline are the famous fjords, some of the most striking scenery in the World.

A fjord in Norway, picture from Wikipedia

A fjord in Norway, picture from Wikipedia

Norway claimed second place in the 2008 Environmental Index, just behind Switzerland. The rankings are based on how well the country’s policies have positively benefitted its environment. Looking through the photos on www.visitnorway.com it’s easy to see why. The vast lakes of the fjords are right next to huge mountains and rolling hills and it’s hard to imagine anywhere that can match it. The beauty of the country is that it’s also rather sparsely populated, even the capital, Oslo, is home to just 573,388 people (there are 7,355,400 in London). It’s a long way for anyone coming from the USA but if you’re heading over to visit Europe then I’d certainly think strongly about going. English is pretty much a second language in Norway, so any American visiting should do just fine on that front.

Of course, there’s more to Norway than ‘just’ the fjords. The country is known as the Land of the Midnight Sun and areas to the north inside the arctic circle experience periods of perpetual darkness and light throughout the year. It’s also a great place to see the northern lights, much like Greenland that I blogged about earlier. For a true arctic experience you could also head out to Svalbard, an archipelago to the north of mainland Norway. From here you can go on skiing trips, snowmobile safaris and dog sledging trips. It’s also a fantastic place to see arctic wildlife such as polar bears and walruses. And if camping remember fire guards.

Hopefully with these two examples of winter climates I’ve shown that not every holiday must be in the scorching heat, there’s a lot of our planet to see and much of it is in the polar regions. The great thing about these places is that with their low populations they remain largely unspoiled by human inhabitation and are some of the last places you can go that haven’t been ruined.