So many people use vacation and travel interchangeably, and that is perfectly okay! However, if you wanted to get nitpicky, there is a difference, and it can mean the difference between relaxing in a new place to having the experience of a lifetime.
If you want to lounge on the beach, eat curated meals in a fancy restaurant, stay at a highly popular hotel or all of the above, it will undoubtedly be an incredible vacation. BUT if you truly want to see the world, experience how others live, and immerse yourself in a new culture you might have to forego those and throw them out the window for something completely different, but even more incredible.
You might be thinking, “but…Emma? I don’t know how to travel. I’ve only ever vacationed. What do I do?” Good news. I’m here to help.
Go Off the Beaten Track
Believe it or not, there is so much more to see in any given place than just its main tourist attractions, swanky hotels, and expensive restaurants. Ask your hotel or host where the locals go for fun and try that! I’ve discovered amazing places and people that way.
Travel in a New Way
Do you always travel in first class? Try challenging yourself to a budget trip. Try backpacking or travel by train across a country. Work in a foreign country for a host family. Volunteer. Go camping. The options are only limited by your imagination. Get out of your comfort zone. Nothing changes there.
Stay Somewhere Different
I’m not saying to lower your standards (unless they’re ridiculous). If you only stay in 5-star hotels in the middle of cities, try staying in a bed and breakfast in the country. Pick a destination that isn’t your typical trip. It will challenge you to see travel differently and use your resourcefulness to try new things.
Befriend the Locals
This can never lead you astray. (Don’t be friend creeps or serial killers…that should be implied). No one knows a location better than a local. Instead of spending all of your time in a tourist-heavy area, allocate time to spend where the locals hang out. Nine times out of ten you will discover something about the place that few people who don’t live there get to see.
This is a fantastic option for so many reasons. Flights are cheaper, there aren’t hoards of tourists, and it’s much more relaxed. Many places tourists visit in peak season have events and activities planned that are only aimed at tourists. While these are assuredly great to see, they are not aimed at the local culture. To experience the essence of a place, visit when most people do not. You’ll have an entirely new experience.
Travel Teaches You How to Survive
I don’t mean you’ll be fighting the storm of the century or whatnot, but I do genuinely believe that travel, not vacation teaches you to be stronger. You have to speak to people you might have avoided; you have to learn how to get around the new place instead of all the answers being handed to you. You have to step outside of your comfort zone.
The benefits? While you might not sport the perfect tan or boast about how relaxed you are after returning, you will forever be changed and have learned something invaluable. How to travel the world and how to be more appreciative. So next time you’re planning a trip, go off the beaten path and truly travel.