Striking a Balance Between Traveling and Vacationing

It's a familiar sight to me. Dusk starts to fall on the day as rays of sunlight emit colors of orange and pink against the blue sky. I've made my way down to the bay, admiring the sailboats that I wish I had, all the while taking in the sunset. I find a good place like usual, that one spot that seems to be the place for capturing the best photo. I pull out my iPhone, tap on the camera app, and drag my finger across the screen to focus in on the shot. But then I pause, chuckle under my breath, and place my phone back into my pocket. I don't take a photo. I don't Instagram, Facebook, or tweet it.

I find a place to sit down at the end of the dock by the bay as the sun continues to set behind me and I look straight ahead across the Puget Sound to Seattle and snow-capped mountains in the distance. Twitter, Facebook, emails, and yes, even work can wait a few days. I'm on vacation.

This is my 154th blog post here. Of those 154, one of them is about a vacation I've taken. That's because I don't take many vacations. The lines of vacation have gotten blurred over the last four years since I've been working in the travel industry. There's always a place to uncover, a food to try, a story to write, and a buck to be made. But not last month. After a busy work month in March, in which I took only one day off, I decided to take a vacation on the front end of a work trip to Seattle. And vacation I did. I stayed at a bed and breakfast on Bainbridge Island, walked down to the pub every night for poutine, went to a couple movies, and slept in every day. I did absolutely nothing worthy of writing more than one sentence about. And I liked it. So much so in fact that I'm already planning another vacation in August, except this one is in Europe.

Traveling versus vacationing. What's the difference? Is one better than the other? Is there a virtue of one that isn't found in the other? I find that asking which one of these is better is like asking if a red velvet cupcake is better than a Nutella crepe. Both of them are good and bring instant satisfaction, but I can't bother with answering whether one is better than the other because I'm too busy enjoying one of them.

I think those frequent travelers among us (Me included) can have a certain haughtiness to how we approach travel. "No,  I will not stay in an all-inclusive resort. Do you know how many stays at a hostel I can have for the price of one night at an all-inclusive? And oh, what are we going to experience and take photos of if we're at a resort the entire time?" Now don't get me wrong. At my core, beneath the worn Chuck Taylors, seersucker shorts, and DSLR, there's an Indiana Jones explorer. But even Indiana Jones needed a break.

What's the big hurry? There are nearly 200 countries in the world and I haven't even been to very many of them. I'll actually step foot in more countries this summer than the total number of countries I've been to in my entire life. Call me a slow, grounded, inexperienced, or whatever else you want, but what does visiting 150 countries versus 15 countries actually matter at the end of the day?

Every single time I travel, the person I step off the plane as back home, isn't the person I stepped on the plane as to depart. That's something a statistic, journal, map, or blog will never fully show. Whether it's sitting on a dock drinking beer and eating poutine while setting aside any and all work and communication for a week or exploring the cloud forests of Costa Rica or talking with an adjembe drum maker in South Africa, travel changes me. At the end of the day, that is what I expect from travel. I travel, whether for vacation or otherwise, because it provides me with experiences that I can't just have at home.

Just go. Whether you're a tourist, a traveler, or a vacationer, get out and go. Titles, numbers of countries, and how you do it doesn't matter. For me, I'm finding that there is an elusive balance to travel that's been missing for years that I'm starting to attain. This summer will include a lot of scurrying from city to city, sleeping in hostels, and folding and unfolding maps, but it's also going to include a lot of lying on a beach holding a cold beverage with an umbrella in it.

Where do you find yourself along the travel/vacation continuum?