Go Explore!? Traveling vs Going on Vacation

Image result for i love vacation!!We all have our own version of a “vacation bucket list”.  We all also have our own idea of “how” to enjoy our coveted time away from work.

Here in the United States, the vast majority of people primarily “go on vacation” once or twice a year. The family packs up, heads to a resort, and spends the week enjoying the on-site amenities and activities nearby.  Easy peasy, especially if it’s all-inclusive!

As a vacationer outside the “vast majority” I prefer a vacation that is pretty much completely the opposite.  Staying in multiple locations, not planning every step of the way, and mingling with the locals are all part of my “experience” when enjoying time away from home.  In other words, I prefer travel.

Interestingly enough, after speaking with multiple locals, I have come to the conclusion that mountain towns are inhabited by a nice mix of people who like to escape both ways.  My former boss and his family spend every spring break enjoying a different beachfront location, and hardly leave the resort outside the occasional dinner or ocean excursion.


After speaking with my former supervisor (we will call him Jim), I must admit I see his reasoning and may consider the same when/if I every have a small family of my own.  Jim quickly tossed out a couple reasons for his preferred method of “vacation”:

Image result for family at beach resort
travelandleisure.com – best all-inclusive family resorts
  1. Safety – without question, to Jim and his wife, safety is the number one reason they currently vacation at resorts.  There’s no denying the fact that there are more people around and security guards keep the vagrants from wandering the beach in front of the resort.
  2. Amenities – if you have any intention of sleeping in on your vacation, you need to wear out the kids.  Who doesn’t sleep well after a few hours playing in and around the pool area? Many resorts also offer “babysitting” services that keep them busy with crafts and games, allowing you and your special someone some much needed alone time (or some shut eye).
  3. “It’s just easy” – gotta be honest here, it’s hard to disagree with the “turn your brain off” mentality that accompanies many of these resorts.  Jim reiterated the importance of not working on vacation and being able to just “take the day as it comes.” Why think more than you have to? That’s what you work so hard for to enjoy.
  4. “It keeps the family together!” – makes sense, when you have all you need in one localized location, everyone is more likely to do things together instead of the “I’ll see you at 6 for dinner, have a great day!”.  Build sandcastles, beach volleyball, tic-tac-toe in the sand, or just run around! I guess it comes back to the old adage, the family who travels together, stays together!

THE CONS: Although most all vacations are about having FUN, spending a week or two at a beachfront resort doesn’t really provide much of a “cultural” experience.  Chances are, the staff don’t really interact with you, and if they do its likely in your language

Image result for beach peddler mexico

(English).  The random trinket and sunglasses peddlers may be the only people who are providing the vacationers with the “I’m actually in a foreign country” experience.

Even if you do go for a short wander outside the hotel, most everything within close proximity of the large hotels is influenced (or even completely supported) by the guests doing the same.  Prices of food, gifts, activities, and even taxis are much more likely to be skewed within close proximity to the resort.

If laying back and enjoying limited brain activity on vacation is your idea of a good time, be sure to check out the most popular beach destinations of 2017 HERE.


It sure is great to return from vacation feeling refreshed and refueled, ready to get back to your daily grind.  BUT, when returning from “traveling” it’s hard not to recognize the added sense of accomplishment you feel when reflecting upon your adventure.

Your list of worldly contacts has increased, you’ve lost weight from walking EVERYWHERE, your shoes have holes, your bucket list has grown exponentially, and you can’t think about anything but when you can off and do it again! 

My Panama travel companions

No question, one of the best possible things about traveling is the people you will meet along the way.  Sharing the common bond of adventure and travel is contagious, and its far better when shared.

Traveling means planning out only the first few days and staying at hostels or hotels that encourage social interaction between guests.  By using this method, you are much more flexible to go different places based on what you learned talking with other enthusiastic travelers.

Before you know it,  you have a notebook full of more ideas, locations, and places to stay along the way than you will ever be able to actually use.  You can spend the coming days enjoying your new surroundings, and discussing what your next move may be.

Sure, those Lonely Planet and other travel books contain loads of useful information, but nothing beats the “locals advantage”.  Ask the local merchants where their favorite places to eat are, as they are likely not the same as the “local” who checked you in to your hotel.  Before you know it, you have found yourself in a nice little hole in the wall enjoying dinner with what seems to be ALL locals, NICE!

For me, its exactly this scenario that entices me to travel.  Hidden between the perfectcup of Costa Rican coffee and evening happy hour swapping daily adventure stories there may be some real struggles (communicating in another language, getting lost, robbed or even injured).  However, its those struggles that will help you learn the language and better set yourself up for success on your next trip.

hostel life
Evening hostel conversation/dinner.

THE CONS:  Obviously wandering (slightly) aimless around foreign countries isn’t always the safest way to discover and explore.  The inherent risk involved with traveling on a whim can definitely lead to more hardship and higher stress levels.  Missing a bus, speaking the language, knowing where you are going, being robbed, getting sick (probably the worst) are all likely obstacles you will need to overcome.

In general, its the lack of having someone there to constantly watch after you that you sacrifice with traveling alone or in a small group.  As long as you can “walk the walk” and carry yourself in a way that people won’t want to approach you, I assure you everything will be alright.

Ecuador – Carnival


Its easy to get caught up in the “white picket fence” American dream.  Finish high school, go to college, buy a house, start a family, work your 9-5, vacation 2-3 weeks a year of your lucky yada yada yada.

For a majority of the world, traveling is seen as a right of passage.  Norwegians, for example, are more or less pushed out the door shortly after graduating high school and encouraged to see the world before heading to university and deciding what they want to be when they “grow up”.

Starting at 18 years old, Israelis are required to serve 2-3 years (there are some exceptions) in the national military.  They are paid well, and many of them use the money they saved during their service to travel the world before beginning a career.

These are only a couple of examples showing the difference in the vacation vs travel mentality and how it can shape you as a person.  While, Israelis don’t generally begin their careers until mid-late 20s, they are found to be much more focused and have a higher chance of succeeding from the start.

Although the “travel” model may be more of a young man’s (or woman’s) game, traveling as a family is becoming more and more popular as time goes on.  There are a number of adventure travel companies, such as Intrepid who are targeting the more adventurous families.  As these companies continue to succeed, the way Americans view travel will continue to change.

However you choose to adventure, enjoy it!! I will continue to travel 🙂


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