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When it comes to travel, new is always better. New city, new language, new food and new experiences are the way to go in 2020. Here are some tips on how to take your next big trip of the new year from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

1. Go somewhere you’ve never been before

Nothing beats waking up in a new city and taking in its unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells. Not knowing the language, customs and cuisine are all part of the fun of travel and learn as you go. Explore a hidden cove, walk around little twisting alleys, hike up to a beautiful castle atop a mountain – though it might seem daunting, the act of giving up all control is absolutely freeing.

2. Have a local experience

Pick one must-see sight, for instance, an important monument or museum, then skip the rest of the tourist sights. They’re mostly crowded and expensive, anyway. Blogs and Instagram, or simply walking around different neighbourhoods, can clue you in on how locals live. Read a book in a neighbourhood café, window shop on a beautiful tree-lined street, buy fruit from a street vendor – these experiences are worth much more.

3. Do some charity work

This could range from hands-on such as helping to build houses in Cambodia to simply dropping off clothes and shoes at shelters or orphanages that accept them. Conservation tourism is also becoming increasingly popular, for instance working with other volunteers to protect natural habitats or animals such as sea turtles.

4. Get some pampering in

There’s no need to cram so much into the itinerary that just the thought of leaving the hotel room seems daunting. Leave one day, for example, when it’s cold or raining out, for purely kicking it back. Find the best spa in the city and indulge in some beauty or relaxation treatments. A Turkish hammam experience or snail facial might be just what you need to recharge. Or perhaps it’s ordering room service and watching Netflix in your hotel room.

5. Eat a food you have never tried before

It doesn’t have to be as adventurous as duck heart or snake’s blood – or maybe it does – but try something you’ve never eaten before. Food is a huge part of everyone’s lives, and it gives people a sense of home and national identity. It’s also one of the most accessible ways to learn about another culture so order away! Also, there’s no better excuse to order that 20 kg spider crab you’ve been eyeing at a Japanese fish market.

6. Have a new experience

Be it wreck diving or having dinner by yourself at a fine dining restaurant, the new year calls for a completely new travel experience. The adage if you never try, you’ll never know applies here. Perhaps you’ve always made fun of people who join tours. Now’s the time to try one and even if you dislike it, you might learn something from it.

7. Push yourself

Travel is not all fun and merriment, sometimes it’s a little frustrating trying to work out public transportation and navigating unfamiliar roads. But it’s all part of the process of personal growth – and practicing the art of patience to get there. So, go on and plan a 12-hour train ride and hike to a mountain village.

8. Rent a car and explore your way

Some of the best scenic lookouts, villages and swimming holes are better reached by car. Public transportation and walking only gets you so far, especially if you want to reach places that tourists do not usually venture to. Having a car also means you have the flexibility to pull over at the side of the road if you want to take a picture of the scenery or spend longer in a place without having to worry about a train or bus schedule.

9. Speak to people

There are days when you feel content with the thoughts in your head but speaking to people while travelling can also be a good thing, whether it’s a long conversation with a fellow traveller at the co-living place you’re staying at or a quick exchange with a local grocer or restaurateur. Not only will you receive helpful tips on places to visit and things to do but might also learn more about local culture and everyday life.

10. Limit your phone time

Fight the urge to capture everything on screen – okay, go ahead and take that one epic Instagram shot – and put your phone away. Make sure you have some kind of digital detox on your trip whether it’s hours at a time or an entire day. Spend a day on the beach or wandering around a neighbourhood without worrying about updates and feeds. You’ll pick up on details – perhaps a certain style that locals seem to sport or what time parties get going in bars – and appreciate the simple fact of you being there more.

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