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?
  1. Sarah

    So true! I definitely prefer travel over vacation, but everyone still needs a vacation now and then. It's definitely hard to vacation in beautiful, historic cities because you almost feel like you're wasting your precious time there – especially when you probably had to pay a lot to get there if you're heading to Europe from North America. Something that I've found works for me is adding a couple of vacation days to travel, if time permits. Last time I went to Europe we started off with a Mediterranean cruise, which was a vacation, and then we went and traveled after. Best of both worlds!

    Sweet Spontaneity

  2. Clare

    I love this post! I was just talking to one of my friends about this last night, perfect timing. I love, love, love to travel. I love the learning and growth that comes with it, seeing new places, experiencing new things. It's thrilling. It's also exhausting both mentally and physically, as you noted. Worth it, always (to me), but that is why so often when people travel we hear, "I need a vacation to get over that vacation!", because it wasn't truly a vacation. I mentioned before that I am going to Florida next month, and I think it's going to be my first vacation of more than a day in 10 years! I'm ready for it, that's for sure. To answer your question, I prefer to travel. However, if I am going somewhere "beachy", particularly if it is a place I have visited before, I will plan on a day, or half a day to sit by the pool or beach (Belize comes to mind – so much to see and do, but a little time reading or napping in the sun is part of the experience for me). I do think that every now and then though, a vacation is much needed whether it is close to home or somewhere else. It's important to slow down and "empty" your mind occasionally. Umbrella drink, optional.

    Side note: I always feel like such a weird fan girl when I comment on your blog, I get overly enthusiastic. Awkward. But then you do things like discussing the latin root of a word and it's just so refreshing to see a fun fashion/lifestyle blogger who also writes well and shows depth of personality and interests.

  3. BarksandBaking

    So true! I've discovered that my husband and I are pretty good at choosing the best of both mentalities when we go somewhere. We stayed in Paris for just a day and a half (36 hours!) on our way home from Prague, because I'd never been there, but we made the conscious decision to just wander wherever sounded good and to stop as often as we liked for coffee, wine, and food. We definitely didn't see everything, but it was amazing just to have the chance to do it. (We also rented an apartment through Airbnb and grocery shopped for breakfast, snacks, and wine at the neighborhood Carrefour. We like to be as "local" as we can when abroad :-))

  4. Reba

    I enjoy both. I agree about the travel vs vacation. We are never fussy about our hotel when we travel because we spend so little time in our room. We want to be out and about. Hot shower, good night's sleep and out the door we go again. Vacations are more a week at the beach or camping. Believe it or not, sleeping in a tent is very relaxing. Rebecca

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