Every year around this time, everyone talks about one thing: new goals for the new year. And without a doubt, every time, we share big plans with others, spending an entire evening rambling and trying to prove to ourselves that we can achieve whatever we set our minds to.
Why do we do that, though?
Why do we have the urge to tell others, to share our life plans with external stakeholders, to allow them the power to hold or words against us when we fail?
It’s because we all feel the need to be accountable. Deep within us, we know that letting someone in on a secret or running an idea by them helps solidify it. The more the number of people know about our plan and agree with it, the stronger is the possibility of its success.
That’s why most of us inflict our most profound plans and ideas in the world, in the last few days of the year because new years are new beginnings.
I’ve never made a special New Year’s Resolution (or NYR as the text-speakers call it) because I don’t need the first of January to start working on something I care about. Any day is the beginning of a new year for me. I know what I want to do next week or next month, and what I want to achieve by the end of the year.
That said, sometimes I don’t know what I want to do this week. And that’s fine too. Perhaps I’ll go to work and see what challenges come at me.
It’s nice to have someone enquire how things are going and offer to help, but we needn’t force ourselves to figure out a goal so that we have something to say when it’s our turn.
“What’s your resolution for this year?” — That question is a mere conversation starter. Perhaps a good way to diffuse the tension around a family dinner table or at a boring work party.
Family and friends might wish us well when we tell them we want to lose 15 pounds. Or make a ton of money, or end debt, or work harder, or spend more time for personal wellness.
Beyond that, however, it doesn’t matter to other people what our resolution is or why we chose that one in particular.
But the idea of forming a plan, a proper outline for how I want the rest of my days to turn out is a lot of pressure. After all, no matter how much we plan and plan, life will throw surprises and disasters our way.
New Year’s resolutions are overrated. People make something up every year and promise to uphold it even if they know they won’t. New Year’s Eve isn’t about trying to think of something almost achievable that we don’t feel inadequate at the party later, but it’s more about reflecting on our mistakes from the previous year and learn never to make those mistakes again.
Real goals don’t sound like weak NYRs. Real goals are inclusive of the unfamiliar, respective of the uncontrollable, and realistic to the core.
I’m not as well-travelled as I’d like to be, but everywhere I’ve been to, I’ve been with other people. Even my three visits to the US were work trips with colleagues close behind me. However, when we weren’t working, and when it was time to explore, I’d leave them to their plans and fly solo.
I’ve always been that way, and I’ve never felt bad about it either. My reasons are simple enough: I don’t want to go to the same places they do, and I don’t want to do the same activities as they. When I’m travelling with colleagues, no matter where we’re at, they will always want to go shopping. Which is fine by me, except they have people to give things to and I don’t. I’ve never been much of a shopaholic or the typical tourist, but my colleagues are. And that’s the reason I head out on my own. Of course, it’s unfair to ask them to spend time with me on activities they’d rather not indulge in.
With such strong reasoning, I discovered the joys of travelling solo. And it taught me a lot of great things too. For the first time, I was responsible for myself. And it wasn’t as scary as my parents had told me it’d be. On the contrary, it was fun. It was, of course, little unnerving at times, when I struggled to figure out the way ahead or how to handle situations, but I got through them fine. And I realised the benefits of solo travel far outweighed its negatives.
The inevitable factor about social living is that we have to compromise. And I did compromise in my work trips, with the flight preferences, hotel reservations, seats and transport modes, and sometimes even food. But as soon as I ventured on my own, I didn’t have to compromise anymore. I could take the bus if I wanted to or save time eating a bagel on the way rather than waiting for my co-travellers to finish a five-course veal meal. I could, most of all, stop where my heard did.
It was the best feeling ever—freedom in every sense of the word. Since I didn’t have to endure their endeavours for souvenirs or their selfie experiments, I got more time to do what I like—whether it’s window shopping at a bakery or hiking up a hill for the breathtaking views, I loved having complete autonomy.
While I was basking in the glory of travelling alone, my teammates planned a team trip. And I was to go along with about ten other people. I had misgivings even before we left. Unused to going along with others, I didn’t know if I’d manage it. I even asked myself if it’s worth going at all, knowing full well I won’t have a good time.
But I went anyway. And I wasn’t all wrong. It wasn’t easy for me to adjust to others’ routines and plans. It wasn’t the best experience squishing seven people in a five-seater car or listening to music I don’t like all the way on a road trip. Although most of us wanted to go on a sunrise drive, I hated waking the reluctant others at 3:00 am. It pained me to be the plant eater in a meat restaurant watching the group order piece after piece.
Regardless of all this, every time we were out together, at a waterfall or a bridge, or a street walk, I enjoyed myself in spite of myself. Sure, I wish we hadn’t taken so many group photos and selfies or spent so much time waiting for the others to get ready, but I also had small moments I cherish to this day.
I didn’t have to be the only responsible one throughout. Or watch behind my shoulders all the time. Or ask for directions or pay for every meal. For once, I was part of something bigger than myself. Yes, I had to check we were heading in the right direction, and stay awake talking to prevent our driver from falling asleep, but at the end of it, it wasn’t only about me, and that didn’t feel so bad.
Go with the flow
I’d visited countless waterfalls before. But for the first time, I showered in a waterfall during the team trip. As I saw my colleagues run into the water, I was happy to join them without worrying who’ll watch my stuff (lucky for me, some of my team-mates are afraid of water).
I learnt to let the inevitable flow of events engulf me, and to my surprise, I had fun. I laughed more than I thought I would, made friends of unexpected people, and even had someone interested in taking my picture. Travelling with a group, I realised, isn’t so bad after all. After all, you get to know for real about people you thought you knew.
Solo travel makes you feel like you own the world, while group travel makes you feel belonged.
Which is better, though, is subjective. I’ll always vote for going alone, but I wouldn’t negate the thrill of travelling with others.