Lee Tulloch is an Australian-based best-selling novelist, columnist, editor and writer.

I’m not usually a New Year resolution kind of person, but there is definitely room for improvement. Here are some thoughts on how I can do better in 2024.

Stop lining up early at the boarding gate

I’ve always been one of those people eager to get on the plane. Perhaps it’s my natural impatience, but it has always made sense to me to get on first to avoid the bunfight over space in the overhead lockers by snagging a spot when they’re empty. I can also get all my things sorted tidily before my fellow passengers occupy their seats.

The downside is a lot of standing around, as often departure time is pushed back. I was struck by this recent article about “gate lice”. Do the ground staff really see me as annoying vermin? Am I driven by competition rather than practicality? I’ve resolved to take a chill pill and sashay up to the gate in a leisurely manner, once people have started to board. This will take a lot of discipline, however.

Pack better – and lighter

No matter how often I travel, I always bring clothing I never wear and beauty products (hello sheet face masks) I never use. I always leave behind a garment or shoe that turned out to be essential. The problem is that I’m often packing in the middle of summer for a winter destination or vice versa and my imagination fails me.

The exception is when I’ve chosen to ditch the big suitcase and travel with only carry-on. I’m surprised how little I need – how much can be reworn, and how many items I can wash on the road. Once upon a time, I’d recommend that everyone travelled with something dressy in their suitcase in case they had an impromptu invitation to a glamorous event. Now I think a pair of dangling earrings would be enough. Travelling light is incredibly liberating.

Nail down another language

I continue to be envious of people who can speak more than one language. My school French is terrible and wasn’t improved much by two years of living there. But I’ve found what I do know to be really useful – and not just in France. It also is a gateway to the other romance languages, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian and Italian. Because it was the language of diplomats it continues to have a lasting influence in many countries, including former colonies such as Morocco.

Once I’ve knocked over French, I’d like to be conversational in the other Romance languages. It’s polite to speak some words native to the country you’re visiting. I’m lazy and slip into English too often.

Be a more generous tipper

I imagine few travellers have spending more on their New Year’s list, but I’ve come to believe that the direct exchange of wealth between those fortunate enough to travel and those on the ground who make things happen for us is one of the most positive aspects of travel, along with the shared understanding between cultures.

Like most Australians, I’m uncomfortable with it because tipping doesn’t seem egalitarian, and being a non-tipping culture we’re awkward with the nuances. I’m also disapproving of economies that don’t pay their workers well enough, forcing them to live on tips.

But that’s irrelevant here. Service workers, like housekeepers and porters, are dependent on us for part of their wages and if we’re using their services, we need to stump up. Our weak Aussie dollar makes me a bit “careful” with what I tip, so I resolve to be more generous this year.

Fly less, train more

Sigh. Many of my fellow travel writers, based in Europe, barely fly any more but take advantage of the brilliant train network on their doorstops and only fly when they’re crossing oceans.

Travellers here are, as we know, far less fortunate. We can’t take a train to London. (Nor can we easily train within our own country.) But with good planning, we can limit the number of flights we take when we’ve arrived.

It’s not even a matter of having the time – sometimes the eco-friendly route by land is even faster than planes, given the long security lines and delays at airports. Trains tend to be more reliable and, frankly, more enjoyable, especially when you’ve kept your luggage to a minimum. I flew from Venice to Lisbon last year. This year, for similar journeys, I’ll factor in a train.

– traveller.com.au

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