St. Regis Punta Mita
Planning, Posted by Amy, Types of Travel

The Difference Between Travel and a Vacation

Recently at a wedding in Madison, my friend Val asked if I had any upcoming travel. I told her I was going to spend a week at a resort in Mexico in December. I added “I’m going to lay on a beach all week, so it’s not real travel.” Immediately, I started wondering what “real travel” meant, what I event meant by it, and if you could define such a thing.

Luckily before I could get too deep into a rat hole of my own thoughts, Val said something that was both simple and profound: There’s a difference between travel and a vacation.

“There’s a difference between Travel and a Vacation”

Yes! I had never even considered that thought when planning my trips, but I should have been. This should be the absolute first thing to decide when travel planning.

(Side Note: Val blogs over at To and Fromage and her blog is full of absolutely gorgeous, serene pictures she takes of her adventures. I highly recommend checking it out.)

What is Travel? (With a capital T)

Everyone can define this for themselves, but for me, travel is the following:

  • An experience where you participate in a culture that is different from your own
  • Something that challenges you and gets you out of your comfort zone
  • An opportunity to learn about and appreciate the history of a place

When I go to California for work, I’m traveling, with a little t. I’m taking a trip, but it’s not Travel (big T). There’s no challenge to it, unless you count Bay Area traffic as a challenge. Which would actually be valid.

Travel (big T) sometimes isn’t that fun. The idyllic version of someone casually strolling around a historic city, taking it all in with a gorgeous sunset behind them is a nice thought, but not very accurate. Running around a city all day trying to see a bunch of sites is exhausting; there’s often so much walking that your feet hurt. Tourist attractions are full of crowds and can be very stressful. All the things you’re taking in, learning about, and dealing with are mentally fatiguing too. This doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy the trip and the experience, but you should go into it with the mindset that the experience can be amazing even if every moment isn’t pleasurable.

Touring, posing, and drinking in Bucharest. It was a great trip, but definitely not relaxing.

When Mandi and I went to India, there were a lot of things we didn’t enjoy. (For example, freezing weather without heat and people lying to us all the time!) However, it was all part of the India experience and I wouldn’t change any of it. Just like life, you take the good with the bad, and it’s all part of the journey.

The streets of Jodhpur, India. Not a vacation!

What is a Vacation?

My friend Bill mentioned to me the other day that I vacation a lot, and my response was “What? I haven’t had a vacation in forever!” I Travel a lot, but traveling, as described above, is anything but a vacation! It’s awesome, but also exhausting.

When I’m on vacation, I want the following:

  • Beautiful, relaxing scenery like a beach, lake, or mountains
  • No stress or timetable that has to be adhered to
  • I’ve made everything easy for myself

On a vacation, I want everything to be as easy and simple as possible. I want the freedom to do nothing, or everything, and not feel like I’ve missed out.

We spent a few days just relaxing in Mauritius, but not enough to really call it a Vacation. This was as close as I could get to vacation pictures.

I also want a great book on vacation, so if you’ve read anything good lately, leave it in the comments!

Vacation or Travel?

If you’re stressed out from work or family life and need a break, if doing nothing at all on a beach sounds appealing, if you can’t wait to get away from it all, you need a VACATION. Find a beach and a good book and take a load off! If you’re feeling this way and you go off to spend a week sightseeing, you aren’t going to come back feeling refreshed – you’ll be more exhausted than when you left.

If you’re yearning to see something totally new, experience a different culture, see a historic place like the Taj Mahal or Angkor Wat, or try a local food, you should be Traveling. Get a guide book (or the internet) and plan out an adventure. Don’t forget to pack some walking shoes!

Of course you can vacation in an exotic location, and some trips will include both of these elements, but next time you’re planning a trip, try to do it with an intention. What does your soul need right now?

The St. Regis Punta Mita. I'm going to spend the week right here.

I’m going to Puerto Vallerta for a week in December, since I know now that what I really need in my life is a vacation and down time, I’ve actually stopped planning anything beyond the basics of getting there: a flight, a hotel, and a passport.

And a $40 rental car. Viva Mexico!

(Both images of the St. Regis Punta Mita are from the Facebook Page of the resort, which I really enjoy.)

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  • Phillip

    Great post, I never thought of the difference before! I think that’s why I like crusies so much as a vacation – it’s easy and mindless. Just relax and most everything else is taken care of. People at work sort of look down on me for taking cruises because they are used to “Travel” or at least staying at fabulous resorts around the world, which I need to do more of too!

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