Trip versus vacation…Four days at Atlantic Beach. A delightful break from the unbearably brutal heat-and-humidity of inland Florida, where I lived, with no beach or breeze.
The craziest thing I did? Too much sun. (Yes, I know we are supposed to avoid sunshine for more than a few minutes a week, enough to spark some Vitamin D production in our pale white bodies. I am a nurse, but I confess: when I have a little tan, I feel better, look better, act better. I know I’m not alone here…) Before you write me about the dangers of joyfully languishing under blue skies with puffy white clouds: I did use sunblock, so I didn’t burn. Well, not much, anyway.
Mostly, I relaxed in that devil sunshine. Lots of walking and bike rides along the ocean. Pocketed a few shells. Made my way through one of the zillion books that I continue to buy–and worked a little on my own. Ate a big breakfast at 8 am, enjoyed a burger or fish tacos for lunch–accompanied by beer or my new favorite cocktail, a Rickshaw. Washed all the sand off in the afternoon and went out for a glass of wine before dinner.
The time flew by, just doing very little. How can that be?! It started me thinking about the difference between a trip and vacation. Why each matters. And why we need both. And why I need to rethink some of my travel schedules.
So, what defines a “trip,”anyway? A couple of things…
Great question. A couple of things. For me, a trip is an extended amount of time, planned to really learn about a destination: it could be a city or a country. The itinerary is complicated: must-see sights, local foods, an offbeat tour. Cathedrals, Museums. Art. Architecture. Here are some things I do on trips:
- If the city is big, I usually start out with a Hop-On/Hop-Off Bus ride, to get a sense of where things are.
- I also like to take a cooking class, when possible. Make local favorites, get the recipes, meet other travelers–and eat a meal.
- If there’s a market, I must visit. Markets are where local people go, where fresh food is found, and where everyday items are for sale. You don’t have to speak the language, just watch and point. If it’s an English-speaking market, you can chat with the vendors.
Confession: I like cemeteries, too. They tell stories about the those who have passed away and show how that culture treats its dead. Every day brings something new to see and learn about. I don’t rush around or pack in too many activities. But I’m up early, guide book in hand, enjoying every minute. Do I stop in a park, eat street food, relax with a glass of wine? You bet. Even getting lost becomes an adventure. (And I certainly have been lost.)
Trips stimulate me. I’m curious about everything when I travel, so one thing leads to another…and I always return home with more memories than I could ever plan.
As a solo traveler, I often travel with a tour company that guarantees small groups and offers plenty of free time. Especially if getting around a country or region would require multiple modes of transportation. They take the hassle out of figuring everything out for myself. But…I add in my own private time, too. I arrive a couple of days before the tour begins, and continue on my own when it ends. Sometimes I remain in the city, sometimes I go elsewhere, depending on what interests me.
The other thing that defines a trip for me is that there is a combination of curiosity and discomfort. Being somewhere unfamiliar means that I have to figure things out, especially if another language is spoken. I’ll be honest, it can be intimidating and nerve-wracking to make those first attempts at communication.
Learning customs, etiquette, and how to get around is much different from going someplace to chill and unplug. And the curiosity factor is much higher on a trip: What’s the history? How do people like to spend their free time? Where are the places the locals like to go and eat? Curiosity always wins…I’ve learned to just ride out those uncomfortable feelings.
Okay…what’s a vacation?
A vacation is a time of relaxation. It can be either domestic or international, but it doesn’t require the planning and discipline of a trip. Make no mistake, a vacation is a delight.
To me, a vacation has no agenda. I might do something every day, because I like to be active. But I can also relax and stay in the moment. I include cruises and all-inclusive resorts as vacations–I don’t have to find food, make the bed, or clean the bathroom. (And I definitely don’t know how to make cute animals from the towels!) There may be excursions, but they’re limited in time and distance.
Sleep late or not. Eat when you wish…and what you wish. There’s no worry about what comes later, because there’s no definite itinerary. You may schedule an activity or two, but that’s completely optional. It’s all about getting away, relaxing, and feeling, well…lazy, if you want.
My vacations tend to be short. After a few days, I get restless. I want to learn, visit a new place, or take a tour. Any tour. I need to do something. But that’s me. I envy people who can completely let go and enjoy basking by the pool all day. I want them to teach me their secret.
Read about my budget vacation here: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: $500 Resort Getaway
Trip versus Vacation? Why not both?
Before going to Atlantic Beach, I honestly can’t think of the last time I took a vacation. They had come to feel wasteful to me. A week at a resort represented a week not climbing a hundred bell towers or touring important historical sites. I couldn’t afford the time. That’s what I had come to believe.
I was an All-Trip Girl. Or thought I was.
Suddenly, I want vacations. It seems important to develop the fine art of “doing nothing.” I want be able to take a break, not trek a hundred miles. I want balance. I want to show up, hand over my credit card, and be cared for.
So. No more trip versus vacation dilemma. Vacations are back for me. I’m thinking one a year, until I win the lottery and can afford more. And trips? For sure, they will continue. As long as I can tolerate long flights, I will go. Last week was a lovely gift: the reminder that slowing down by the pool can be as important as racing around a city.
To be honest, we can combine both types of travel. Trips often require at least a day off to relax and take a break from our itinerary. Vacations can be livelier if we add a structured activity. It doesn’t have to be 100% “trip versus vacation.” Remember that it’s your time and money–make it what you want!
And in the meantime, enjoy my favorite new cocktail, which I enjoyed in Atlantic Beach, Florida. Here’s to Happy Travels!
“Vacation” Rickshaw Cocktail Recipe…Cheers!
BONUS: Rickshaw Cocktail
2 ounces gin
1 ounce basil simple syrup
1 ounce fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
Cucumber slices (garnish)
Basil leaves (garnish)
Basil Simple Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh basil