If there's one resolution I have to make for 2014, it's get outside more often and stay there.
For years, I've been telling friends and acquaintances to ignore all the supposedly important distractions that prevent them from going on daytrips, overnights or multi-day wilderness trips.
I've preached the gospel of planning ahead, telling people to block off time months well in advance to ensure planned trips will happen and organize gear and food to allow quick getaways when spontaneous opportunities arise.
I've yammered on ad nauseum about the psychological, physical and spiritual benefits of unplugging from city life and going with the natural flow of rising at dawn and sleeping at dusk in places where mobile devices can not bathe you in their poisonous glow.
In short, I've been a sanctimonious pain in the posterior, at times. But when I look back the past year, I see I didn't practice what I preached in 2013, when I spent a grand total of seven nights in a tent on pair of excellent but too-brief multi-day trips.
New Year's resolutions are arbitrary and cheesy. But I'm pledging in public to spend more time with the stars above my head in the coming year as a means of holding myself accountable - and maybe inspiring other dilly-dalliers to do the same.
Yes, most of us are restricted from unlimited acts of escapism by our jobs, families and financial resources. But no other form of escapism is as healthy, restorative and inexpensive outdoor recreation. But now I'm preaching again, so enough forward-looking nonsense.
Here are a couple of odds and ends floating around my head at the end of year:
1. Kudos to Travel Manitoba
For years, one of the most frustrating aspects of trying to build the wilderness-travel industry in Manitoba was a lack of investment in the simple act of selling what the province actually has to offer to people who've never been here.
It's incorrect to say most tourists have a negative impression of the province. In reality, they have no impression at all, in the sense that the average Canadian, American or European doesn't really think about the place.
For years, it's been frustrating to watch Newfoundland & Labrador, North Dakota and even Saskatchewan spend more money on tourism campaigns and produce slicker marketing materials.
Late this year, Manitoba finally stepped up its production values with ads aimed at promoting ecotourism in Churchill, fishing and wilderness travel in the Canadian Shield and urban attractions in Winnipeg.
When the campaign rolled out, many observers got stuck at the slogan "Manitoba's Heart Beats," assuming the ad campaign is just another pointless attempt at rebranding the province.
What those critics missed is the ads themselves are actually quite effective at selling a handful of the things the province has to offer: the most easily accessible polar-bear viewing on the planet, beluga-whale watching, the fishing and paddling opportunities in a massive and near-pristine expanse of forest and the underappreciated urban attractions of Winnipeg.
The slogan is just that -- a handful of words. A focused marketing effort can be seen as a step up.
2. Zero tolerance for ATV abusers
As I wrote earlier this year, the majority of people who own offroad vehicles use them in a responsible manner.
But there are too many idiots out there tearing up beaches, trails and wetlands -- and it's time for them to stop.
In the coming year, I encourage the silent majority of ATV owners to join forces with the farmers, ranchers, cottagers and other wilderness lovers who've had enough with the recklessness, noise and destruction emanating from a minority of rednecks with no respect for the environment or themselves.
These people are not your friends and neighbours. They're scumbags who should be treated like social pariahs.