Skip to content

Travel versus Vacation

The past four weeks have been incredible. I have travelled to five cities, each in a different country — Prague, Paris, London, Dublin (plus a couple cities in Northern Ireland), and Berlin. I don’t want to complain, but I am tired! Because travelling, unlike vacationing, is exhausting!

In my opinion, travelling and vacationing are not the same. The words travel and vacation may seem like synonyms, but I would argue they have very different meanings. The word vacation comes from the Latin vocare, which means to empty. So when you vacation you intend to achieve emptiness – to empty your mind and body of the stresses of life (and we all need a bit of this in our lives!). The word travel, however, comes from the French word travail. When you travail, you overcome hardship.

I think many people do not only fail to understand the difference between traveling and vacationing, but they also underestimate the difficulties that come with travelling. Many attempt to travel when what they really want is to vacation.

I am always trying to explain to students before they study abroad that travel isn’t going to be easy. Not only will they face the physical hardships of lacking many of the conveniences they are accustomed to (lugging their bags, ascending lots of stairs, walking a lot, etc.), they will also face the difficulties of immersing themselves in a foreign language and culture. They will need to learn to accept the discomfort in order to travail, enjoy that which is different, and embrace the adventure and experiences that will enrich them for the rest of their lives.

For me, there is no such thing as vacationing in cities like Prague, Paris, London, Dublin, or Berlin. There is just so much to see and do that I would never want to do nothing or empty my mind in any of these incredible places. In fact I want to do the opposite, fill myself with experiences, history, and culture. For me, that means getting up early and seeing and doing as much as possible each day.

My advice, and point of this somewhat rambling reflection, is to understand what you want or need before deciding to travel or vacation. That way you not only choose an appropriate destination, but you also can prepare yourself mentally for the travails and triumphs.

I might be tired, but I wouldn’t trade traveling for anything. I am so lucky to be able to travel and I intend to make the most of it for as long as I can. Although, I eventually hope to work a vacation in at some point! Unfortunately, when I visit a new place I cannot turn off my inner traveler and enter vacation mode. So I guess in order to get some rest and relaxation I will need to go to somewhere I have already been.

Do you prefer to travel or vacation?