Out with the old; in with the new. There is something about the beginning of a new year that automatically sparks a desire to make a change or start something fresh.
While the concept of New Year's resolutions has been around (in some form or other) for centuries, today's resolutions are often less about reaffirmation and more to do with self-improvement.
Last year we reported America's top 10 most desired countries to visit if money and time were no object. This year we are stepping away from travel wish lists and, instead, looking at some of the best places to visit to help realize your 2014 New Year's resolutions.
Here is a rundown of some of our favorites:
Looking for love? Forget Paris. Travel + Leisure's recent annual survey identified New Orleans, Miami, Las Vegas, New York and Chicago as the best cities to visit if you are single and ready to mingle. Although Austin and San Diego also have great singles scenes for local residents hoping to meet their soul mate.
Want to lose weight and take a vacation at the same time? Well you don't have to go to a boot camp or a Biggest Loser Resort to do it. Instead consider kick-starting your new weight-loss regime with a vacation that will get your blood pumping. Perhaps a mountain bike adventure in France or Portugal with Kate Potter, a World Championship racer? Or, if you are looking for something closer to home, a backpacking trip in the Sierras, or a rafting excursion along the Grand Canyon. After a week or more of daily exercise, you will come back feeling compelled to do more.
Where better to meditate than India? The Somatheeram Ayurvedic Health Resort in Kerala offers daily yoga and meditation exercises for beginner and advanced participants alike, as well as various massage treatments customized to your needs. Alternatively, head to the Shambhala Mountain Center in Colorado. Set on 600 acres, the center teaches "paths of personal health, deepened awareness and transformation."
Remove temptation altogether and visit a destination that either bans or discourages your vice of choice. As of last year there were still more than 200 dry counties in the U.S., where alcohol remains banned at a local level following the federally mandated prohibition period of 1920-1933. And if you are a smoker looking to quit, perhaps now is the time to plan a trip abroad. Countries like Singapore and Jamaica are the latest to ban smoking in public areas.
If you have the urge to give back and volunteer some of your time to a good cause, consider a week helping a local charity. Or, if you want to spread your wings, think about reaching out to an organization like Smaller Earth, which provides both short- and long-term opportunities to volunteer in some of the world's most remote communities.
- - Michelle Erickson is the director of public relations at Fly.com and is based in California. A British native, Michelle has lived on three continents and is an avid traveler.