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New Year’s resolutions Part 5 - Learn a new skill

Clive Wedderburn January 19, 2016

There are plenty of new skills we can all learn every day, but learning to have an open mind and try something new is the best skill of all.  It revitalises the old grey matter, gets us out of our comfort zone and introduces us to a new country in a unique way. Here's some new skills for you to consider the next time you travel abroad:

What: Learn to Cook

Where: Apsara Beachfront Resort and Villas offers a complimentary cooking class when you stay five nights or more.

Why:  Most people can cook – cooking authentically like a native takes skill. Food tourism is a very popular reason for travel, yet it’s so difficult to recreate wonderful dishes back home if you're inexperienced with exotic ingredients and their proper use. Cooking from a recipe in the UK is a different proposition to creating a Tom Yum Gung in a Thai kitchen in Bangkok, making it difficult to appreciate the merits of, say, galangal versus ginger.

What: Learn to snorkel

Where: Vilamendhoo, Maldives. They have a house reef right off the beach that is perfect for beginners.

Why: Snorkelling is a fantastic introduction to the sea. It also gets you off the sun-lounger and into the water, which is what a beach holiday is all about, surely? Once you put your mask under the water you’ll see why people are transfixed by the pastime. Get an experienced swimmer to guide you and pay attention to the currents by the shore. Snorkelling is fascinating and fun, providing you with enormous levels of confidence, allowing a new underwater world to open up before your eyes.

What: Learn to Scuba Dive

Where: Koh Tao has more diving courses than anywhere else in Asia and has a full range from absolute beginner to professional underwater videographer courses.   

Why: This is the natural next step for those who have peeked beneath the surface of the big blue and decided they’d like to explore further. This yearning leads to the scuba diving course otherwise known as a PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) course.  If you are going to learn to scuba (acronym for ‘Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus’) then Thailand has Asia’s number one diving island at Koh Tao, plus all the Thai food, glorious weather and stunning beaches you can handle.

What: Learn to horse ride

Where: Mayan Dude Ranch Texas

Why: Horse-riding is a real back to nature skill. The elevated position above the landscape, the wind in your face plus you and your steed moving as one is a thrill every step of the way. Exploring new terrain on horseback doesn’t get much better than on a trail ride in stunning Texas Hill country at the Mayan Dude ranch in Bandera, near Forth Worth, Texas. There are two trail rides every day plus plenty of non-equine activities such as country dances, hayrides and barbeques to remind you how invigorating life can be in the great American outdoors.

What: Learn to take better pictures

Where: Kenya

Why:  We all have a camera, yet so few of us know our white balance from our exposure. We literally point and shoot and hope for the best. Kenya is one of the best locations for photography anywhere in the world. The country has fascinating people and amazing wildlife set in panoramic landscapes. The Masai Mara is possibly the best region to get memorable pictures, even from a simple point and shoot device. The most underrated piece of kit is the guide/ranger who will accompany you. They're able to identify the best place to spot the wildlife and will manoeuvre your vehicle expertly into close proximity without disturbing your subject.

What: Learn Chinese calligraphy

Where:  Among the narrow alleyways and the market traders of Beijing in the shadow of the Forbidden City.

Why: The art of writing Chinese characters has been developed over many centuries. It involves many different skills including use of breath and brushstroke technique and an appreciation of the tools (brush, ink, paper and ink stone). You don’t have to know the Chinese alphabet to appreciate the beauty of the letters or the artistry. Eventually you’ll understand what the letters symbolise plus the different styles of calligraphy and more importantly gain a wider appreciation of Chinese culture.

What: Learn to Stand Up Paddle Board

Where: Dubai -Jumierah Beach, so you can appreciate the progress of this futuristic city and the skyline set against a endless blue sky

Why: Stand up paddle-boarding (SUP) is pretty easy to pick up no matter what age you are. It’s also great exercise and a serene way of exploring the shoreline. If you have difficulty standing up then kneeling or even sitting kayak-style is just as much fun. The tip here is to remember to wear a rash guard/t-shirt so you don’t ruin a swim costume. Pulling yourself out of the water and onto the board will take a little getting used to at first. Hire paddle boards are usually large and floaty so weight is not a factor, although technique may hamper you for a while. One go and you’ll be hooked.