Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Travel or vacation?

I listen to NPR a lot. Turning the radio on is one of the first things I do every morning. I often leave it on for hours, even though it is impossible to hear, never mind listen to the news reports over the laughter, babble, and screams of the girls. But I persist, because I usually can catch at least part of one story every hour or so.

The other day I heard a report on the Rick Steve’s radio show about travel in Albania. He’s dubbing it as the next destination in Europe - a place that has World Heritage sites, a unique culture, and a friendly population that is eager to welcome show tourists their country, as opposed to tourist-weary cities like Prague and Venice. So, naturally, I started dreaming about traveling to Albania. Give me a tiny starting point and I’ll dream about travel.

We’ve only gone on one typical vacation - the kind that you take an allotted week or two vacation from work, book a flight, book a hotel, and pack a small suitcase. We’ve done tons of traveling (I’ll always want to travel more), but it’s always been extended stints. Road trips, cruising on Whisper, car-camping around Europe, our recent cruise down the ICW.

As I was thinking about Albania, I found myself asking: how do you choose where to go on vacation? If you only have a few weeks a year for vacation, a couple of which are invariably eaten up by Christmas and family obligations at home, how do you choose where to spend that one week jaunt? Would I choose to go to Albania? To the untested, uncharted place that would undoubtedly be interesting and new, but perhaps not relaxing and perhaps sometimes frustrating due to the language barrier and preconceived notions and expectations….

My traveling itch says “yes!” But my need for relaxation and ease says, “Culebra is awfully nice. Spain has great serrano ham. And what about the pasta in Italy?”

I suppose there are different types of travel for different times of our lives. Shoestring budget backpacking, the quick getaway weekend, the family rendezvous on a cruise ship, the extended sailing trip (dream, dream, plan), the tried and tested week at a previously visited location.

That’s it. There’s travel and there is vacation.

Travel: when you have time and some resources to go to new places, dig your heels in, explore, make blunders, spend half the day waiting for a bus that never appears, try again the next day.

A nice picture, but the story behind is less than exciting.
We walked for a couple miles in hot Caribbean sun looking for a bar with cold beers only to find the bar closed.
This kind of semi-aimless wandering is only possible when you have time on your hands.

Vacation: when you have a finite period of time to get away from your normal. A finite period of time to be with your family (or chose traveling companion, or self), a finite period of time to unplug, read a good book, disconnect and reconnect.

This is easy living.

Is there an in between? Is there a place in the middle where you can go on vacation but also travel? If you only have a week out of every year to actually go somewhere, do you set off down the overgrown path, where you might end up at shangri la or you might just as easily end up with Lyme disease? Or, do you set off down the paved road where you’re guaranteed a beach chair and a cold margarita, but you might also end up feeling slightly bored and unsatisfied at the end of the week?

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