Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a nice break over the holidays, spent some time with friends and family, and got outside. Getting outside these days seems to be a rare and special treat for most people, so maybe just to spend some time outdoors every day would be a good resolution for the New Year, and a happier one than the usual ones we make, which mainly involve forcing ourselves to do things we dread.

new-year-2007_sm.jpgIt was a balmy holiday here in Providence, with fireworks over the State House to welcome in the year. Often we have snow, ice, or freezing winds on New Year’s Eve, so it was nice to have temperatures near 50 and the moon glowing above a thin overcast in the still night air. Here’s my first attempt at taking a pik with my cellphone.

The start of a new year is also a good time to plan some travels for the year to come, another pleasant task. Where to go next? It’s a big world…! There are seven continents out there, and endless oceans. A lot to see! Try plotting the places you’ve been on a map of the world to get some perspective on how massive it is, and how much remains essentially terra incognita to many of us. What is everyday life like in Paraguay, or Mongolia, or Zambia? What would it be like to wake up there one morning, and look around?

Now that I’ve been working on this blog for a while, I find that my concept of what eco-travel is all about keeps growing. At first glance, you might think it means taking a wildlife tour or hiking in a tropical forest. But I’m starting to see it as more … it’s being an explorer instead of a tourist. It’s getting to know the people who live in a place, and how they are different from us. It’s knowing enough about the plants and animals and birds and fish you see to appreciate how unique and unusual they are. It’s coming home with more questions than answers about the world.

Learning to see the world this way is a skill, kind of like learning to paint or take great photographs. It’s a skill anyone can develop, with a little effort. And it’s essential for getting the most out of your travels.

So where in the world will you go this year?

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(For more maps of the world, go to the CIA World Factbook. You can find a much larger version of this map there, along with regional maps that you can download as PDFs or JPGs.)