Instead of denying yourself things this year, indulge yourself with a little luxury wishful thinking
No one likes a regime of self-imposed restraint and the sound of rain beating against the window pane so the The Independent on Sunday newspaper has come up with 12 steps to a happier 2012.
1. Shake off the Christmas lethargy
At this frosty time of year, the opportunities to rediscover the fitter, happier you – the one that reputedly existed before the festive season came along and ruined everything – are endless. Forget the gym, set you sights on sun soaked beaches of Mozambique, The British Virgin Islands or even a farmhouse hideaway in Devon
2. Get cultured
Europe’s cities are brimming with opportunities for cultured weekends in 2012 – the Continent’s full of them. North to Helsinki or South to Naples, East to Budapest or West to Lisbon treasure houses of art, culture and culinary delights.
3. Look after the pennies
Misfortune in a country during one year will inescapably lead to bargains on its beaches in the year after, so check on 2012’s “Going Cheap” list.
4. Spend time with the family
If you are busy working make sure you have “quality” time with a bargain family holiday. For instance, Center Parcs chalks up a landmark birthday in 2012, when it celebrates 25 years in business. The woodland accommodation giant will mark its quarter-century with the arrival of three new luxury treehouses at its Longleat Forest site in Wiltshire.
5. Broaden your horizons
The saying that “it’s a small world” is, of course, nonsense. We live on a vast planet with lots of wild regions that demand inspection. You will have heard of Pamplona’s festival running with the bulls in Spain, but did you know there is also a Calgary Stampede you can experience in Canada.
6. Learn a new skill
The concept of a holiday with an educational purpose is scarcely new – and opportunities to learn with passport in pocket are strewn across the fresh face of 2012. These range from the close-at-hand to the obscurely located. These could be watercolour retreats in Cornwall or horticulture lessons in Holland.
7. Get fit – and stay sporty
With the Olympics and football’s European Championships in the offing, this will be the year of sporting endeavour. For example, those who want to participate rather than merely watch, can hone their footballing skills somewhere warmer like a training camps on offer at Buccament Bay in St Vincent.
8. Be kind to animals
The BBC’s Frozen Planet series has aroused plenty of interest over the past two months – and 2012 will be a year to make good on our fascination with the Arctic. There are plenty of trips where we can enjoy wildlife from the top to the bottom of our planet.
9. Take time to relax
Those seeking to cast off their recessionary concerns and bask in a little luxury can find new pockets of exclusivity in 2012 – notably Song Saa, a retreat that brings five-star holidays to the Cambodian side of the Gulf of Thailand, an area where the accommodation, to date, has erred towards the rudimentary.
10. Care for the planet
There is one simple way to ensure that your carbon footprint does not expand this year: don’t fly anywhere. Holidays in the UK in 2012 can be very rewarding. For instance in March you can visit The Making of Harry Potter – a tour that gives access to the film sets where the series was created – opens to the public at the Warner Bros Studios in Leavesden, Hertfordshire or the Dickens bicentenary exhibition at the Museum of London.
11. Get out more
Some might say that fresh air and glorious scenery are all you need for a holiday. You can find both in Les Calanques, the untamed expanse which is finally due to be ordained as France’s latest national park (and first since 1979) this year.
12. Give something back
Those keen to use their time off to help others will have plenty of opportunity in 2012. On home turf, active types can gain a taste of this summer’s main event while raising cash for charity with a ride on the route of the Olympic cycling road race. This 90-mile loop through London and into Surrey can be tackled via Discover Adventure, which has two “London Ride of Champions” days – complete with guides, route marking, mechanical support and lunch – planned for 10 June and 2 September.