Many people’s New Year’s resolutions go something like this: I resolve to visit ... fill-in-the-blank. I could spend hours daydreaming about how to fill that blank, but instead I’d like to share some of what I learned in the past year, and what mini-resolutions I’ve set as a result.

• Be open to change. Two nights before I headed to Greensboro, Ala., my Airbnb hostess told me that the house I’d rented was unavailable. Pipes had burst during a cold snap. Then she noted that as the director of an economic development organization, she has the keys to an old schoolhouse that could lodge a crowd. My friends and I accepted, but we arrived with trepidation. Turns out, the schoolhouse was perfect, with sleeping nooks so everyone had their own space even as we felt communal.

• Remember that sometimes smaller is better. By the time I decided to hop over to Nantucket ahead of a weekend in Boston, return flights to Boston on JetBlue were filled. I unearthed a seat instead on Cape Air, a tiny company with tiny planes. Waiting to board the puddle-jumper on a Friday afternoon, a room full of fliers worried about their canceled flights on major airlines; planes were stuck up and down the Eastern Seaboard due to thunderstorms. I and my seven fellow passengers were among the only to get out that night, as no storms threatened the humble Boston-Nantucket route.

• Reduce my use of plastics. On Maui, I saw a gigantic mound of tangled plastic refuse wash up at a beach. It was an ugly eye-opener.

• Learn the 911 equivalent of any country I visit, and know the address of my lodging plus how to say it in the local language. Also, sign up for the State Department’s Smart Traveler program. There were a few tragic stories of Americans dying overseas this year. I can’t say that these steps would have helped those travelers, but their stories were a reminder that we’re not immune to trouble while discovering new lands.


Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.